3 way electrical question

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  #1  
Old 04-10-06, 06:18 PM
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3 way electrical question

hi,

so, I bought a new house and no matter which position the switches are in, in a couple of rooms, I can never have all the switches in the 'off' position and have the lights off. Is it possible that those rooms are miswired or maybe one of switches are in 'upside-down'.
Any ideas??

Jon
 
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  #2  
Old 04-10-06, 06:54 PM
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Jon: Once you turn a light to the on position and turn it off at the other switch, when you return to the original switch, it is in the on position and you will have to turn it to the off position to turn it on. Confused?? Just be glad they aren't 4 way switches. Even if you turn the switches over, you will eventually wind up with the same configuration sooner or later. And don't worry about what position they are in. It will drive you daffy. Take care!
 
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Old 04-10-06, 07:12 PM
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Three way and four way switches do not have an on or off position. Look at one and see, it is not labelled ON and OFF like a traditional two way switch.

This is because of ther way the electricity flows through the two (or more) switches to complete the circuit and turn the light on.

With two three way switches in a circuit, you will have one oif the following conditions:

The lights will be ON when the switches are both down or when they are both up and OFF when one is up and the other down.

OR

The lights will be OFF when the switches are both down or when they are both up and ON when one is up and the other down.


Add a four way switch to the mixture and it gets real complicated quickly.
 
  #4  
Old 04-10-06, 07:38 PM
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thanks guys,
The problem is when the lights are either ON or OFF, the switches are not in the same 'position'. I'll have one on and the other off. the good news is they are the large square switches. I

It sounds as though I should just remove one and turn it 180 degrees and reinstall it. I was hoping there would be a 'trick' or 'setting' on the switch itself to reverse its On/OFF orientation.

Jon
 
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Old 04-11-06, 03:59 AM
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Jon: I wouldn't bother to turn the switch 180 degrees. As soon as you do and the switches go through a few cycles, you will find yourself in the same boat. There is no "on" or "off" position on the switches.
 
  #6  
Old 04-11-06, 04:30 AM
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If you only have two switches then you can easily make the switches act as you want. Turn one of the switches 180 degrees. Or better yet, switch the two traveler wires feeding one of the switches. The two traveler wires go to the two screws that are the same color on the three way switches.
 
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Old 04-11-06, 05:04 AM
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Originally Posted by Jon Carlson
I bought a new house and no matter which position the switches are in, in a couple of rooms, I can never have all the switches in the 'off' position and have the lights off.
Yes, you can.

> Is it possible that one of switches are in 'upside-down'?

Yes. Reverse exactly one of them either by turning it over or by swapping the travelers.
 

Last edited by bolide; 04-11-06 at 05:50 AM.
  #8  
Old 04-11-06, 05:08 AM
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Originally Posted by chandler
Even if you turn the switches over, you will eventually wind up with the same configuration sooner or later.
That is not true.

You can always have all switches down be OFF.

It doesn't matter whether you have one switch or 100 provided that they are oriented to move up and down.


Furthermore, you never have to change more than one switch to achieve this.

I always do this.

As discussed in another recent thread, there are very good reasons to do so.
 

Last edited by bolide; 04-11-06 at 05:50 AM.
  #9  
Old 04-11-06, 08:12 PM
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You CAN have all the switches in the off position at one time, but all the thinking that goes into making sure they are in the proper position is goofy. You would have to remember to shut off the same switch every time. Why have three way switches if you have to use all your time trying to remember what position the switch is in? But I am right that unless you make the effort to ensure the switches are turned off at the same location every time, you will eventually have a mismatch in switching, because the next sequence will be both "up" to be off.
 
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Old 04-11-06, 08:33 PM
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> You CAN have all the switches in the off position at one time,
There is no OFF position. Jon meant "down".

> they are in the proper position
There is no proper position.

> But I am right that unless you make the effort to ensure the
> switches are turned off at the same location every time, you
> will eventually have a mismatch in switching, because the next
> sequence will be both "up" to be off.

That's irrelevant. All switches down will still be off.
If you need to be certain (such as when changing the bulb or if there is a power outage), then you move all switches down.
See the other thread.


> Half of communications is listening
Correct. You should re-read what Jon stated.
 
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Old 04-14-06, 04:40 PM
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If you walk into the room and turn a switch "up", the lights go on. If you leave the room via the other side, you turn the switch "up" to turn the lights off. Now, if you insist on having the switches in the "down" position and the lights off, you will have to reverse your travel every time. Seems like a waste of time to worry about the positioning of switches. I would never "assume" the lights in any room were not energized just because I wired the switches that way.
I'll concede to the fact the switches can be situated to be in the same juxtapostion to each other, but one is up and the other is down.
And I don't answer questions on this forum to be spanked on the hand with certain remarks by people I don't even know. So we either need to get to know each other, or cut down on the smart remarks. This is a professional forum for do it yourselfers, and it should remain professional.
Have a great day.
 
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Old 04-14-06, 05:19 PM
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This is interesting.

Suppose we start out rigging the travelers so the left switch is down and the right switch is down...and the lights are off.

Now we are over on the left side of the room and flip the light switch up, to turn on the light. Then we go to the right side of the room and flip it UP...to be off.

But alas; we don't like that switch up, so we put it back down. But then the light will come back on...right?

Or should I have a beer?

[The poster did say that he wants ALL of the switches in the off postion so the lights are off.]

It can be done, obviously, because that is how we wired them to begin with. BUT... by walking back across the rooms in the dark to accomplish this?

You want a beer chandler?
 
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Old 04-14-06, 05:21 PM
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Don't drink beer, but will take a chew of Redman.
 
  #14  
Old 04-14-06, 05:27 PM
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There is an easy answer.

Replace all the switches with momentary contact switches and use them to actuate a dual-coil relay (low-voltage system) to turn the lights on or off.
 
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Old 04-14-06, 05:44 PM
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I forgot all ABOUT those dastardly buggers until you brought them up.

I did work for a boss of mine who would have me go to his big house and work on whatever needed fixin. (Like these things, or frozen and busted copper pipe in a wall cavity you couldn't get at. ) Either the low voltage switches would go out or the relays would go out. And trying to find some of those things were like being on an Easter egg hunt! Some were behind the canned light. Some where not, but nearby in a junction box. Some had to be accessed in the attic. He had a box of spares in the basement and some had 2 low voltage wires and some had 3.

He sold the house. PRAISE the lord!
 
  #16  
Old 04-14-06, 11:10 PM
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Originally Posted by chandler
Now, if you insist on having the switches in the "down" position and the lights off, you will have to reverse your travel every time.
Sure, but no one insisted on any such thing, so it is irrelevant.

All that is requested is that when the switches are all down that the lights be OFF.
This is very desirable.


> Seems like a waste of time to worry about the positioning of switches.

I disagree.


> I would never "assume" the lights in any room were not energized
> just because I wired the switches that way.

You are kidding, right?

Surely you don't turn off the breaker and test the socket just to change a lightbulb.


> I'll concede to the fact the switches can be situated to be in the same
> juxtapostion to each other, but one is up and the other is down.

Could you rephrase that in plain English, please?
 
  #17  
Old 04-15-06, 08:05 AM
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Thumbs down

Originally Posted by bolide
> I would never "assume" the lights in any room were not energized
> just because I wired the switches that way.

You are kidding, right?

Surely you don't turn off the breaker and test the socket just to change a lightbulb.
No, but who was talking about changing light bulbs?

If I were changing a light fixture, and the light were threeway'ed or fourway'ed in locations that I could not see or was unaware of, you're darn right I'm not going to trust that some switches in several locations are going to remain "down" and take it for granted that the light is de-energized.

OSHA requires us to lock out a circuit before working on it. This doesn't mean using electrical tape on all the switches that control a light - it means locking out the circuit breaker supplying the switches, if you'd like to get 'technical.'

I'm no prima-donna, I will admit that generally speaking electrical tape over the circuit breaker is generally my ghetto-LOTO approach, but it's a helluva lot safer than relying on two or three switches to remain untouched, any of which could potentially kill me.

> Seems like a waste of time to worry about the positioning of switches.

I disagree.
You're entitled to your opinion. As is Larry.

I agree with Larry, spending time orienting switches (especially when 4-ways are introduced) is generally a waste of time. One small exception to this is perhaps outside coach lights, where the state of a light during the daytime is not readily visible.

If you have a foolproof method of ensuring this when you're trimming out, then good on you, you can avoid wasting time to accomplish your "desirable" ends.

You happened to notice that the way the original poster phrased his question, he wanted all switches 'down' to mean the light was off. Larry read it as I originally did, that he wanted all three-ways to operate like single poles, where if he used any switch on the light during normal use, the light would turn off when the switch was 'down.'

There was no reason to batter Larry over the head for his small mis-read on the OP.
 
  #18  
Old 04-15-06, 12:00 PM
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Originally Posted by Rocky Mountain
No, but who was talking about changing light bulbs?
If I were changing a light fixture,
Who was talking about changing a light fixture?


> I agree with Larry, spending time orienting switches (especially
> when 4-ways are introduced) is generally a waste of time.

As someone else pointed out, systematic placement of the travelers accomplishes this a priori.
Four-way switches add no complexity. They add only more switches to verify the function thereof.

However, at test time, go around the room and test each switch. Leave each switch down.

When you get to the last switch, if all switches down results in the lights being on, simply flip that one switch over, and the problem is solved permanently.

If you left the switch at that end out of the box until you tested, this is a simple matter to resolve.


> One small exception to this is perhaps outside coach lights

There are many exceptions.


> If you have a foolproof method of ensuring this when you're trimming out,
> then good on you, you can avoid wasting time to accomplish your "desirable" ends.

With a little forethought, it takes a trivial amout of additional time -- at most half twist of a switch before you push it into the box and screw it down.


> There was no reason to batter Larry over the head
Where was this battering?


> for his small mis-read on the OP.
His statement in post #5 was wrong on its face in any context.
 
  #19  
Old 04-16-06, 07:31 AM
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Correctly installed, with "top" up on marked switches, both switches up or both switches down is "on" unless the travelers are not installed on corresponding terminals on the switches. Given that someone could easily replace traveler wires differently than the original installation had them, or install a switch upside down, I would NEVER count on switch position in a 3 way/4 way setup to count on power being off.

I really don't see the problem here. There is no reason I can think of where it is somehow "safer" to have both switches down for off. Any maintenance on a 3 way circuit should be done with the breaker off since one switch may not be in sight of the fixture anyway. Given the cheap light bulbs around now I certainly wouldn't try to unscrew one and assume the glass won't come off in my hand.

Actually, this whole thing with 3 way switches down is off reminds me of a character from Saturday night live many moons ago. I just don't see how it's an issue.
 
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