Not your typical 3-Way switch question

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Old 01-16-14, 02:30 PM
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Not your typical 3-Way switch question

* note switches are working, I want to replace one of them for cosmetic reasons.

One switch has two orange travelers (I presume) and a red wire. These are the only wires in the box.

The other switch {the one I want to replace) has two orange wires and a yellow. There is a second yellow wire inserted into a backstab. Theres also a white wire passing thru this box.

Does this mean that the yellow wire might be the hot passing thru the the switch instead of pigtailed? Should I go ahead and pigtail it and replace the switch like that?
 
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Old 01-16-14, 03:15 PM
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Always pigtail if possible. Never use the back stabs. They are less reliable and if the next person is a newbie he may not understand the significance of keeping the two wires together.
 
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Old 01-16-14, 03:15 PM
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Confusing. Can you post a picture of your new switch back and the wiring in your wall box?
 
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Old 01-16-14, 03:24 PM
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Always pigtail if possible. Never use the back stabs. They are less reliable and if the next person is a newbie he may not understand the significance of keeping the two wires together.
I was more curious if the two yellows on the 3way (one on a screw, one backstabbed) is power in, power out and should be pigtailed.
 
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Old 01-16-14, 04:46 PM
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One backstab hole goes with each screw, the screw nearest it.

The backstab hole is usually nearer the corner of the switch (or receptacle) body.

So you would remove the yellow wire from the backstab hole, remove the wire from the nearest screw, cut a black* pigtail, and wire nut these three ends together. Connect the other end of the pigtail to the screw just vacated.

* Not white. Hot wires may be any color other than green or white.
 

Last edited by AllanJ; 01-16-14 at 05:08 PM.
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Old 01-16-14, 05:05 PM
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So does it sound like someone used the backstab for power in/power out instead of pigtailing?

Im confused that if it is power in / power out, wouldn't that be intermittent/switched when its toggled?
 
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Old 01-16-14, 05:51 PM
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Sure would help us if we could see what you are seeing. I don't like to give information on such matters where there is a possibility of a mistake.
 
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Old 01-16-14, 06:01 PM
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I can understand that chandler, but I don't have a camera.

Its kind of straightforward though isn't it (albeit confusing enough for me to post).....

3W switch A has 2 oranges (travelers) and a red.
3W switch B has 2 oranges (travelers) and a yellow + another yellow backstabbed.

I haven't had a chance to take it all apart and test but I assume one yellow is power in and the other is power out.

Pigtail right?

What could I be missing here?
 
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Old 01-16-14, 06:18 PM
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3W switch B has 2 oranges (travelers) and a yellow + another yellow backstabbed.
Backstabbed where? There should be 3 backstab holes on the thing. Which one is it in? The hole directly beside the screw containing the other yellow wire? And is this screw the common / odd-colored one? If yes to all of the above, then yes pigtail it. But if there are 4 screws on the switch (4 way) then do not do anything.
 
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Old 01-16-14, 06:34 PM
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thanks. I believe it only had 3 screws and its backstabbed next to other yellow. This switch is 50 years old so there is no color coordination to the screws.

However, if its a 4 way switch as you suggest then the other yellow should be on the 4th terminal. I don't think that's the case though.

Also I doubt its a 4way since there is not a 3rd switch controlling this light in the equation. This controls a ceiling fan/light combo... I assume that the motor and light are connected at the ceiling box so its not something screwy there.


What happens If the backstabbed yellow is not paired on the same terminal with the other yellow and instead is with one of the oranges (presumed travelers).?

Also was it or is it common to pigtail the feed on a 3 way? I am only ever used to seeing the standard 3 wires to a 3W.
 
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Old 01-16-14, 06:49 PM
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This switch is 50 years old so there is no color coordination to the screws.
If you have a meter, you could always check continuity between the two yellow wires (with the breaker off) before you pull the switch completely out.

What happens If the backstabbed yellow is not paired on the same terminal with the other yellow and instead is with one of the oranges (presumed travelers).?
Then it means this was wired by a very sick individual. I can think of only limited uses for such a setup. None of which would apply to normal use. Especially not a simple overhead light.

Also was it or is it common to pigtail the feed on a 3 way? I am only ever used to seeing the standard 3 wires to a 3W.
If the power is coming into that box first, why not? If it were mine I'd have that other yellow going up to the ceiling fan so it's always on, and the switches control only the light. Maybe that's what was done at one point.
 
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Old 01-16-14, 06:50 PM
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One switch has two orange travelers (I presume) and a red wire. These are the only wires in the box.

The other switch {the one I want to replace) has two orange wires and a yellow. There is a second yellow wire inserted into a backstab. Theres also a white wire passing thru this box.
There's no need to presume or guess. On one of your 3-way switches the ungrounded (hot), unswitched power is connected to the switch's common terminal. On the other switch, the ungrounded, switched power going to the light(s) is connected to the common terminal. Two traveler wires are connected to the two traveler terminals on each switch.

The common terminal should be identified with a dark-colored screw. The two traveler terminals are usually bright brass.

It sounds like the two yellow wires are power in and power out to some unswitched load and should be pigtailed together. If they are connected to the common terminal on that switch, and if the two white neutrals are running with them, that is almost certainly the case.

Im confused that if it is power in / power out, wouldn't that be intermittent/switched when its toggled?
It sounds like you're thinking that the switches are opening and closing the circuit. That's what single-location switches do. A 3-way switch just flips the connection back and forth between its two traveler terminals.

Power that is spliced before (or as) it powers a switch - any switch - is unaffected by the switch. The switch, by definition, changes the relationship of that incoming power to the load connected to the other end of the switch.
 
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Old 01-17-14, 10:05 AM
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Hi- Thank you Pinkpather and Garfield (and the other guys too) for your thorough responses.

I swapped out the switch today and all seems to be working. It was indeed a 3 way switch, the yellows shared the common. I double checked for continuity before taking it apart.

I pigtailed the power in/power out (tight squeeze in switch box) and put in a new switch.

The old one, a 50+ year old Hubble, served well (in the kitchen entrance none the less, high traffic). Its still works too, going to throw it in my junk box in the garage.

Thanks again.

p.s.- It was likely my kitchen outlets (fridge and countertops) was being fed thru that switch backstab.
 

Last edited by ardmi; 01-17-14 at 10:35 AM.
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Old 01-18-14, 03:52 AM
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Yes , it sounds like the 2 yellows are the hots .

It is not a 4 way , those have 4 screw terminals .

Yes , pigtail the 2 yellows & tie that wire to the new switch .

The new switch should have one screw terminal , one color ( tie the pig tail to that one ) . Two other screw terminals to the 2 traveler wires ( orange ) .

God bless
Wyr
 
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