One Light on 3-way Keeps Going Out

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Old 05-16-17, 05:29 AM
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One Light on 3-way Keeps Going Out

Morning!

I have two LED lights, same make/model, on a 3-way switch. One of them keeps going out (I've gone through 3). Do you see anything wrong with the wiring on the switches?

Switch #1 - Left switch controls porch lights, right switch is 3-way. 3-way was added new, left switch was existing. No issues prior to addition of 3-way.
http://i49.photobucket.com/albums/f2...psduu9zydd.jpg

Switch #2 - Left switch controls a totally different 3-way, which isn't having issues. Right switch is the 3-way linking with Switch #1 above and having the issue. This entire box/switch/etc. is new.
http://i49.photobucket.com/albums/f2...psodbppwy6.jpg
 
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Old 05-16-17, 05:40 AM
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There is little that you could do wrong wiring the 3 way switches that would cause shortened life of one of the lamps on the circuit. Problem more likely to be thermal issue where the lamp in one fixture is getting too hot. Could be a bad socket generating extra heat, or orientation of the lamp/fixture.

You say the two LED's are same make and model. Are they the same fixture or just the same type of LED lamp? Tell us more about the light fixtures.

http://www.doityourself.com/forum/el...-pictures.html
 
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Old 05-16-17, 06:41 AM
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Thanks for the swift response.

These are the lights. Same fixture, same everything, it's a two-pack. https://www.lowes.com/pd/Project-Sou...ight/999918964

If the wiring looks good, a couple other issues I could see causing one light to keep going out:

1 - Switch #1 - When I turn on the two front porch lights they turn on dim and then seem to go back and forth turning on and off.

2 - Switch #2 - The second 3-way that isn't causing me any issues, but shares the same 2-gang as the 3-way that is giving me issues, is on different circuit breaker and each of these breakers are on opposite poles. They're both on 15A breakers.
 
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Old 05-16-17, 07:30 AM
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It sounds like switch 1 has either a bad switch or a dimmer in the circuit at one of the switches.
 
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Old 05-16-17, 07:31 AM
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Lots possibly wrong with the way the right switch in the first picture seems to be connected. Back stabs should never be used because they are unreliable. You should have only one wire under a screw. The connection may intermitent because of the way it is made. When you have more than one wire you need to pigtail them to the switch. The white wire on that switch also needs to be moved to the screw. I can't say for sure if that is the problem but it needs to be cleaned up to see if it eliminates the blinking.

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Old 05-16-17, 07:52 AM
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It sounds like switch 1 has either a bad switch or a dimmer in the circuit at one of the switches.
No dimmer in the circuit. The partner switch of second 3-way switch in switch #2 is grouped in a 3-gang with two lutron dimmers. However, I don't think that would matter much.

Lots wrong with the way the left switch in the first picture seems to be connected. Back stabs should never be used because they are unreliable. You should have only one wire under a screw. The connection may intermitent because of the way it is made. When you have more than one wire you need to pigtail them to the switch.
Thank you. I'll take a closer look at this. What you're seeing is the existing black (coming down) from the existing light in my foyer. The black (coming up) is the new wire the electrician added - this is the wire that connects to the light that keeps going out.
 
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Old 05-16-17, 07:55 AM
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I added a picture to my post.
 
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Old 05-16-17, 07:58 AM
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Thank you! Saw this - very helpful, especially seeing as I'm not electrician!
 
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Old 05-16-17, 08:52 AM
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A pigtail means to connect the individual wires to a single 6"-8" length of wire the same gauge and color as the other wires. The pigtail goes around the screw.
 
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Old 05-16-17, 09:15 AM
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Thanks, Ray! For next steps, would you agree with the following:

Step 1 - Remediate wires and establish pigtail.
Step 2 - Replace light - monitor for any outages.
Step 3 - If outages - consider replacing the rocker switches

Anything else I should do prior to attempting replacing the light (this is my fourth light :-) )
 
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Old 05-16-17, 09:55 AM
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Yes that should be a good plan.
 
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Old 05-16-17, 10:57 AM
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Not part of your problem but to make work easier cut the cable sleeve back like in picture 1. You should have at least 6 inches of wire to work with.
 
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Old 05-22-17, 03:00 AM
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Did some testing over the weekend and also had a question, if you wouldn't mind.

1 - When using Switch #2 (http://i49.photobucket.com/albums/f2...psodbppwy6.jpg) if I turn the left rocker on/off it seemingly affects one of the lights controlled by the rocker on the right. For example, if the switch on the right is turned on and then I turn on/off the switch on the left the lights controlled by the rocker on the right flicker. The same light I had problems with above is the one that flickers ... shortly thereafter it goes out. Thoughts?

Also, as mentioned previously, when I turn on the left rocker of Switch #1 (http://i49.photobucket.com/albums/f2...psduu9zydd.jpg) the porch lights go on 50% dim or so and then the lights go back and forth being bright/dim. Could this theoretically be mitigated through pigtailing the right rocker of Switch #1? If so, how? I am not an electrician so I don't understand how this would technically work.

Thanks in advance for your assistance and patience!
 
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Old 05-22-17, 04:59 AM
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You may need to get an electrician but not the one who made the mess.
 
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Old 05-22-17, 05:13 AM
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Thanks, Ray. The previous electrician came back and spent ~8 hours checking all the connections to the rockers, lights, etc. Do you think this could be a panel issue?

