Dimmer Woes

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  #1  
Old 04-01-07, 01:23 PM
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Dimmer Woes

Hi,
I've replaced a standard single-pole switch with a dimmer. Problem is that the lights stay on and the dimmer switch has no effect. I removed the dimmer and turned the power back on and the lights came on - with no wire connections!
There is only one, three wire (black, white, ground) coming into the box. The thing worked fine before I took it apart. Anyone have any ideas what dumb thing I did?
Thanks!
 
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  #2  
Old 04-01-07, 01:52 PM
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Welp, you've done something different. Which is hard with only two wires plus a ground. The black and white were connected to the previous switch, right? This is common with switches, though the white wire really should be recolored.

Another option might be to call, depending on who made the dimmer, 1-800-LUTRON or 1-800-LEVITON; they have technical service hotlines. They are used to answering every conceivable "oops" when it comes to installing their dimmers.
 
  #3  
Old 04-01-07, 01:55 PM
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Already called lutron

Thanks for the advice though. Nothing wrong with the dimmer, as I successfully installed on the switch which shares the box and it works fine.
 
  #4  
Old 04-01-07, 01:55 PM
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You obviously have the wires not connected properly. How were the wires connected to the old switch? How did you connect them to the new switch?

Did you mess with the wires at the light at all?
 
  #5  
Old 04-01-07, 02:00 PM
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You are not being truthful with us.

If the only cable entering the box is a single cable with three wires (black white and ground) then the can't be another switch in the box.

Why don't you tell us the whole story, and perhaps we can help you sort it out.
 
  #6  
Old 04-01-07, 02:04 PM
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Every way I could think of

The old switch, a simple toggle, has two poles on opposite sides and a ground near the bottom. I don't recall whether the white was on the left and the black on the right, or vice-versa (I've done many dimmers before without incident, so I wasn't expecting to have any trouble).
The new dimmer, a Lutron Q-600PH, has two poles on the right side and a ground on top. I tried the black on top and white on bottom, then reversed.
The puzzling thing to me is that when I had no switch at all installed and the wires just hanging out of the box, the lights came on when I turned the circuit back on???
 
  #7  
Old 04-01-07, 02:09 PM
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Fessin' up

Ok, you got me.
There are two switches in the box. One controlls vanity lights. The other (which I'm having trouble with) controls five cans with 50 watt halogen spotlights).
Both switches are wired exactly the same way (one, three wire into each).
They are not connected to each other way, so I didn't think it was relevant.
 
  #8  
Old 04-01-07, 02:10 PM
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Tell us the whole story.

What devices are in the box? What cables enter the box, what color wires are in those cables and how were they connected?

We need the whole story.

What, if anything did you do with the wiring at the lights?
 
  #9  
Old 04-01-07, 02:13 PM
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if this is just a standard switch loop , then somehting is very wrong about the lights comming on with the switch tottaly disconnected . Did you disconnect the right wires?
 
  #10  
Old 04-01-07, 02:15 PM
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Whole Story

Before I screwed it up, the box contained two basic toggle switches. Feeding each switch was one cable with three wires, one white, one black and one bare.
That's it. I didn't do anything to the the lights. They worked fine before I removed the switches.
 
  #11  
Old 04-01-07, 02:20 PM
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Tell us the wiring at the cans, or at least at the one that connects to the swith.
 
  #12  
Old 04-01-07, 02:28 PM
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As the color of the switch leg is non conforming, this installation may have originally been performed by a non-professional. If the devices operate with the switch out, then there has been a short across the two wires created. I would unscrew the clamp holding the cable in the box (if it exists) If it is a plastic box, try to pull a little more cable into the box and inspect the wires. Wouldn't be surprised that the insulation was removed poorly, baring the conducters.
 
  #13  
Old 04-01-07, 02:28 PM
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Cans

Originally, the switch went to one overhead light. I removed this light some time ago, installed the cans serially. A cable from the old overhead light continues the circuit - not really sure where it goes. But, everything worked fine for several months...until I removed the toggle switch. I believe the vanity is wired in the same manner, and it functions fine.
 
  #14  
Old 04-01-07, 02:39 PM
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Short

Thanks, I already removed the clamp to see if I could see any damage to the insulation.
Nothing apparent.
 
  #15  
Old 04-01-07, 02:54 PM
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To begin with, I assume the wiring from one can to the next was actually installed in parallel. The cable from the old overhead light is probably the line and the two-wire in the box (don't count the ground) is a splice bring the hot and switch legs to the switch (there is no neutral in this box apparently). Try something. First use a tester to test for voltage from the black to ground and then the white to ground. Should only get voltage on the black side. Turn off the power to this circuit. Lights should go out. Check the black for voltage again. Should get nothing. Do a continuity test across the black and white.(only if you get no voltage on either leg) You are supposed to get nothing. If you get continuity there is a dead short between the two that was probably caused as you manipulated the wires (not pointing any fingers here). Let us know
 
  #16  
Old 04-01-07, 03:34 PM
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Voltage testing

I checked the voltage from black to ground and white to ground and got nothing. Turned off the circuit and the lights went off. Still nothing.
 
