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Odd wiring setup with switches - causing problems with light fixtures

Odd wiring setup with switches - causing problems with light fixtures

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Old 10-15-14, 09:37 PM
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Odd wiring setup with switches - causing problems with light fixtures

When I moved into my house three years ago, there was a digital timer switch installed by the front door, as well another switch that works as a 3-way for the foyer light.

I've been having issues with the digital timer recently, where it will stop working, so I figured it's starting to go, so I bought another one, but very confused when looking at the wiring that was done.

House is about 10 years old. Current switch box holds 3 switches, one is a 3-way, 2nd is a switch for lights outside the garage and 3rd is for lights outside the front door, however the wires for the garage and front door lights were tied together, then tied into the digital timer switch -- so there is a blank switch plate in the middle of the two switches.

The worst part is all the wires are BLACK, except for ground wires.

The one wire, connected to the bottom of the 3-way switch, is tied together to two separate wires that come in from the top of the box, which then has a jumper connected and leads to the digital switch.

There are two other wires that feed in, one from the bottom and one from the top, connected to a wirenut with a jumper that goes to a blue wire on the digital switch.

If I disconnect the jumper that connects the three wires together, the foyer light does not turn on, so I'm assuming this is the neutral wire that is connected the whole way through to the circuit?

Anyway, I disconnected everything, installed the new digital switch and the lights outside won't stay on. They flicker then the switch turns off and reboots, so I thought it was a short. Bought another one and same problem. I can hear a loud humming noise coming from the digital switch when it is powered on. When in the "off" position, no sound.

It's 11:30pm and all I have is a 10amp multimeter and my breakers are on 15amps, so I am afraid to test the circuits as I blew another multimeter a few months ago testing an outlet in my bathroom. Any suggestions on what the issue may be?

Here is a diagram of the wiring inside the switch box:
 
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Old 10-15-14, 09:48 PM
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Welcome to the forums.

First off..... do not use your meter set to the AMPS scale for testing. Use the common(black) jack and the volts/ohms (red) jack. Set your scale to AC voltage.

There is no top, bottom or side to a three way switch. There are two gold screws for the travelers and one dark/black screw. The dark/black screw is the only important wire and is called the common.

All neutral wires should be white only. However.... since you have a three way circuit there you may find a white wire used to carry voltage and is not a neutral.

It is extremely hard to follow what you have there. We may need a picture or two of the actual wiring.
 
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Old 10-15-14, 10:18 PM
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Thanks

Sorry for the confusion, it's not set to AMPS, but rather the multimeter it self says do not use on circuits with more than 10 amps... it's a crappy one from Harbor Freight.

Here is a few pictures if that helps. I only see a red and white wire that is attached to the 3-way switch, the rest are black (some have white paint on them).
 
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Old 10-15-14, 10:40 PM
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You are not using the AMP section so it doesn't matter what the ampacity of the circuit is. You are working with 120volts AC. For your purposes... you are concerned with the highest AC voltage you can read. It's probably 300vac which is fine.

They are referring to when you use the meter to measure the current draw of an item.... that can't exceed 10 amps.

Just as an aside here...... I saw an electrician use his meter on a 480v circuit with the meter set to AMPS. There is no more meter.


I need to look over the wiring in your pics.
 
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Old 10-16-14, 03:02 PM
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Here are some better pics of the wiring.

I'm pretty confused on how this is setup, there's a 3-way switch and 2 standard switches, however looks like all the hot wires are tied together, only leaving the neutral or commons?
 
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Old 10-16-14, 03:52 PM
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however looks like all the hot wires are tied together,
Unless there was one or more switch loops the hot would go to one side of each of the regular switches, and (usually) the common of the 3-way. What you describe is normal and expected.
only leaving the neutral or commons
Neutral is the grounded conductor of a 120 volt supply. Common refers (in this case) to the odd colored screw of the 3-way switch. The group of whites you see connected together are neutrals. The white of the 3-conductor cable is (usually) not a neutral. In this case the white is used as either a common or a traveler. I can't tell for sure the color screw it is fastened under.
 
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Old 10-16-14, 06:00 PM
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The white is on a traveler screw.... so it's not neutral.

You have a three way switch there in the picture. Using a meter check from the black wire on the switch to ground (bare copper). Is that black always live or does that switch control it ?

Looks like 3) two wire cables and 1) three wire cable.
It looks to me like that three way switch feeds directly to the light. (my guess)
One two wire cable feeds the garage lights.
One two wire cable feeds the front door lights.
One two wire cable feeds the foyer lights.
Three wire cable connects to the other switch.
We're missing a hot feed. Did I count cables wrong ?

I'll wait for your reply.
 
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