4-way Switch Puzzle

Reply

  #1  
Old 08-06-11, 11:50 AM
Member
Thread Starter
Join Date: Aug 2011
Location: USA
Posts: 24
Received 0 Votes on 0 Posts
4-way Switch Puzzle

As a computer geek, I love those problems that others cant fix. I hope there are "electrician geeks" who like solving complicated problems for others.

I hired an electrician to put is some new switches. I later discovered that the 4 way switch would only work in certain configurations. He won't come back unless I pay him (again) to do the work (correctly) that I already paid for.

The current situation is:


Suggestions?
Thanks,
Allec
 
Sponsored Links
  #2  
Old 08-06-11, 11:56 AM
Member
Thread Starter
Join Date: Aug 2011
Location: USA
Posts: 24
Received 0 Votes on 0 Posts
trying to embed the diagram:
 
  #3  
Old 08-06-11, 11:59 AM
Justin Smith's Avatar
Member
Join Date: Dec 2010
Location: Cressona, Pa, USA
Posts: 2,546
Received 0 Votes on 0 Posts
The top pair needs to be on the gold screws and the bottom pair needs to be on the black screws.
 
  #4  
Old 08-06-11, 12:01 PM
Member
Thread Starter
Join Date: Aug 2011
Location: USA
Posts: 24
Received 0 Votes on 0 Posts
Ok, what do i do with the wires in the box for the "left entry" switch?
 
  #5  
Old 08-06-11, 12:08 PM
Justin Smith's Avatar
Member
Join Date: Dec 2010
Location: Cressona, Pa, USA
Posts: 2,546
Received 0 Votes on 0 Posts
Leave the downstairs and left entry switches alone.
 
  #6  
Old 08-06-11, 12:13 PM
Member
Thread Starter
Join Date: Aug 2011
Location: USA
Posts: 24
Received 0 Votes on 0 Posts
ok. the left entry switch does not currently have anything attached, just those wires hanging. what should go where and what should get capped?
 
  #7  
Old 08-06-11, 12:19 PM
Justin Smith's Avatar
Member
Join Date: Dec 2010
Location: Cressona, Pa, USA
Posts: 2,546
Received 0 Votes on 0 Posts
How was it originally wired?
 
  #8  
Old 08-06-11, 12:23 PM
Member
Thread Starter
Join Date: Aug 2011
Location: USA
Posts: 24
Received 0 Votes on 0 Posts
an excellent question. at this point, i no longer know.
are you gritting your teeth?
 
  #9  
Old 08-06-11, 03:44 PM
pcboss's Avatar
Forum Topic Moderator
Join Date: Jul 2002
Location: Maryland
Posts: 14,960
Received 34 Votes on 29 Posts
Originally Posted by Justin Smith View Post
The top pair needs to be on the gold screws and the bottom pair needs to be on the black screws.
Some 4 ways are paired top/bottom, right/left. You need to check the wiring diagram.

To OP, what color wire connects to the black at the fixture? If I were to guess I think the white on the downstairs switch is incorrect. Can you get the 3 ways to work without the 4w installed with the pairs jumpered?
 
  #10  
Old 08-06-11, 07:07 PM
Member
Join Date: Oct 2008
Location: New England
Posts: 10,456
Received 29 Votes on 27 Posts
Hi Matador,
I speak electronic geek, but don't want to confuse the help process right now. I will be watching.
In the mean time, check your diagram as the two three way diagrams are drawn different and as pcboss points out, that white wire is a question.

Bud
 
  #11  
Old 08-06-11, 09:48 PM
Banned. Rule And/Or Policy Violation
Join Date: Jan 2010
Location: KS
Posts: 1,896
Received 0 Votes on 0 Posts
Originally Posted by pcboss View Post
Some 4 ways are paired top/bottom, right/left. You need to check the wiring diagram.

To OP, what color wire connects to the black at the fixture? If I were to guess I think the white on the downstairs switch is incorrect. Can you get the 3 ways to work without the 4w installed with the pairs jumpered?
This switch is left pair/right pair, as evidenced by the screw colors.

OP, in the 4w switch box, are there two whites nutted together? Is there colored tape or marker on any of the whites?

The 4 way must always be in the middle of the circuit, so heres my answer based on deductive reasoning..

