Splitting up light fixtures into several switches

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  #1  
Old 10-15-12, 02:06 PM
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Splitting up light fixtures into several switches

I apologize in advance is this question has been answered 1000 times, but I must have missed it or maybe I'm feeling extra dense today. I've replaced fixtures, switches, fans, outlets, etc, but never had a reason to run any wiring (I'm guessing that will be necessary in this case). Wife and I bought a house last year with a mostly unfinished basement.

At the bottom of the stairs there is a light switch. It turns on 6 lights in the basement. The wiring basically makes a U shape starting at the switch and runs from light to light. I'd like to break it up into 4 switches. As the wire goes from the switch I want lights 1 & 2 on a switch, light 3 (in a separate room) on it's own swtich), lights 4 & 5 on a switch (back in the same room as lights 1 & 2), and then light 6 on it's own switch (again in a different room). So, basically there is one big room in the middle and two smaller rooms on the ends.

Could someone be so kind as to point me in the right direction? I sincerely appreciate any help.

Thanks,
Nick
 
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  #2  
Old 10-15-12, 03:35 PM
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First we need to know where the power comes in. It probably comes in at the switch or light closest to the switch but could come in elsewhere. How you wire it depends on that. So a few of questions to help determine that.

Do you have only on 2-conductor cable* at the switch or more the one two conductor cable?
Are there two are more white wires connected together in the back of the switch box?
Are there a black wire and a white wire on the switch.

*A 2-conductor cable has a black wire and white wire and usually a bare ground wire. If there is a white, black, red it is 3-conductor cable.
 
  #3  
Old 10-16-12, 07:09 AM
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Thanks a lot for the help. The power comes in at the switch and then runs to all of the lights (at least that's how it appears to me). The cable is a 3 conductor cable. Here is a picture of the switch. It's hard to see the back, but hopefully this helps. I just thought of something I didn't originally mention. There is a second switch near light #6, at the end of the chain. I've used it about 3 times and forgot about it. Thanks again. Name:  switch.jpg
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Old 10-16-12, 09:49 AM
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So these are three way switches? That is the lights can be operated from either locations? Now it is getting tricky. Would wiring it so the lights were split between just those two switches or at least those two switch locations be satisfactory? Please show us the wiring at the other switch and the lights closest to each switch or if you can follow the cables visually the lights that have cables from the switches.
 
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Old 10-16-12, 01:06 PM
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The power comes in at the switch and then runs to all of the lights (at least that's how it appears to me). The cable is a 3 conductor cable. Here is a picture of the switch. It's hard to see the back, but hopefully this helps. I just thought of something I didn't originally mention. There is a second switch near light #6, at the end of the chain. I've used it about 3 times and forgot about it.
That's a 3-way switch. If you only have the two switches you've mentioned so far, then the other switch will also be a 3-way switch, and it will be wired the same way this one is, with one 2-conductor cable and one 3-conductor cable.

The power doesn't come in at this switch and then run to all of the lights. It comes in from the panel at one of the switches and runs to the lights from the other switch. The 3-conductor connects the two switches. Follow the flat, 2-conductor cable out of each switch box and find out which one goes to the lights and which one is coming from the panel. That will tell all of us, including you,
Originally Posted by ray2047
where the power comes in.
which is the first thing we need to know in order to tell you haw to re-work the wiring to meet your goal.

Just a couple more questions: First, are there any other switches that control these 6 lights? Is there one, for example, at the top of the basement stairs?

Second, we understand, from your original post, that you'd like to wind up with lights that you can control separately for four separate spaces in the basement. The question is, do you only want single-location switches everywhere, or would you like to be able to control any of those lights from more than one location. For example, would you prefer to have two switches for the stairway lights - one at the top and one at the bottom of the stairs - instead of just one at either the top or bottom?
 
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Old 10-16-12, 01:26 PM
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Nash, I'm thinking just run a constant hot to all the switches using existing cable and add cable as needed for switch loops. Easier to keep track of.

Nick, how hard will it be to add new cables to the lights? Is it a finished ceiling?
 
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Old 10-16-12, 02:11 PM
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Nash, I'm thinking just run a constant hot to all the switches using existing cable and add cable as needed for switch loops. Easier to keep track of.
Ray, that's definitely simpler. A couple of wire nuts and the constant hot is done, with the existing wiring. I would prefer, though, to see a neutral in every switch box. XX-3/G for the switch legs?
 
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Old 10-16-12, 02:41 PM
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XX-3/G for the switch legs?
Yes. I agree.

.
 
