Light Switch Wiring

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Old 04-13-12, 06:48 AM
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Light Switch Wiring

How do I wire the two reading lights above the bed (each has its own switch) so they turn on/off independently of each other? Currently either switch turns both lights on or both lights off, but are not wired as a 3-way switch. The first switch has two wires coming in and two wires going out to the second switch (which has only the two wires coming in).
 
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Old 04-13-12, 07:54 AM
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You may need to run more wire to make this happen. But more information may help. Can you describe what each wire is doing? Which wire is attached to which terminal on each switch. Better yet, can you pull the two switches out in front of their boxes, take some pictures that show the wired terminals on each switch and any wires in the box behind them, and add them to a reply? How To Include Pictures.

I'm trying to figure out how the two switches can do what you describe if they aren't 3-way switches.
 
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Old 04-13-12, 08:39 AM
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The wire was run when the house was built about a year ago, but no lights were installed at that time - the wires were covered with wire nuts and electrical tape and tucked into the boxes with covers so never actually saw the wiring until I finally got around to installing some lights. No point in posting pictures because it would only show how I wired the lights, and it's obviously incorrect. This was never intended to be a 3-way switch (and the wiring reflects this), just two independent light switches.

The wiring as I found it:

- Left electrical box has 2 wires coming in (black/white) which were connected in the box to another 2 wires (black/white) which then leave the box.

- Right electrical box has 2 wires coming in (black/white) that were covered with wire nuts.
 
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Old 04-13-12, 08:43 AM
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Where does power come in, at the switch or one of the lights?
 
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Old 04-13-12, 08:47 AM
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I misread Nashkat1's post and realize he suggested pics of the switch wiring, not of the light wiring (duh) which is a good idea. I'll do that as well as determine where the power is coming in and then post back after work today. Thanks.
 
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Old 04-13-12, 10:01 AM
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The wiring as I found it:

- Left electrical box has 2 wires coming in (black/white) which were connected in the box to another 2 wires (black/white) which then leave the box.

- Right electrical box has 2 wires coming in (black/white) that were covered with wire nuts.
If you're describing the wiring you found at the two boxes for the lights, and if, as you say,

Currently either switch turns both lights on or both lights off
then you appear to have a two-light string controlled by a pair of 3-way switches.

Here are two quick ways to verify this without taking anything else apart: If you can turn the lights on with one switch and then off with the other, and then go back to the first switch and turn them on again by flipping that switch the other way, then they are 3-way switches. And, if the switches are toggle switches and don't have ON and OFF molded onto the toggles, then they are 3-way switches.
 
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Old 04-13-12, 10:21 AM
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then you appear to have a two-light string controlled by a pair of 3-way switches

Good call - I actually did the on-off test you described on the lights yesterday when I was trying to figure things out, and that's the behavior I noted. So knowing that we're dealing with 3-way switches can these lights still be wired up somehow to work independently?
 
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Old 04-13-12, 10:32 AM
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So knowing that we're dealing with 3-way switches can these lights still be wired up somehow to work independently?
Yes, if you're willing to run a new piece of cable from the right-hand switch box to the right-hand light box and swap out both of your 3-way switches to be regular single-pole single-throw (SPST) switches.
 
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Old 04-13-12, 10:37 AM
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Absolutely willing. The switch box is very close to the light box on both sides, so pulling a new cable will not be difficult at all. What else do I need to do?
 
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Old 04-13-12, 10:57 AM
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Absolutely willing. The switch box is very close to the light box on both sides, so pulling a new cable will not be difficult at all. What else do I need to do?
OK. Turn the power off at the breaker, uncover both switches, unmount them and pull them out far enough to see the cables that enter each box.

Here's what to expect: a 3-wire cable run from one switch box to the other, a 2-wire cable from the left-hand switch box to the left-hand light box, and one more 2-wire cable that is the feed from the panel. If the wiring was done to meet the requirements of the 2011 NEC, then the cable feeding power from the panel will be in the right-hand switch box and you will see one 3-wire cable and one 2-wire cable in each switch box. For now, just take a look and see if that's what you see, or if there's something different.
 
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Old 04-14-12, 04:25 PM
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@rudeboy

If you're waiting to have pictures to post, don't worry about it. Just a description of the cables you see in each switch box should be sufficient. If something isn't clear, we can always go to a picture at that point.
 
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Old 04-15-12, 04:06 PM
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There is also a 3-way dimmer in the switch box (both sides) that I didn't think was involved until I pulled the switches out of the Right hand switch box:

- 3-wire coming in from top left, red and black to light switch
- 2-wire in from bottom left, black to light switch
- 2-wire in from bottom right, black pigtailed to light switch (2-wire black terminal) and dimmer black
- 3-wire in from top right, black and red each to one dimmer red wire
- all white wires connected together

Let me know if you need me to describe left hand switch box wiring as well. Thanks!
 