On the downstairs switch, swap the white and red wires. White should be on the black screw (color the wire black if it's not already)

On the 4 way switch both wires from the top should go to black, both from bottom should go to brass. There should also be a white from the top and bottom nutted together. (Color them black if they're not already).

On the left entry switch:
- The loose white (that comes in with the red and black) from the conduit gets nutted to the loose black that "comes in with a white that is capped to other whites". (Color it black if its not already).
- The loose black "from the switch next door" goes to the black screw
- The red and black go to the brass screws.
 

Last edited by JerseyMatt; 08-06-11 at 10:03 PM.
  #12  
Old 08-06-11, 09:58 PM
Banned. Rule And/Or Policy Violation
Join Date: Jan 2010
Location: KS
Posts: 1,896
Received 0 Votes on 0 Posts
Originally Posted by Bud9051 View Post
check your diagram as the two three way diagrams are drawn different
Not uncommon for the black screw to be on different sides with different brands of switch. It's the black screw itself that's important, not its position on the switch.
 
  #13  
Old 08-07-11, 09:09 AM
Member
Thread Starter
Join Date: Aug 2011
Location: USA
Posts: 24
Received 0 Votes on 0 Posts
Before I saw the wealth of information come in last night, I did some research as requested. Here is the updated diagram:
 
  #14  
Old 08-07-11, 09:54 AM
Member
Thread Starter
Join Date: Aug 2011
Location: USA
Posts: 24
Received 0 Votes on 0 Posts
I completed all of JerseyMatt's instructions, except I don't know what "Color it black" means. We are really close. Light and switches function ONLY IF "Right Entry Way 4-way" is turned on. If it is off, nothing functions.

Current diagram is:
 
  #15  
Old 08-07-11, 11:06 AM
Member
Join Date: Oct 2008
Location: New England
Posts: 10,456
Received 29 Votes on 27 Posts
When a white wire is used to carry power it is colored black with a marker or black tape so the next person entering that box will know it is no longer a neutral.

Matt will be along to continue the sorting process.

Bud
 
  #16  
Old 08-07-11, 11:07 AM
ray2047's Avatar
Member
Join Date: Mar 2006
Location: USA
Posts: 33,597
Received 13 Votes on 11 Posts
except I don't know what "Color it black" means.
White wires used for any purpose other then neutral must be re-designated some other color besides white, green, green/yellow, or gray. You can use colored marking tape or felt tip marker. An old book of mine even suggested paint.

I'm joining the thread late so forgive me if I am redundant or misunderstanding. You don't show a "remarked white" in the 4-way box and I'm not sure if it is wired between the two 3-ways. Is there power in at the light and a switch loop to one of the 3-way switches or is power in at one of the 3-way switches and power out to the light from the other 3-way switch?
 
  #17  
Old 08-07-11, 11:33 AM
Member
Thread Starter
Join Date: Aug 2011
Location: USA
Posts: 24
Received 0 Votes on 0 Posts
Thanks Bud & Ray. White wires are now now taped with black tape per JM's instruction.

To Ray: The 4-Way box does contain 2 capped whites which I have now marked w/ black. Power comes into the system from "Black #1" in the left entry 3-way. Not sure if I answered all of your questions. You may need to speak slowly using single-syllable words.

And a note to myself: Just becuase you have flipped the breaker on the swithces/light you are working on doesnt mean the power is off to the other switch in the same box. Fool me once, shame on me. Fool me three times and there is a reason why I shouldnt mess around with electricity.
 
  #18  
Old 08-07-11, 01:35 PM
ray2047's Avatar
Member
Join Date: Mar 2006
Location: USA
Posts: 33,597
Received 13 Votes on 11 Posts
Power comes into the system from "Black #1" in the left entry 3-way.
In that case there should be a 2-wire cable (+ground) also in the box.

The white wire of the 3-wire is not recolored.

The black of the power in goes to common.

The white of power in goes to the white of the 3-wire cable. Black and red of the 3-wire to the travelers.

At the other switch box there should be a 2-wire cable to the fan.

White of the 3-wire to white of power out to light.

Black of power out to common.

Red and black to the travelers.

4-way leave as is.