  #9  
Old 10-16-12, 02:58 PM
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Thank you both for your help. After looking at it again I think power is going from the panel to switch 2. The more rounded wire runs from switch 1 to switch 2. The flat wire runs from light 6, then to light 5 to 4... to 1 and then to switch 1. Hopefully I'm looking at all of this correctly. I've attached a not at all to scale diagram that shows the layout. I don't need any three way switches. Where switch 1 is now I want to put in another switch, so I can control 1&2 and 4&5. Light 3 will be on it's own switch and then I imagine I could reuse switch 2 for light 6.

If there is a better way to do it I'm fine with putting in more work or spending a little more money on wiring (or whatever the case may be). The ceiling is open so any work should be fairly easy.

Thanks again for the help, I really appreciate it.
 
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Old 10-16-12, 05:36 PM
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I think power is going from the panel to switch 2. The more rounded wire runs from switch 1 to switch 2. The flat wire runs from light 6, then to light 5 to 4... to 1 and then to switch 1. Hopefully I'm looking at all of this correctly.
If there is a 2-conductor cable connecting switch 1 and light 1, and there isn't a 2-conductor cable connecting switch 2 and light 6, then yes, the panel feed is almost certainly to the switch 2 location.

I imagine I could reuse switch 2 for light 6.
You may need to replace the 3-way switch that's there now with a SPST (single-pole single-throw) switch, but yes, you could reuse that location.

You don't show any doors in your diagram, other than the one next to switch 1. I assume there will be at least one door between the large space in the center and each of the smaller spaces. I'm also guessing that switch 2 is next to an existing door, possibly one that leads outside. Is that accurate? You will want a switch within reach of each door, so you may want to hold onto both of your 3-way switches for now. You may also need to add a light closer to your electrical panel.

Thank you for your clear answers to our earlier questions, for including the diagram, and for including the panel location on that diagram. If you can answer the questions I've just added, we should be ready to give you the layout.
 

Last edited by Nashkat1; 10-17-12 at 11:44 AM. Reason: to clarify that switch location is not a code requirement
  #11  
Old 10-16-12, 09:14 PM
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Thanks, once again. You are correct, there are doors leading to each of the smaller spaces and there is an existing door near switch 2, which leads outside. There actually is a separate light near the panel, it's on its own switch. If it's easy to make light 6 a three way then I'll do that, but that would be the only one.
 
  #12  
Old 10-16-12, 09:29 PM
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Do you have either a multimeter or test light (but not a non-contact tester) to verify power comes in at switch 2? You would do that by disconnecting the 2-conductor cable and measuring between the black and white cable.

Do you want light 6 the be a 3-way using the two existing 3-way switches?
 
  #13  
Old 10-16-12, 09:55 PM
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I have a multimeter. I was thinking light 6 would be a three way with the current switch 2 and another new switch near the door along the interior wall, but for now that doesn't have to be the case. I'll disconnect the 2-conductor cable, verify, and report back.

I am extremely appreciative of all of your help.
 
  #14  
Old 10-16-12, 10:33 PM
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I was thinking light 6 would be a three way with the current switch 2 and another new switch near the door along the interior wall,
Yep, that's the way to do it. Save the 3-way switch that's currently Switch 1 - you can reuse it.

Ray: with only three switch locations needing power and one of them already having it, plus needing to break up the daisy chain to serve three rooms, I'm starting to think that it may be easier, faster and less expensive to just heat up the switches and go from there. Less XX-3/G needed, for one thing.
 
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Old 10-17-12, 04:05 PM
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Was finally able to double check and the power comes in at switch 2.
 
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Old 10-17-12, 04:38 PM
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Ray: with only three switch locations needing power and one of them already having it, plus needing to break up the daisy chain to serve three rooms, I'm starting to think that it may be easier, faster and less expensive to just heat up the switches and go from there. Less XX-3/G needed, for one thing.
Yes run power from switch 2 to the other switches. Change switch one to SPST and move that to the new 3-way position with a xx-3 to switch 2.

Nickfinity, if you aren't fully following the discussion between Nash and I either of us will be glad to give you step by step details.
 
  #17  
Old 10-17-12, 04:52 PM
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Yes run power from switch 2 to the other switches. Change switch one to SPST and move that to the new 3-way position with a xx-3 to switch 2.
Yes, and then rework the jumpers to separate and re-combine the lights the way he wants them done.

Nickfinity, if you aren't fully following the discussion between Nash and I either of us will be glad to give you step by step details.
Roger that.
 
  #18  
Old 10-18-12, 06:54 AM
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I think I know what I need to do now. It will probably be a week or two before I get working on it, but I will definitely report back. Many thanks to both of you.
 
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Old 10-18-12, 06:58 AM
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You're welcome. I'll just add that you can come back with any specific questions that come up as you do the work, and we can work with those. Enjoy!
 
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