Modifying Lighting Circuit for New 3-Way Lights

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  #1  
Old 05-10-15, 09:40 AM
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Modifying Lighting Circuit for New 3-Way Lights

Hello,
I'm finishing out my basement and need to sort out a 3-way switch for the landing light.

Currently at the top of the stairs there's a standard switch. I think the switch is being used to toggle basement lights on/off as well as extend power to a few more lights upstairs near the top of the stairs.

Here's a picture of what I think is happening:
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Power comes in and there are two hots on the top screw, one I assume is source and the other goes to 2 lights at top of stairs. Toggling switch doesn't turn these lights on/off. The single hot on other screw goes to lights in the basement.

Does that appear to be what's happening?

Now, I want to add a switch to the bottom of the stairs and make it so that the top and bottom switches turn off 3 lights (1 landing light and 2 lights in laundry room).

Can I wire nut the two blacks from "Power from CB panel" and "2 lights in kitchen" together along with a pig tail feeding the switch and then from there, run 3-wire with ground down to my 2nd light switch at the bottom stair landing?

Also, what is the difference between these two wiring options?
Option 1: https://www.homeimprovementweb.com/i...ch-option1.htm
Option 5: https://www.homeimprovementweb.com/i...ch-option5.htm

If I want to have power come into the switch, 3-wire to the 2nd switch, and then control 3 lights with 2-wire, which one is better or is there no difference? I saw other options that had two 2-wires between lights and running 3-wire between all the lights, but my lights are already wired up with 2-wire.

Thanks,
Mike
 
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  #2  
Old 05-10-15, 09:56 AM
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The experts will chime in shortly. But that switch should not be used as power distribution to the kitchen lights and the basement light. At the very least the incoming power lines should be pig tailed to provide power to the kitchen lights then another pigtail to the switch for basement. At that point you can map out the appropriator 3 way circuit for the basement with power going to the first switch.

I would assume a bigger box will be required if you're not going to reroute the lines.
 
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Old 05-10-15, 10:25 AM
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First off there should not be two wires under one screw on the switch. It should be pigtailed as you described. Second, the two diagrams that you have the links posted are exactly the same. You can wire it that way, but you will have to relocate the cable going to the basement lights (switch leg) to your new switch at the bottom of the stairs.

Or you could do it like this:
Run a 3 wire cable (12/3 or 14/3. match existing wires) from the existing switch to the new switch.

In the existing box:
Connect the white wire of the new 3 wire cable, taped black, to the hot wires.
Connect the existing switch leg to the common of your new 3 way switch.
Connect the red and black of the 3 wire cable to the other screws on the switch (travelers)

In the new switch:
White wire, taped black, connects to the common of the new 3 way switch.
Connect black and red to the traveler screws.

As Norm mentioned, you may need to change the existing box to something larger to make room for the new wires. Also, if you are on 2011 code or newer you will need to run a 4 wire cable so there is a neutral in the new switch box.
 
  #4  
Old 05-10-15, 10:25 AM
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Like Norm mentioned.... you will be making a splice up so that there is only one wire on each end of the switch.

You will need to run a piece of three wire cable to your new switch. All your cellar lights will be powered from the new switch.

Both of those diagrams will work. The switching is the same.... just one light or two.

Looking at Tolyns response.... if you connect all your lights to the new switch then you'll be satisfying code with a neutral in the box.
 
  #5  
Old 05-10-15, 11:15 AM
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Looking at Tolyns response.... if you connect all your lights to the new switch then you'll be satisfying code with a neutral in the box.
That is correct. The wiring will be a little different. Just let us know if that is the route you want to go and we can post how to wire it.
 
  #6  
Old 05-10-15, 11:24 AM
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Thanks for the replies all. Technically there are not two wires under the one screw. One wire is around the screw and the 2nd is in the back stab port thing. But it's the same thing and probably not to code?

No matter what, the 14/2 w/ ground that's running to the basement lights needs to be replaced with 14/3 w/ ground correct? I kind of figured that was the case and already bought a 50ft roll of 14/3 w/ ground wire. It shouldn't be too difficult to replace the existing 14/2 w/ ground with a 14/3 w/ ground. I think while I'm in there I'll put in a larger box because it's awful tight as is.

I think I'll follow what's in either of the diagrams, the only difference is that there's going to be a yellow wire nut for a pigtail on the hot in the first switch box, one wire the incoming power, one wire for kitchen lights, the other a pigtail for the power to the switch. Correct? Sorry it's small.

Attached is a hacked drawing with my extra wire nut showing what I think is correct... correct?
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Thanks,
Mike
 
  #7  
Old 05-10-15, 11:29 AM
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Basically you are correct but all your basement lights will be coming out of the new lower switch.

Using a backstab and a screw terminal is just as bad. If the backstab loosens up your pass thru circuit will stop working. This problem is what affects nine out of ten members that come here looking for assistance.
 
  #8  
Old 05-10-15, 11:49 AM
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Ok thanks for the reply!

If that back stab ever came out it'd just be two kitchen lights that'd stop working. I played around all morning with the breakers figuring out what was going on. Whoever wired it either added the lights at the last minute or... was just not planning ahead...