OOps you have conduit. Where conduit treat the hot and neutral pair as the 2-wire cable described in my answer. And the hot and neutral pair to the light as a two wire cable

Black screw is common on three ways and brass travelers.
 
  #19  
Old 08-07-11, 02:32 PM
Member
Thread Starter
Join Date: Aug 2011
Location: USA
Posts: 24
Received 0 Votes on 0 Posts
Wow, Ray. The only sentence that I understood was "4-way leave as is."
There is no fan.

Can you simplify?

To recap:
Light and switches function ONLY IF "Right Entry 4-way" is turned on. If it is off, nothing functions.

Current configuration:
 

Last edited by matador7; 08-07-11 at 03:09 PM.
  #20  
Old 08-07-11, 04:30 PM
ray2047's Avatar
Member
Join Date: Mar 2006
Location: USA
Posts: 33,597
Received 13 Votes on 11 Posts
That was my answer after I simplified it. I'm really not sure what you have. Is it all conduit? I'm not sure of what you have at the light (fan was a typo). Later I'll do a diagram of one way to do it if power comes in at one of the switches. You can then tell me what matches the wiring you have and what doesn't.
 
  #21  
Old 08-07-11, 05:19 PM
Member
Thread Starter
Join Date: Aug 2011
Location: USA
Posts: 24
Received 0 Votes on 0 Posts
i may be using the word conduit incorrectly. i am calling a bundle wires that come out of one white sheath a conduit. in some cases you have black/white wrapped in a thick white sheath. in others, it is a bundle of black/white/red. perhaps incorrect terminilogy on my part.

i am really good with instructions like: attach black #2 to the brass screw on Left Entry 3-way.
i dont know no travelers or commoners or neutrals.

this is all to get the front hall light to go on and off from whichever switch i choose.
 
  #22  
Old 08-07-11, 05:26 PM
ray2047's Avatar
Member
Join Date: Mar 2006
Location: USA
Posts: 33,597
Received 13 Votes on 11 Posts
i may be using the word conduit incorrectly. i am calling a bundle wires that come out of one white sheath a conduit.
That is cable.

The drawing is quick and crude so come back and ask me anything that isn't clear. More importantly tell me anything that doesn't match what you have. Would have been a bit clearer if I had known you had cable. I can redo if you need me to.

Edit: Bud has raised the point that I may be wrong. If you have power in and out at the same switch box the diagram is wrong. Let me know.

 

Last edited by ray2047; 08-07-11 at 06:34 PM.
  #23  
Old 08-07-11, 06:16 PM
Member
Join Date: Oct 2008
Location: New England
Posts: 10,456
Received 29 Votes on 27 Posts
Matador, Ray's wiring is correct for power in at one of the 3-ways and switched power out from the other 3-way, but you have shown both the power-in and the switched power out coming from the left entry 3-way box.

Now, at the left entry 3-way you have the red/black (travelers), the black at the black screw, and the black capped to the white. The black capped to the white is probably the power-in and the black at the black screw is probably the switched power to the light.

Note: red and black are just path #1 and path #2 simplified as travelers as the power alternately feeds via one path or the other.

Ray shows the 4-way in between the two three ways (electrically that is where it is inserted) to flip the travelers changing the power flow from path one to path two or vice versa. By the term flipping the travelers I mean the 4-way either connects red to red and black to black, or it can flip the wires so that red in connects to black out and black in connects to red out, thus turning the light on or off.

Neutral (white) is just the return path for current and is usually just connected white to white at every box. Back at the breaker panel white is connected to ground, but white is the current carrying ground (called neutral) vs the copper white which is the non-current carrying ground.

So with the 4-way in one position, the 3-ways seem to work. 4-way in the other position, light remains off.

Matador, what I want you to check is 4-way in the working position and downstairs switch up, check to see if entry switch will turn light on and off.

Then repeat, 4-way in the working position and downstairs switch down, check to see if entry switch will turn light on and off.

That will have checked all possible switch positions of the 3-ways.

Hope this is helping.

Bud
 
  #24  
Old 08-07-11, 06:31 PM
Member
Thread Starter
Join Date: Aug 2011
Location: USA
Posts: 24
Received 0 Votes on 0 Posts
okay. thanks to all for the help. i'm gonna have to print this at work tommorow and then take a crack at it after work tommorow.

thanks again,
Matt 7
 
  #25  
Old 08-07-11, 08:50 PM
ray2047's Avatar
Member
Join Date: Mar 2006
Location: USA
Posts: 33,597
Received 13 Votes on 11 Posts
With both power in and power out at the same switch box.