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Old 04-15-12, 08:03 PM
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Let me know if you need me to describe left hand switch box wiring as well.
Yes, I think that would help clarify what you have.

Right now, it sounds like that the 2-wire on the bottom right is the panel feed. Can you verify that?

- 3-wire in from top right, black and red each to one dimmer red wire
I don't understand this. We may wind up needing pictures, but maybe you could explain this a different way?
 
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Old 04-15-12, 09:55 PM
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Sorry, let me try that again. The dimmer has three wires, 1 black and 2 red. The two red wires from the dimmer are connected to the black and red wires of the 3-wire from top right. Does that make sense now?

Right now, it sounds like that the 2-wire on the bottom right is the panel feed. Can you verify that?
I'll verify that and also check the other switch box wiring and post back. Thanks for being so patient.
 
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Old 04-16-12, 08:35 AM
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The dimmer has three wires, 1 black and 2 red. The two red wires from the dimmer are connected to the black and red wires of the 3-wire from top right. Does that make sense now?
Yes. Thanks.

If I'm seeing this right, the right-hand switch box has two 2-wire cables, two 3-wire cables, a 3-way switch and a 3-way dimmer. The two 3-wire cables are traveler cables, and the one connected to the 3-way switch is going to the other 3-way switch, in the left-hand switch box, that also controls the two lights you installed.

One of the 2-wire cables should be the panel feed, and the other one should be feeding out to some other load - possibly a receptacle. I think the panel feed is the 2-wire cable on the right, but that's what we need to verify.

One more question, just for clarity. When I read these three observations together:
- 3-wire coming in from top left, red and black to light switch
- 2-wire in from bottom left, black to light switch
- 2-wire in from bottom right, black pigtailed to light switch (2-wire black terminal) and dimmer black
I think I'm seeing three black wires connected to the 3-way switch. One is the black traveler from the 3-wire cable at the top left. The other two are a pigtail from the black 2-wire cable from the lower right and the black wire from the other 2-wire cable. Both of those appear to be connected to the point terminal on the 3-way switch. That's why we can't yet be certain which is the panel feed, and it also raises this question: if my interpretation of the wiring is correct, is the point terminal on that switch made to take two wires? Does it have an internal or external clamp that holds each wire securely?
 
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Old 04-16-12, 09:09 AM
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I think I'm seeing three black wires connected to the 3-way switch. One is the black traveler from the 3-wire cable at the top left. The other two are a pigtail from the black 2-wire cable from the lower right and the black wire from the other 2-wire cable.
Correct.

Both of those appear to be connected to the point terminal on the 3-way switch.
Correct.

is the point terminal on that switch made to take two wires? Does it have an internal or external clamp that holds each wire securely?
It has a brass clamp that appears to be holding the two wires securely.


- I will verify the panel feed this evening. Thanks.
 
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Old 04-16-12, 09:47 AM
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Thanks for the quick reply and the clarification. I'm also looking forward to hearing about the left-hand switch box, just to be clear. You'll have to do a bit of work there anyway, so we might as well see it now.

But barring something unforeseen, it's sounding like you're ready to run the new cable and start rewiring.
 
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Old 04-17-12, 05:48 PM
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Left hand switch box contains two 3-way switches, 2 x 2-wire and 2 x 3-wire. Each switch has a black and red from a 3-wire and a black from a 2-wire connected to it. All white wires are connected together.

I think the panel feed is the 2-wire cable on the right, but that's what we need to verify.
Correct.
 
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Old 04-17-12, 08:03 PM
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Thank you.

If
Correct
means that you've verified that the panel feed is the the 2-wire cable on the right in the right-hand switch box, then I think we're ready to proceed.

Before you kill the power, note which of the two 3-way switches in the left-hand box controls the two wall lights. Then buy a couple of SPST switches - or SPST dimmers, if you prefer - and run that new piece of 2-wire cable between the right-hand switch box and the right-hand light box. Once you've done that, let us know if you have any questions about how to wire everything.

Keep in mind that you'll be abandoning the red wire between the two 3-way switches that now control the wall lights and the 2-wire cable between the two wall boxes.
 
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Old 04-17-12, 09:00 PM
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Hi, yes when I said "correct" is actually meant "your assertion was correct and I verified the panel feed with a circuit tester". I will need help with how to wire things up, but I'm going to wait until the weekend to get started and will post back once I have the new cable pulled. Thanks again.
 
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Old 04-17-12, 09:18 PM
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You're welcome. See you then.
 
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