  #17  
Old 04-01-07, 03:44 PM
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So if we understand the current situation (no pun intended) we have one switch that properly operates the vanity light, two bare wires sticking out of the box that used to be attached to the switch operating ceiling lights and worked appropriately, no voltage from either of these wires when the power is on, and the ceiling lights remain on until the power is turned off( and the vanity lights don't work either when the power is off). A continuity test between the black and white would indicate a short between them. Have you tried this? (be absolutley sure there is no current or you will fry your tester, and maybe yourself)
 
  #18  
Old 04-01-07, 03:52 PM
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Continuity Test?

If this means did I put the white and black wires together, yes I did (with the power on and off), with no effect.
The situation is exactly as you've described it.
 
  #19  
Old 04-01-07, 03:59 PM
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Actually, what I meant was to use a tester to determine if the black and white wires are shorted out somewhere. If you have a milli-ammeter or similar testing equipment it will have a setting for resistance or continuity testing. Picture the two wires as the open ends of a loop. In a proper circuit this loop would be open on the other end as well. If it is shorted closed, inserting a tester between the wires will determine that this loop is improperly closed. I would expect to see voltage in this case so I am surprised you report none between ground and the black leg. If you don't have the required tester we can jury rig something to test it anyway. The dinner bell has rung here. Back in a bit
 
  #20  
Old 04-01-07, 04:17 PM
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Digital Multimeter

Thanks for all your help....I have a cheap digital multimeter. I set it where it looks like an upside down "U" with legs. When I placed the contacts on the black and white wires, there is initially a reading of 7 or 900 for a second, then the numbers decline rapidly to 1.
 
  #21  
Old 04-01-07, 05:07 PM
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does it have a symbol looking something like a series of small lines or the word 'cont'. or similar?
 
  #22  
Old 04-01-07, 05:22 PM
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Well, you have a right to be confused, because the facts as you've presented them to us are impossible.

I would suggest you reinstall the old switch you removed and see if you can get it working properly again. Try to put everything back to the state it was in when it last worked properly.
 
  #23  
Old 04-01-07, 05:32 PM
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Do not use your digital meter on anything except AC volts, with a scale of 150 or whatever is just higher than 125 or so. A digital meter is the wrong tool when you don't know how to use it, and using it on the resistance setting (in this situation) is the wrong thing to do.

As John stated, your posts do not make sense.

You are going to have to tell us the wiring at the lights. There is no way to get around this. If this worked before, then things were wired improperly and/or the switches were combined in some manner.

Please provide all the details of the wiring at the lights so that we can help you sort this out. And by ALL the lights I mean also the vanity lights.

Tell us ALL the wires, whether connected to the switches or the lights. Tell us the cables, and the wires in the cables, and how everything is connected.
 
  #24  
Old 04-01-07, 10:03 PM
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Maybe I read too quickly but did the OP remove all light bulbs before doing the continuity test? With the switch disconnected and wire nuts on the wires for safety does the light come on?
 
  #25  
Old 04-02-07, 03:40 AM
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Wiring of lights

The switch box contains two switches, one for the vanity and one for the overhead lights. Each switch is serviced by a two wire cable (black and white,plus ground).
Originally there was one center light in the ceiling, controlled by one of the switches (the source of my problem). I installed four cans, using a splice from the original ceiling box to provide power to each of cans in a series. This setup has worked fine for several months while I've been renovating the room.
Yesterday, I decided I needed one more can. I had provided for this potential need by splicing a wire from the fourth can to the place I thought an additional can might be needed when I had the ceiling torn up.
After installing the final can, I decided to install dimmers on both of the switches in the box.
I was not expecting trouble, as I've done this kind of thing many times before, so I'm not certain if the original toggle switch to the cans became inoperastive before I removed it or only after. As soon as I confirmed that the fifth can was working, I cut the circuit and removed the toggle switch.
I replace it with the dimmer and at this point realized that I had a problem (restoring power turned the overhead lights on and the switch had no effect on the lights).
As for the vanity (the other switch in the box), the electrical box originally controlled a fixture with several globe bulbs over the mirror. I replaced this fixture with two side lights, which I wired together and into the original box. This box has five cables coming into it. One is the cable for the new pair of sidelights. I believe one is from the original ceiling fixture, one from the switch box, and I believe two that exit the box to continue the circuits.
I think I've covered everything.
 