Note re legend in graphic only black screws on 3-ways are common. Blacks on 4-way are travelers.
 
  #26  
Old 08-08-11, 04:32 PM
Member
Thread Starter
Join Date: Aug 2011
Location: USA
Posts: 24
Received 0 Votes on 0 Posts
Ray,
Used the second configuration you gave, and still close. I checked your configuration against my work 3 times and then tested.

My Analysis: It appears that A must be in the down position, and B & C in opposite states for the light to work.

Here is my raw data:

A______B______C
Up_____Up_____Up = Off
Up_____Dwn____Up = Off
Dwn____Up_____Up = Off
Dwn___Dwn____Up = On

Up_____Up_____Dwn = Off
Up_____Dwn____Dwn = Off
Dwn____Up____Dwn = On
Dwn___Dwn____Dwn = Off

A = Left Entry 3 Way
B = Right Entry 4 Way
C = Downstairs 3 Way

Power comes in and goes to the fixture via the Left 3 Way.

Suggestions?
Thanks,
Mat 7
 
  #27  
Old 08-08-11, 05:19 PM
ray2047's Avatar
Member
Join Date: Mar 2006
Location: USA
Posts: 33,597
Received 13 Votes on 11 Posts
Maybe there is an error in my drawing I'm not seeing. As a test lets bypass the 4-way and see if everything works correctly. At the 4-way box disconnect the black and reds. Wirenut black to black red to red. Leave the recolored whites connected together. Now see if both 3-ways work correctly.
 
  #28  
Old 08-08-11, 05:39 PM
Member
Join Date: Oct 2008
Location: New England
Posts: 10,456
Received 29 Votes on 27 Posts
With A down, B and C function correctly. With A up nothing works. That tells me that one of the brass screw wires on A has been switched with the wire on the black screw. I would wait for Ray to review your testing before you change anything, but I think you are close. Do you have a volt meter, to locate the power in wire?

Bud

If power is coming in one of the brass screws and a traveler is exiting from the common, then that switch can only work in one position.

Are there any other wire connections inside those boxes other than whites to whites and copper to copper?
 

Last edited by Bud9051; 08-08-11 at 05:44 PM. Reason: Ray types faster
  #29  
Old 08-08-11, 06:43 PM
Member
Thread Starter
Join Date: Aug 2011
Location: USA
Posts: 24
Received 0 Votes on 0 Posts
to date, my finger has acted as a volt meter 4 times.

I think power in is via the black wire connected to the black screw in A. When that wire and the black wired nutted to the white wire in A are connected the light comes on and the switches dont work. i assume that power is bypassing everything and going right to the light. but i am a data analyst, so what do i know!
 
  #30  
Old 08-08-11, 07:40 PM
Member
Join Date: Oct 2008
Location: New England
Posts: 10,456
Received 29 Votes on 27 Posts
Power can be sent through the switch arrangement in either direction so the location of light and power can be reversed from as shown. Rays diagram looks fine, so I'm looking for some wires that aren't what we are expecting them to be.

Here is a possibility. Switch A has a black from the 3-wire (red/black/white) going to the brass screw and a black from a 2-wire (black/white) going to the black screw. If those have been reversed inside the box, then switch A will only work in one position. Follow each black to confirm it comes from where it is shown on the drawing.

Bud
 
  #31  
Old 08-08-11, 07:59 PM
Member
Thread Starter
Join Date: Aug 2011
Location: USA
Posts: 24
Received 0 Votes on 0 Posts
the black wire going to the black screw actually comes from the switch next to the 3-way. that switch has a black in and a black out. both of which connect to brass screws. one attached to this switch is then capped to the black wire attached to the black screw. in addition, there is another black wire that goes off someplace not in this box.

the other black is part of the red/black/white bundle and is attached to a brass screw.
 
  #32  
Old 08-08-11, 08:10 PM
Member
Join Date: Oct 2008
Location: New England
Posts: 10,456
Received 29 Votes on 27 Posts
I didn't quite follow the switch next to it description, but it sounds like the power is as labeled.
Next, check switch B that has two three wire bundles coming into it with the red/black pairs taped together. Make sure each pair comes from its own bundle of three. Not red from one bundle paired with black from the other.

