Dimmer Switch - Did I do this right?

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  #1  
Old 09-10-07, 09:08 AM
C
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Dimmer Switch - Did I do this right?

I am replacing a normal on/off switch with a dimmer switch to control the lights in my living room. I was surprised to see that there were 3 sets of wires coming into the box, even though this is NOT a 3-way switch.

It turned out that my outdoor security light also gets power from this circuit, but it is not controlled by the switch that I am replacing (the switch for the security light is on the other side of the room).

For a normal single pole setup, where you would have 2 remaining incoming black wires, the instructions for the dimmer say that it does not matter which one of the black wires connects to the dimmer switch's black and red wires.

Wiring this way sense to me, but this third set of wires makes my head hurt.

Here is what I did to wire up the new dimmer switch:

1 - Ground wires all connect to the green wire on the dimmer switch
2 - All whites are connected together but NOT to the dimmer switch. These white wires were already connected together inside of the box.

Things make sense so far.. but the 3 remaining black wires have me worried.. does it matter how these connect up to the switch?

3 - one incoming black wire to the black wire on the dimmer switch
4 - the remaining 2 black wires to the red wire on the dimmer switch

Things are working perfectly. The switch operates my living room light and not the outdoor security light, but my question is, did I do this right? Could I have messed this up in a way that is going to cause me a problem in the future?

Thanks SO MUCH!
 
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  #2  
Old 09-10-07, 09:19 AM
R
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You should have paid attention to the wires as they were connected to the original switch, and connected these wires the same way.

While you did not do the former, you did the latter, perhaps by chance.

The bare wires are ground wires. They all get connected together. They should be pigtailed to box (if the box is metal) and you should have connected the dimmer switch ground (green) wire to them, which you did.

The white wires are neutral wires. They all get connected together. You should not have had to touch them.

One black wire brings power into the box. One black wire takes power to your security light. These would have been connected together with the old setup and connected to one terminal of the old switch. They should still be connected together and connected to one of the dimmer leads.

The last black wire takes switched power to the lights in your living room. It would have been connected to the other terminal of the switch, and therefore gets connected to the other lead of the dimmer.
 
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Old 09-10-07, 12:35 PM
J
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With your algorithm, there are three possible outcomes, corresponding to the three possible ways of combining two black wires to the dimmer's red wire.

(1) The switch operates the room light but not the outdoor light.

(2) The switch operates the outdoor light but not the room light.

(3) The switch operates both lights.

You just guessed, and you got lucky. None of the three outcomes are unsafe, but only one gives you the operation you want.

You did fine, but only by luck. Paying attention is always perferrable.
 
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Old 09-10-07, 04:05 PM
L
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Angry Again....

I must ask...

Why does anyone feel the need to touch/remove/disassemble a wire/splice that is not connected to the device/fixture that they are changing?

Wires from the old switch/light/fan go to the new one.
This is basic logic, common sence etc....

If We have a flat tire do we change the wiper blades?
 
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Old 09-10-07, 04:05 PM
C
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Thank You

What a great community, thank you very much for your advice. Yes, I did get lucky and I also learned a lesson or two.

It seems like every darned time I start a DIY project I get into trouble because the manual fails to cover my particular circumstance. Of course I don't realize this until it is 2AM, my wife wants to kill me, and I am too far down the road to go back.

My last project was to install custom shower doors.... I gave Kohler the dimensions per their instructions, got my doors and tracks a few weeks later, and installed them one night... but at 2AM, when I thought I was finally finished, I discovered that the doors would never close! They would just slide open... It turns out the top of my shower basin was not level when I submitted the measurements, so the top track was not level when I hung the doors...now that would have been nice to know ahead of time.

I guess knowledge like this comes with experience and patience, but sometimes I think I am missing the 'big animal' picture that makes things go smoother.

The instructions for the dimmer switch said "Look at the back of your <existing> switch. If there are three wires connected, you have a 3 way switch... <and need to follow the 3-Way Wiring application>". The instructions did not mention that the three wires could also be a single-pole installation with an additional run tied to it via the switch.

I got lucky this time but I don't think it is smart to press your luck with electricity. At least now I know that I can come here to get some straightforward advice, and next time I'll know exactly what to do before proceeding.

Do you know or a good overview or reference book for DIY electrical projects? I own the B&D Complete Guide to Home Repair, but it only covered the basics and I feel like I am missing the overall general knowledge that would have made my 3-wire discovery less of a surprise.

Thanks again!
Chris
 
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Old 09-10-07, 04:28 PM
C
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Lectriclee

Lectriclee,

If I was replacing my old switch with the same exact type of new switch, I would have done everything exactly the same as you suggest.

However the new dimmer switch was quite different than my old one. It had 4 wires coming out of the back, my old switch had 4 contact screws and holes for inserting wires. I didn't know that the red wire on the new switch equated to the top-right of my old switch (or whatever), so it was impossible for me to do a one-for-one mapping, which would have made things brain-dead easy.

Do you know of any reference books or magazine articles that you could recommend?

Thanks
 
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Old 09-10-07, 05:12 PM
L
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Smile

By the way welcome, CJ.

I re-read what you did. Thats fine. appears you did no more than needed, that's better.

Racraft has his "map your panel" thing and I have my "why'd ya touch that splice" thing, and others have their "thing"...

Any way, "Wireing simplified" seems to be a very popular suggestion here. Personaly I have not looked at it.

Any book designed for home, wireing - Repair/maint. Would be good for the homeowner.

The top of this site also has a list of resources. others will chime in.
 
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