  #26  
Old 04-02-07, 04:38 AM
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You aren't understanding my question and/or aren't providing the right information.

I want to know the wiring at the lights in the ceiling. I want to know what cables enter the boxes and what the those cables attach to. Open the boxes and provide the details. Do ot tell me what you did or what you think is up there.

If what you are saying is correct then you either have a damaged wire inside the wall or you have a problem at the ceiling lights. You opening the boxes at the lights will rule out the lights, and we can tel,l you to go ahead and run a new cable. On the other hand, I suspect incorrect wiring at the ceiling, which I am trying to help you correct.

Tell me something similar to the following:

Three wires enter the first light. Each has a black white and ground. The black from the first wire connects to the white from the second. The white from the first connects to the white for the light and white from the third cable. Etc.
 
  #27  
Old 04-02-07, 07:04 AM
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Hmmm

Hmmm...

It sounds like you're saying that the box with the 5 cables is not the double switch box but is a separate junction box? Is that correct? In your last post it sounds like you're saying that the cables for both sets of lights, the cable for the power source plus the plus 2 other cables? I'm thinking that the 2 other cables both go to the switch box. One would be the switch leg for the overhead lights and the other would be the switch leg for the vanity lights. Does this seem like what you have. In one of your posts you're saying that both of the switch legs for the overhead lights are dead to ground at the switch box [power on]? I'm wondering if a hot leg was wired directly to the overhead lights in the junction box? IOW- was a hot leg and the wires going to the switch for the overhead lights get crossed up in the junction box?
 
  #28  
Old 04-02-07, 08:13 AM
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wiring of the ceiling cans

The ceiling cans are halo non-IC remodel units with three female plugs (black, white and ground) that will accept up to three wires each. I took a splice from the original ceiling light box (black, white and ground), then ran it to the first can. There I plugged the three wires into the corresponding black, white and ground female plugs. Then I plugged a new cable into the same female plugs and ran it to the next can, and so on. I did this for the four cans and also connected wire for future use before I redid the drywall on the ceiling, thinking that I might want to add one more light. This was severl months ago.
Yesterday, I decided that I did need the additional can, so I cut a hole in the ceiling, found my wire and plugged it into the female receptors in the can.
Then, I started having trouble when I removed the toggle switch.
For Helpingsis: The cable box I was describing is the original location of the vanity light. It has four original cables. The old light was mounted on top of the box. I added one more cable that goes to the two side lights that I am now using instead of an over the mirror light that had previously been installed.
I have never had all of the drywall off, so I'm not certain where the cables go. I believe that one goes to the original overhead box, and one to the switch box. I think the other two are returns.
 
  #29  
Old 04-02-07, 08:32 AM
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You are scaring me.

As I interpret what you are stating, you left a charged wire in the ceiling underneath the drywall. I hope I am reading this wrong. This is a code violation, and very dangerous. If you did this you are lucky you did not burn your house down.

I hesitate to ask this question, for fear of the answer I may get. Where is "original ceiling light box" and what are the connections at this light box. Do not go from memory. Tell me from the box itself. Open the box, and physically look at the connections.

Also, open the boxes for the can lights and physically look at those connections.
 
  #30  
Old 04-02-07, 08:40 AM
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did you ever euncable that last can?
 
  #31  
Old 04-02-07, 08:59 AM
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I'm assuming that the original vanity light was controlled by one of the switches and the overhead light was controlled by the other? If so, then 4 cables sounds right. One would be the power source, two would loop down to the switches and then come back to the box, and the fourth would go to the overhead light. Your fifth cable would connect to the same points that the original vanity light connected to. Since all the trouble started when you installed the fifth can, what happens if you take it out of the circuit and restore the wiring going to it as it was before? What doesn't add up is the two wires going to the switch that controls the overhead lights are dead to ground at the switch box as though they have been inadvertantly removed from the circuit which would explain why the lights stay on all the time.
 
  #32  
Old 04-02-07, 09:59 AM
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Throwin' in the towel

Thanks for all who took the time to help me.
I've decided to ask for some adult supervision (electrician is coming over this afternoon).
I'll post a results once we've gotten to the bottom of it.
And, for those who have asked, yes I did remove the fifth can and it made no difference.
Thanks again...
 
  #33  
Old 04-03-07, 05:41 AM
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Resolution of the Problem

First thing the electrician checked was the newest can.
He asked me if I overtightened the screws that hold the wire in the box attached to the remodel can. I thought tighter was better, but he explained that too tight sometimes bares the wires creating a "dead short".
This turned out to be the problem. All is well. Thanks again, all.
 
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