Three way light conundrum

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Old 07-12-12, 12:06 AM
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Three way light conundrum

Hey folks, this is my first post here and I hope I'm not breaking any rules or anything. Let me explain my situation. I have a dining room with a chandelier that is on a three way. One of the three ways is a combination switch with a single pole switch for a back patio light. The issue comes in with how to wire this combination switch. The previous owners had replaced it and did it incorrectly, which left me with a chandelier where only the other three way works if the combo three way is in a certain position. Now, both the patio light and the chandelier are on the same breaker. Behind the combo are 4 black wires, 1 white wire, and a ground. I have no clue on how to wire the switch and any help would be appreciated.
 
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Old 07-12-12, 02:57 AM
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Welcome to the forums! You're in the right place. Either here or in lighting. Is your combination switch 3way/single pole switches in one unit? Would there be a way for you to remove the power from this circuit, pull the switch from the wall and post a couple of pictures so we can see what you have? Is your wiring in conduit? http://www.doityourself.com/forum/el...your-post.html
 
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Old 07-12-12, 06:08 AM
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Behind the combo are 4 black wires, 1 white wire, and a ground.
The picture would be very helpful because unless you have conduit your description has two many blacks given the number of whites and is missing the expected red wires. Is there a black screw on the combo switch? If not it probably doesn't have a three way function.
 
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Old 07-12-12, 06:35 AM
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Do you have a volt meter or electrical tester?

There a a couple different ways to wire a 3 way switch and there are a lot of great diagrams online showing the layout. Which way you do it will depend on the wires you have existing in the walls.

As Ray mentioned you first have to make sure that both switches are the three way type. A 3-way switch has three screws (four if you count the ground) on the back/side to attach conductors and one for the ground. If you only have two screws (three if you count the ground) then it's a two way switch and will need to be replaced.

One thing I keep in mind when wiring three way switches is that each switch must always receive power to one connection/screw and this is where the electrical tester comes in handy. So, no matter what position the two light switches are in, each switch must have a connection on the back that is always getting power.
 
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Old 07-12-12, 08:33 AM
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Is your combination switch 3way/single pole switches in one unit?
Is there a black screw on the combo switch? If not it probably doesn't have a three way function.
It is in one unit. It does have a three way function. This is the switch I currently have: Shop Pass & Seymour/Legrand 15-Amp Light Almond Combination Switch at Lowes.com

Would there be a way for you to remove the power from this circuit, pull the switch from the wall and post a couple of pictures so we can see what you have?
I can absolutely take a few shots. I'll have them up later today, if that's alright.

Is your wiring in conduit?
No, I don't believe so.

Do you have a volt meter or electrical tester?
I have both, I believe. I picked up this little bundle from Lowe's along with the switch noted above: Shop Greenlee 3-Piece Electrical Tester Kit at Lowes.com

Thanks everybody! I appreciate all of your help. Now, some additional information, I have gained. I have discovered which of the black wires leads to the back patio light, and I have learned that the white, and the black paired with that white, function as the travelers.
 
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Old 07-12-12, 09:54 AM
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If there is no red I'm guessing they used two 2-conduct cables instead of one 3-conductor (plus ground) cable. That is not code compliant but not your main issue. We deffinitly need pictures with all the wires pulled out probably from three or more angles.
 
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Old 07-12-12, 01:19 PM
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The switch you linked to is not a three way switch. We'll wait on the pictures.
 
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Old 07-12-12, 01:23 PM
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The switch you linked to is not a three way switch.
Actually it was. From the description:
15-Amp Light Almond Combination Switch
Combination switch 1 single pole and 1 three way switch
Side wire #12 and #14 AWG
 
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Old 07-12-12, 01:58 PM
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Oops, going on VFR, didn't see the written description. thanks Ray.
 
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Old 07-12-12, 08:20 PM
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Well, I thank you all for your time! Luckily, a little more tinkering and intensive logical thinking led me to discover how to wire it correctly. It turns out, despite being on the same circuit, both the chandelier and the patio light were being powered from different sources. So, I had to break the bridge on the combination switch. This left me with the two travelers (a black and a white), the line wire for patio light (black), the load wire for the patio light (black), and the common wire for the three way going to the chandelier (black). The switch is now wired properly, and both the chandelier and the patio light function as they were intended. Thank you all for the suggestions and input!
 
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Old 07-12-12, 08:51 PM
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Do you have a volt meter or electrical tester?
I have both, I believe. I picked up this little bundle from Lowe's along with the switch noted above: Shop Greenlee 3-Piece Electrical Tester Kit at Lowes.com
Actually, it looks like you didn't get a volt meter or electrical tester in that kit. From the description on your link:
DM-20 - great for measuring current of small electronic circuits,
so you'll probably need to get one. To improve accuracy, get an analog meter rather than a digital one.
 
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Old 07-12-12, 09:22 PM
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If you haven't used it yet I'd take it back and get the cheapest analog multimeter they have. Probably only cost only $10-15 and be more accurate and be more useful then what you got.

The meter included seems to be only for electronics not home wiring. Plug in tester has limited uses that can be done better by a multimeter. The non contact tester is useless for any serious testing.

Multimeter Exaamples: Shop Gardner Bender Analog Multimeter at Lowes.com
Amazon.com: Pocket-size analog multimeter, YG188: Home Improvement
 
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