3/4 way switching mystery

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Old 11-28-12, 11:41 AM
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3/4 way switching mystery

I have a light switch problem. I have a single ceiling light controlled in 3 spots - one of which is by a dimmer switch. It must not be wired properly since when you turn it on with one switch, you can't turn it off with either of the others.

Here is a link to the current wiring situation:

image.jpg photo by donl1150 | Photobucket

I don't know where the power originates nor do I know where the wires go. Can this be solved with only this info or do you need these missing bits of info?

Don
 
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Old 11-28-12, 07:24 PM
Tolyn Ironhand's Avatar
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I appears your dimmer switch is not a 4 way. You only have 3 wires. You have a green (which is a ground wire) connected to a hot wire (the white in this case) The green is only for grounding.

You could try moving the dimmer to one of the 3 way locations, but the switch may have been damaged. I suggest replacing the dimmer with a normal 4 way and see if it works.

It appears to me that both the hot and switch leg are in switch #2 box. The white connected to the red is likely the hot, and the black connected to the common is the switch leg. These wires would be in the same cable.
 
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Old 11-28-12, 07:49 PM
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Not quite sure what I'm looking at in your drawing but you would need a three wire between all three switches and I don't see it there. Also....4 way dimmers are usually electronic switching meaning the other switches are slaves to it. In a 4 way system....you would normally use one three way switch, one 4 way switch and a 3 way dimmer. The dimmer would be at one of the ends of the circuit.
 
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Old 11-30-12, 11:31 AM
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I have a light switch problem. I have a single ceiling light controlled in 3 spots - one of which is by a dimmer switch. It must not be wired properly since when you turn it on with one switch, you can't turn it off with either of the others.
There are three problems with the system you show in your drawing. The first, most obvious, one is that you have three 3-way switches. Controlling lights from three locations requires two 3-way switches and one 4-way switch. If you want to keep the 3-way dimmer you need to replace one of the 3-way snap switches with a 4-way snap switch.

The second and third problems involve the wiring. Your drawing shows a single 2-conductor cable at the light, two switch boxes with one 3-conductor and one 2-conductor cable, and one switch box with two 2-conductor cables. It also shows the 2-conductor cables connected to the traveler terminals on the two 3-way switches.

If the drawing is correct, then one of the four 2-conductor cables in the switch boxes must be the light feed. It is likely that that is in one of the boxes where the two snap switches are, and that the 2-conductor cable in the other box with a snap switch is the feed from the panel.

I don't know where the power originates nor do I know where the wires go. Can this be solved with only this info or do you need these missing bits of info?
You will need to determine that. You should buy an inexpensive analog multimeter and a copy of Wiring Simplified. Wiring Simplified is the authoritative reference on household electrical systems. It explains not only how, but why, the components are put together the way they are. Best of all, it's inexpensive, and you can sometimes find it in the electrical aisle at Big Orange or Big Blue.

To comply with modern codes, you need to have neutral present in every switch box. To have a 4-way switch work, it must interrupt the travelers between two 3-way switches. The simplest way to make all of that happen is to have the power from the panel enter the switch system in a 2-conductor cable at one end of the series of switches. Power connects to the common terminal and a 3-conductor cable carries the two travelers and the neutral to the middle switch, which is the 4-way.

The two travelers connect to the switch. A second 3-conductor cable is wired to the other two terminals on the 4-way switch and the neutrals are spliced through. The second 3-conductor cable goes to the third switch box, where the two travelers in it are connected to the two traveler terminals on the second 3-way switch, the white neutral is spliced to the white wire in a 2-conductor cable going to the light, and the black wire going to the light is connected to the common terminal on the 3-way switch.
 
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