Stuck midway through converting 3-way switches to dimmers

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  #1  
Old 10-21-15, 09:51 PM
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Stuck midway through converting 3-way switches to dimmers

I'm hoping you can provide me with some guidance on where I'm going wrong with my wiring of my new dimmer switches that I'm using to replace a pair of three-way switches. I've gotten everything wired up, hit the breaker, and nothing happened. No noise, no light, no change when I hit either switch.

Here are some quick, general facts:

-Home was built in 2009

-Replacing two, standard switches on three-way circuit with dimmer switches

-Switches control four incandescent, can lights with 60W bulbs

Here are the manuals for the primary and auxiliary dimmer switches I bought to replace my standard switches:

Switch #1 (Primary) - GE 12724 (link removed)

Switch #2 (Auxiliary) - GE 12723 (link removed)

Here is the wiring diagram showing how the switches are supposed to be set up: http://i.imgur.com/SzQYjh9.png

Here is an album of images showing the wiring for my two outlet panels and the two switches I'm using: Three Way Wiring - Album on Imgur

And here is a description of the numbers/letters in that album:

Outlet #1

1 - Neutral wiring bundle (?) where jumper wire is tied in (one white, one beige - originally capped with wire nut)

2 - Jumper wire included with dimmer switch

3 - Load wire to light fixtures (white - pulled out of original switch)

4 - Line wire to breaker box (black - pulled out of original switch, tested 120V with multimeter)

5 - Ground (bare copper - originally bundled and capped with wire nut)

6 - Unknown - three black wires, unused

7 - Unknown - one black and one beige wire, unused

8 - Traveler wire to second switch (red - pulled out of original switch)


Outlet #2

11 - Load wire to light fixtures (white - pulled out of original switch)

12 - Line wire to outlet #1 (?) (black - pulled out of original switch)

13 - Ground (bare copper - originally bundled and capped with wire nut)

14 - Jumper wire included with dimmer switch

15 - Neutral wiring bundle (?) where jumper wire is tied in (one white, two black - originally capped with wire nut)

16 - Traveler wire to second switch (red - pulled out of original switch)

Finally, here is a description of how I had it wired when it didn't work:

Outlet #1 (Setup)

A > 8

B > 2

C > 5

D > 3

E > 4

Outlet #2 (Setup)

X > 16

Y > 14

Z > 13

11 > 12

If I can clarify any of the above or if I need to provide more info, please let me know. Any input you can provide on what I should check or change would be greatly appreciated.

Thanks,
Brian
 
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  #2  
Old 10-21-15, 10:02 PM
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Welcome to the forums.

Had your fill of three ways yet.

I'm looking over your stuff. We'll get you going.

Thru all this you need to know.... and you may already have listed it .... at which switch does power come in and at what switch are the lights connected.
 
  #3  
Old 10-21-15, 11:43 PM
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Where you confused the issues is that every three way switch has a common... a dark or black screw. The other two.... the travelers... are the same and are silver or brass colored. The key is to ALWAYS know the common wire so that it goes back as the common.

You have a lot of wires and you may have have two circuits at switch 1.
I removed the non essential wires from the list. We won't be discussing grounds but do connect them. In the picture it's usually helpful to separate the wires as much as possible and push the wiring for the extra switches out of the way.

Here's the long and short of it. The power comes in at switch 1 and the lights appear to be connected at switch 2. This is a very basic and common circuit. You know the hot wire at switch 1... we need to confirm its neutral counterpart.

Then you have a three wire cable from switch one to switch two.

At switch two.... you have the three wire cable that comes from switch one and you have a two wire cable that feeds the lights.

Here's the basic circuit we're working with.

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I don't need you to let me know what wire is which. I need you to know the three wire cable at both ends, the power at switch 1 and the lights at switch2. So.... you need to confirm......

At switch 1
1) #4 is 120v hot. Look into the box at the cable where that black wire comes from.... does the white wire in that cable go to the #1 white bundle ?

2) Identify the three wire cable where the red went to the switch.

At switch 2
3) Identify the three wire cable where red went to the switch.

4) ID the two wire cable that feeds the lights. It looks #12 is the black .... find the white.





Switch #1 - primary dimmer

1 - Neutral wiring bundle (?) where jumper wire is tied in (one white, one beige - originally capped with wire nut)maybe neutral
3 - Load wire to light fixtures (white - pulled out of original switch) other traveler ???
4 - Line wire to breaker box (black - 120v ) was common
8 - Traveler wire to second switch (red - pulled out of original switch)


Switch #2 - remote control dimmer

11 - Load wire to light fixtures (white - pulled out of original switch) other traveler ???
12 - Line wire to outlet #1 (black - pulled out of original switch) what outlet ??? maybe common
15 - Neutral wiring bundle (?) NOT A NEUTRAL BUNDLE
16 - Traveler wire to second switch (red - pulled out of original switch)
 
  #4  
Old 10-22-15, 05:47 AM
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Hi PJmax,

First of all, thanks for the very detailed reply; very helpful. I think I'm starting to understand where I went wrong.

To address your points:

At switch 1
1) #4 is 120v hot. Look into the box at the cable where that black wire comes from.... does the white wire in that cable go to the #1 white bundle ?
I do believe this was mistake #1. The #1 white bundle is paired with a different black wire. I traced the white wire from the origin of the target black wire to a separate wiring nut. I take it this is the neutral I need to tie into?

2) Identify the three wire cable where the red went to the switch.
I think #3 (white) and #8 (red) are the traveler wires that run to the second switch. I pulled both of these out of the original switch.

At switch 2
3) Identify the three wire cable where red went to the switch.
I believe these are #11 (white) and #16 (red). Both came out of the original switch.

4) ID the two wire cable that feeds the lights. It looks #12 is the black .... find the white.
I think you're right. #12 is what I pulled off of the common terminal on the original switch so it makes sense that that is what would run to the lights. I'll trace it back to its origin and find the white wire it's paired with. That will be the neutral for the remote switch, right?

Thanks again for all the help. I'm learning quite a bit through this process.

Brian
 
  #5  
Old 10-22-15, 10:51 AM
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PJMax,

I believe I've isolated the right neutral wire, but I want to confirm because it's coupled with a black wire that runs with (what I believe) are the two traveler wires for the switch in question.

Here's an image showing what I'm talking about:


The "?" wire and "Neutral" wire were twisted together with a wire nut before I decoupled them. Is it safe to assume that both are neutral wires and that I can tie my jumper into them and put the nut back on? Or should I leave them decoupled and only tie my jumper to the wire marked "Neutral"?
 
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Old 10-22-15, 11:01 AM
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We need to end up with a two wire cable at switch 1 that has the hot and neutral in it. The neutral (white) may connect to the three wire cable. That's good.... that's positive ID.

We need to make sure we know the correct three wire cable that connects the two switches together.

We need to make sure we know the two wire cable at switch 2 that feeds the lights.

These cables may be interconnected now but we'll be disconnecting them. As long as you can ID the cables above... you can always go back to original hookup.

Does this make sense to you ?
 
  #7  
Old 10-22-15, 11:20 AM
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Here is the wiring diagram we want to follow for your application.

Click on pic for larger view.
 
  #8  
Old 10-22-15, 11:21 AM
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Yep, that all makes sense. I just need to know how to identify each of those.

Two wire cable at switch 1 with hot and neutral: Confirmed hot with multimeter; need confirmation that white wire that runs into the wall in the same hole as the confirmed hot wire is the correct neutral

Three wire cable that connects the two switches: Given that both original switches had a red and white wire running into them in addition to the black common prior to disconnection (which I've marked as traveler #1 and traveler #2 on both sides), I believe this is also confirmed

Two wire cable at switch 2 that feeds the lights: I believe this is the black wire that ran into the common terminal at switch 2.

Does that seem accurate to you? Any advice on how to be more sure that those wires are what I believe they are?
 
  #9  
Old 10-22-15, 11:48 AM
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Did you check out post 7 ?
 
  #10  
Old 10-22-15, 12:20 PM
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I did, thanks. That wiring theory makes sense to me...I just need to understand how I can identify with 100% certainty which wire is the neutral that corresponds to the hot I'm trying to wire up.

I changed the wiring configuration to match the diagram, but still got no dice when I flipped the switch. I decided to revert back to the original configuration with the flip switches to get to a "known good" state and work forward from there. I wired both switches up, hit the breaker, and the lights are working again (on both switches).

So, now that I've confirmed for certain the hot wire, the two traveler wires, and the load wire to the lights, the one question that remains is which wire is neutral. Is it safe to say that the neutral wire is always the wire that's in the same cable (i.e. goes into the same hole in the box) as the hot wire? Or, if not, how can I confirm with certainty which neutral wire is associated with the hot wire I'm trying to use?
 
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Old 10-22-15, 12:40 PM
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neutral wire is always the wire that's in the same cable (i.e. goes into the same hole in the box) as the hot wire?
Yes... the neutral you need is in the same cable as the hot wire that supplies the circuit.
 
  #12  
Old 10-22-15, 02:40 PM
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Okay, that description of neutral jives with what I'm seeing in the layout for switch #1, but I'm struggling to understand how it fits in with switch #2 (apologies if I'm just being thick).

Here is a crude wiring diagram I put together showing how I have it wired currently (working, with the old switches in place): Based on that diagram, are the white/red wires in Cable #1 my two traveler cables to the other switch for those lights (not pictured in the diagram)? And is the white wire in Cable #2 my neutral for both Switch #1 and Switch #2 in that diagram?

For clarity's sake, Switch #2 in that diagram controls a second light which is on the same circuit as Switch #1, but is not one of the lights I'm wanting to control with the dimmer switches.
 
  #13  
Old 10-22-15, 04:25 PM
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Well the most obvious thing wrong is you have the two commons wired together. That is never correct. Power in is connected to one common and power out to the other common.

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Here is an example of what I mean.

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Notice how one common is connected to only the in coming power and the other common to the out going power.
 
  #14  
Old 10-22-15, 04:40 PM
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Is my diagram in post 7 difficult to understand ?

You must ID the power supply two wire cable at switch 1.
You must ID the light fixture two wire cable at switch 2.

You already know the three wire cable that connects the two.
 
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Old 10-22-15, 04:57 PM
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Here is mine flipped if it helps you to understand when power comes in at the left.

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  #16  
Old 10-23-15, 10:21 AM
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A much simpler answer...

Use Lutron Maestro dimmer switch with pico remote. Connect one single dimmer switch and pair up to ten wireless remotes to that switch. The pico wirelss remote is designed to be hand held or mount in a wall switch plate to exactly resemble a wall switch.

It's fast and easy.
 
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