The lights I'm powering off this switch will just be a landing light at the bottom of the steps in the basement as well as two bulbs in the laundry area. The remaining/majority of the basement lights will be on their own circuit on a separate breaker.

Thanks,
Mike
 
  #9  
Old 05-10-15, 12:12 PM
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No matter what, the 14/2 w/ ground that's running to the basement lights needs to be replaced with 14/3 w/ ground correct?
No. You either need to add a 14/3 from the existing switch to the new switch. The 14/2 to the lights either need to stay where it is, or relocate it to the new switch box. If you relocate it, then just wire it exactly like the diagram you posted.
 
  #10  
Old 05-10-15, 05:40 PM
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Three way circuits can get a little confusing.

A new piece of three wire cable from the old switch to the new switch. Remove the wire that feeds the exiting cellar light and reconnect it at the new switch.

With a three way circuit.... the lights must connect to only one switch end. You can't connect one light at each switch.
 
  #11  
Old 05-12-15, 07:08 PM
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Ok I had a change of heart and I'm going to split my laundry room lights off from the landing light. So now I'll just have one light at the end of the 3-way switch.

I cut out a strip of drywall along the stud where the wire going to the basement is, got it all un-stapled and I'm ready to replace that with a piece of 14/3 with ground to my lower 3-way switch.

I plan to install a second standard switch next to the 3-way switch that'll just toggle the laundry room lights.

My question now is this...

Can I take power from the lower 3-way switch into my regular switch with the two laundry lights on it? As in, in the picture below on the 3-way switch closest to the light, will the bottom black wire OR the red wire ALWAYS be hot? The top black on the dark screw is toggled I assume leaving me with that black on the non-dark screw and the red on the other non-dark screw terminal. I'll want to pigtail with one of those two wires so I can send power to my 2-way switch with the laundry lights, just want to make sure I get the right one. I'd assume the black?

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Thanks,
Mike
 
  #12  
Old 05-12-15, 07:24 PM
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Can I take power from the lower 3-way switch into my regular switch with the two laundry lights on it?
No. Now your stuck. The lower 3 way you only have two travelers (black and red) and neutral (white) in the 3 wire cable. Only one traveler is hot at any given time and that will change depend on the position of the 3 way switches.

You either need to find another hot or run a 4 wire cable.
 
  #13  
Old 05-12-15, 07:43 PM
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Arg. I was hoping one wire at the lower 3-way switch would always be hot. I wanted to do it this way so I could just add one conductor to the upper switch box, remove the 14/2 that's feeding basement lights, and make some room in that box cause it's getting cramped with that extra wire feeding the two kitchen lights.

I guess the other option is put in a larger box, keep the 14/2 feeding the laundry room lights and throw in a switch down there, then shove in a 14/3 for the 3-ways.

Or... how about this. There's an outlet I could get hot from that's nearby. It's the last outlet on the circuit. But... it's a 20A circuit (yellow 12/2 with 20A receptacles). Can I pigtail a 14/2 hot, neutral, and ground with that 12/2 circuit?
 
  #14  
Old 05-13-15, 06:31 PM
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Or... how about this. There's an outlet I could get hot from that's nearby. It's the last outlet on the circuit. But... it's a 20A circuit (yellow 12/2 with 20A receptacles). Can I pigtail a 14/2 hot, neutral, and ground with that 12/2 circuit?
No. If the circuit is a 20 amp circuit you need to use #12 wire. #14 is 15 amp max. Also if the 20 amp circuit is for a bathroom, kitchen, dining room, or some other special location I have forgotten to mention, you can not tap off that circuit. However, since it has 20 amp devices leads me to believe that circuit was installed by a non-electrician. An electrician would not install 20 amp devices in a home unless required to by local authority. Very few home appliances require a 20 amp receptacle.
 
  #15  
Old 05-15-15, 07:59 AM
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Okay. I didn't think I could run 14/2 for a light circuit and tap into a 12/2 that outlets are on. The 20A circuit isn't anything special, just regular outlets. I installed the 20A outlet circuit, figure 20A is better than 15A cause you never know what may need plugged in. It's a circuit in my man cave I'm building. One 20A has about 10 outlets on it for a couple computers, a light or 2, projector, stereo. Then I have two more 20A circuits, each with its own single outlet. One is for a fridge and the other is for a laundry tray pump for a sink below the drain and a small microwave.

I guess I'll have to replace the top switch box for a bigger one to accommodate the extra wires and keep my 14/2 in there or I'll run 14/2 from somewhere else further away if it seems easier than changing the box.
 
  #16  
Old 06-05-15, 08:50 PM
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Just an update: I got my circuit all figured out, wired, and it works! I put 14 LED downlights in on 2 circuits on dimmers. I got my landing light with the 3-way switches at the top and bottom working. Then I finally got my two lights switched in the laundry room, but only after I tripped a circuit breaker a few times. Turns out a standard switch gets hot across the terminals and NOT one terminal hot and the other neutral. I had to re-route some wires but ultimately I got it working and all is great!

Thanks for the help!
Mike
 
  #17  
Old 06-05-15, 09:16 PM
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You're welcome. Thanks for stopping back and letting us know the outcome.
 
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