Still thinking
Bud
 
  #33  
Old 08-08-11, 08:17 PM
Member
Thread Starter
Join Date: Aug 2011
Location: USA
Posts: 24
Received 0 Votes on 0 Posts
yep, two sets of red/black/white. the whites are capped together, each red is taped to the black from their own cable. each set of taped red/black is screwed to the same color screw.
 
  #34  
Old 08-08-11, 08:22 PM
ray2047's Avatar
Member
Join Date: Mar 2006
Location: USA
Posts: 33,597
Received 13 Votes on 11 Posts
one attached to this switch is then capped to the black wire attached to the black screw
A pigtail is a short wire wire nutted to two are more wires from multiple cables. Is that what you mean? If so does the pigtail go to the common (black screw) of A?

there is another black wire that goes off someplace not in this box.
Is that also wire nutted to the other two blacks?

Did you try the 4-way bypass test?

Bud, I have run into one case on the board where the customer was sold DPST switch instead of a 4-way. I can't quite see how that would cause the results but I seem to be having a brain freeze.

Matador7, the 4-way doesn't have on/off on it does it?
 
  #35  
Old 08-08-11, 08:32 PM
Member
Thread Starter
Join Date: Aug 2011
Location: USA
Posts: 24
Received 0 Votes on 0 Posts
yes, if it is a pigtail, it has 1 black going to the black screw, and another part of the pig tail is the one that goes off somewhere.

not sure what the 4-way bypass test is.

the switch is a leviton brand and does not actually have the traditional switch. it the "decora" model that is a "rocker" style that simply has a large face plate that rocks up or down.
 
  #36  
Old 08-08-11, 08:42 PM
Member
Thread Starter
Join Date: Aug 2011
Location: USA
Posts: 24
Received 0 Votes on 0 Posts
i had to buy the 4-way from the web. the item is:
Leviton 5614-2W
Description
15 Amp, 120/277 Volt, Decora Rocker Lighted Handle - Illuminated OFF 4-Way AC Quiet Switch, Residential Grade, Grounding, Quickwire Push-In & Side Wired, - White
 
  #37  
Old 08-08-11, 08:44 PM
ray2047's Avatar
Member
Join Date: Mar 2006
Location: USA
Posts: 33,597
Received 13 Votes on 11 Posts
not sure what the 4-way bypass test is.
See post #27.

............
 
  #38  
Old 08-08-11, 08:47 PM
Member
Join Date: Oct 2008
Location: New England
Posts: 10,456
Received 29 Votes on 27 Posts
Ray, from the test he ran in post 26, sw A down is completing a path to one of the travelers. sw B and C are then able to work normally. So B is seeing one of the travelers and is able to send that along onto either traveler to C. Conclusion is that the 3-wire from B to C and sw C are good, along with the returning white marked black.

Let's see if the 3-wires he is checking are all from the correct pairs, which I suspect is ok, and then it is all back to sw A and sorting out power in and light out.

Bud

I'm slow so post may not apply
 

Last edited by Bud9051; 08-08-11 at 08:49 PM. Reason: too slow
  #39  
Old 08-08-11, 08:53 PM
Member
Thread Starter
Join Date: Aug 2011
Location: USA
Posts: 24
Received 0 Votes on 0 Posts
and yet they are taped.

ok, the test appears to fail.

lights are on if C is up and A is down. no other configuration works.
 
  #40  
Old 08-08-11, 08:54 PM
Member
Join Date: Oct 2008
Location: New England
Posts: 10,456
Received 29 Votes on 27 Posts
Ray, his original drawings show all red/black pairs as being taped together, I assume by the original electrician and therefore could possible have been crossed in the 4-way. Just checking.

Bud
 
Reply

Posting Rules
You may not post new threads
You may not post replies
You may not post attachments
You may not edit your posts

BB code is On
Smilies are On
[IMG] code is On
HTML code is Off
Trackbacks are Off
Pingbacks are Off
Refbacks are Off


Thread Tools
Search this Thread
Display Modes
 
Ask a Question
Question Title:
Description:
Your question will be posted in: