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# 3-ways for plugs that are half hot/half switched

#1
05-28-06, 08:30 PM
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3-ways for plugs that are half hot/half switched

I'm remodeling my living room, and right now it's gutted down to the studs, but so far I've left the existing wiring intact. I'm almost sure the existing wiring was done incorrectly, although it does work. Power comes into a 3-way switch via a 12-2. Two lines leave the switch box, one a 12-2 going to the first of 6 plugs (and then on to the other five), the other a 12-3 going to the other 3-way. Only the top plug of each of the six is switched, the bottom ones are always hot.

I want to maintain this setup, but verify that the wiring is done correctly. Instead of describing the wiring as it exists and why I think it's wrong, can someone describe to me the proper way to wire the above situation? I would greatly appreciate it!

Joe

#2
05-28-06, 09:05 PM
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Location: Oregon
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There are about a zillion different ways of doing what you describe, so you are probably better off describing what you current have, so that we can check it.

If you use - to mean 12/2, and = to mean 12/3 and # to mean 12/4
then what you have described is:

power - S1 = S2
with S1 - R1 - R2 - R3 - R4 - R5

This appears to be wrong, because there are not enough wires. There is no way to carry both the switched hot, the unswitched hot, the neutral, and the ground on 12/2

Your arrangement should be something like:
power - S1 = S2
with S1 = R1 = R2 = R3 = R4 = R5

In other words, you need 12/3 everywhere, or you need two separate 12/2 cables from S1 to the receptacles and between the receptacles.

-Jon

#3
05-28-06, 09:15 PM
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I agree with Jon. If you're going to upgrade the wiring, then there should be a three-wire between switches, and then a three-wire running among the receptacles.

The power for the receptacles, and the switchleg for the switched receptacles, should come from the same box. This could present some box-fill issues if you change from the existing wiring, and it will be even more difficult for you, since this is in 12-wire.

If everything works, and all the cables/boxes/surrounding materials are non-metallic, it's not necessarily unsafe; but it's not desirable. If you've got the time and talent, I'd change it now.

#4
05-28-06, 09:43 PM
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Join Date: Dec 2004
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I agree with you both, that's why I don't think this was done safely. I'll just describe switch 1 and plug 1 in the series first.

S1 has two 12-2s and one 12-3 coming into the box. In switch one, all grounds PLUS THE INCOMING POWER white are wire nutted together. All three blacks are wire nutted. The red and white of the 12-3 are hooked to the 3-way, and the white of the outgoing 12-2 (which feeds R1) is attached to the common screw (dark screw) of the 3-way.

R1 has two 12-2s. The blacks are wire nutted with a pigtail going to the bottom hot (gold) terminal. The whites are wire nutted with a pigtail GOING TO THE TOP HOT TERMINAL. The grounds are wire nutted with a pigtail going to both the bottom neutral terminal and the ground screw. The tab between the two hot terminals has been removed.

I just checked and the rest of the plugs look to be wired in the same fashion. This just has to be wrong, doesn't it? It does work, though I know there are a lot of ways that will work that aren't safe.

So what should I do? I've done quite a bit of simple wiring and a few 3-ways, but I've only done them from scratch per Rex Cauldwell's Wiring a House book. The split plug business is something I haven't attempted before.

#5
05-29-06, 05:17 AM
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Location: Central New York State
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The wiring is using the unshielded (bare) ground wire as the neutral. This is clearly wrong on all counts.

Replace the 12-2 cable from the first switch to the receptacle (and then to each receptacle) with 12-3.

Use the black to carry always hot, the red to carry switched hot, and the white to carry the neutral.

#6
06-08-06, 11:13 PM
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Join Date: Dec 2004
Posts: 30
I ended up yanking everything except the incoming power to Switch 2 and doing everything new. I'd appreciate it if you all could check my planned connections.

20 amp circuit
2 3-way switches
5 plugs, bottom always hot, top switched, black will carry hot, red switched

12-2 coming into Switch 2 (A).
12-3 running from Switch 2 to Switch 1 (B).
12-3 running from Switch 2 to Plug 1-2-3-4-5 (C).

At Switch 2...

A-Black, B-Black, C-Black wire nutted together.
A-White, C-White wire nutted together.
B-White to traveler.
B-Red to traveler
C-Red to Common

At Plug 1,2,3,4,5...
White to Silver screw
Black to bottom gold
Red to top gold
Break tab on gold

At Switch 1...
White and Red to travelers
Black to common.

I'm sure I've got this right, but I like to quadruple check! Thanks for the help.

#7
06-09-06, 05:34 AM
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Location: Central New York State
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That sounds correct.

#8
06-14-06, 09:37 AM
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Posts: 249
xxxxxxxxxx.

#9
06-14-06, 09:44 AM
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Join Date: Jan 2004
Location: Oregon
Posts: 1,219
[Edited to remove post rendered irrelevant by an edit in a previos post.]

#10
06-24-06, 03:43 PM
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Join Date: Dec 2004
Posts: 30
So I've done the wiring as described in my post above. One problem is showing up. I'm using the little light bulb lead tester to test the circuit, and when I test the black-neutral at the plug, it shows hot, but when I test the red-neutral, with the 3-way switches set one way, it shows as normal hot, but flip either one of the 3-way switches and the tester doesn't go off, it goes only to half power/half as bright.

Any ideas as to what I've done wrong? I'm very puzzled!

#11
06-24-06, 03:58 PM
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Location: Central New York State
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Originally Posted by HouseOfJoe
I'm using the little light bulb lead tester to test the circuit, and when I test the black-neutral at the plug, it shows hot, but when I test the red-neutral, with the 3-way switches set one way, it shows as normal hot, but flip either one of the 3-way switches and the tester doesn't go off, it goes only to half power/half as bright.
Ignore the half brightness. It is irrelevant.

#12
06-24-06, 04:18 PM
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Join Date: Dec 2004
Posts: 30
But shouldn't the test light be completely out with the switches in one position, on (either half or whole) in the other? I'm confused as to why there is apparently power coming through the circuit when by my understanding there shouldn't be? Why is the tester light lighting in this situation irrelevant?

#13
06-24-06, 06:34 PM
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Location: Central New York State
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Phantom voltage.

#14
06-29-06, 07:41 PM
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Join Date: Jun 2006
Posts: 26
ticks are for kids

I never rely on a tick. just dont trust them.

#15
07-04-06, 11:46 AM
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Join Date: Nov 2005
Posts: 249
use an incandescent test kight. If it lights half way you have real problems

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