We have bad experiences send techs on a wild goose chase ... usually ends up costing us quite a bit of $$. That said, previous to the three-way being added to Switch #1 and #2, we had no issues. What's more perplexing is the other light on the same three-way is having no issues, it's only 1 of the 2 lights.
 
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Old 05-22-17, 06:01 AM
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Do you think this could be a panel issue?
No but it could just be bad bulbs or a bad connection you haven't found yet.
The previous electrician came back and spent ~8 hours checking all the connections to the rockers, lights, etc.
If I was going to spend ~8 hours I would have redone not just checked every connection. Post a picture of the wiring at the other 3-way. http://www.doityourself.com/forum/li...rt-images.html
 
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Old 05-22-17, 06:57 AM
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Thanks, Ray.

This is the 2-gang with two different 3-ways. Right rocker controls the light giving me problems. Left rocker controls one LED and seems to give the other light controlled by the right rocker fits.
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Below is the other end of the 3-way controlled by the left rocker in the above. Next to this rocker is two Lutron dimmers controlling separate sets of lights.
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Old 05-22-17, 09:09 AM
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Does power to the light come from the first 3-way switch or the second 3-way switch?
 
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Old 05-22-17, 12:06 PM
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I'm not sure - how could I tell?
 
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Old 05-22-17, 12:44 PM
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Power to the light is a 2-conductor cable.
  • Turn the breaker off.
  • At the light connect the black to white.
  • At the switch disconnect the 2-conductor cables one at a time and check for continuity black to white. The one with continuity is probably to the light.
  • To verify at the light disconnect black from white.
  • If the cable at the switch now shows open that is your cable to the light.

If this is sounding too complicated I appreciate that but looking at the second switch of the 3-way it doesn't look to be wired right. I'm now doing what the 8-hour electrician should have done figuring out how to wire from scratch.
 
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Old 05-22-17, 01:02 PM
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EDIT: We posted at nearly the same time. Sounds like, to do what you've suggested, I need a multimeter?

So I gave this a little thought now that I've reviewed a few 3-way wiring diagrams. I've also looked at the holes in the sheet rock to deduce what the electrician did.

Light A (No Issues) - Already had power because it was pre-existing. So he ran romex down the wall and under the floor and up to the other rocker switch (see #1). The existing power to light #A was already there (see #2).

Light B (Issues) - I would suspect the power came from the existing box that controlled Light A. However, not only did he run romex under the floor as mentioned but also up the wall to the Light B. Based on the diagrams I would have thought he'd have to run 2-wire romex between the two lights? Is it possible he's passing power from #2 and then on to #1/#3 through the rocker?

Light A
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Light B
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Old 05-22-17, 01:14 PM
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Hold off on following my previous reply.

I would have thought he'd have to run 2-wire romex between the two lights?
That is the way it is usually done. However you could run a second 2-conductor cable from the switch box to the new light.

What I'm trying to see is a 3-conductor cable between the two switches. Also the sheath needs to be stripped from the cable in the switch box. Only ~" extending past the clamp is plenty.
 
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Old 05-22-17, 01:25 PM
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I'll try to move the sheath back and take a better photo. Thank you for all your help!
 
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Old 05-22-17, 02:30 PM
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I'll try to move the sheath back
Not move, remove to within " of the clamp. If that alleged electrician did that I'd ask to see his license.
 

Last edited by ray2047; 05-22-17 at 03:13 PM.
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Old 05-23-17, 02:38 AM
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Good Morning,

I didn't get a chance to move back the sheath (needed to turn off the breaker and didn't want to mess with it while the kiddos were sleeping). I did grab some photos. From what I can tell is looks like he did use a 3-conductor cable between the two switches. So if I understand your earlier question that would mean the power is coming from the switch shown for Light A, pictured in my previous post yesterday.

For what it's worth I did confirm he is a licensed electrician and I confirmed it was on file and active before hiring him.

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Old 05-23-17, 07:04 AM
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if I understand your earlier question that would mean the power is coming from the switch shown for Light A,
Can't be sure but the switch sure doesn't look correct. See my annotated picture.

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Here are what I would expect to see if power goes to the light from the first switch.

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Here is what I'd expect if the light is fed from the second switch box.

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Maybe the odd wiring isn't causing your problem and I'm just chasing wild geese but until the wiring is correct I can't be sure if it is or isn't the cause. Basically this is what I'd do if on scene, go from scratch. Connect the bad circuit correctly and then add in the other switch circuits.
 
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Old 05-23-17, 07:42 AM
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Thanks again, Ray. It's hard to see in the photo, didn't realize how poor the angle was until I got it onto my laptop, but it appears it's 3-conductor coming in from the other switch and you can see the white tucked in with the black/white wire and then the white goes on to connect to the rocker. Now why they put a different sheath over the 3rd / white wire is beyond me.

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Old 05-23-17, 10:43 AM
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Is the white connected to the common terminal? (Common terminal is the odd colored screw. usually dark gray.)
Now why they put a different sheath over the 3rd / white wire is beyond me
Just bizarre some of this wiring. Remove the sheaths so the wires are clearly visible. (Check that he didn't nick the insulation on the wires. That is the only reason I can think the sheaths are there.)
 

Last edited by ray2047; 05-23-17 at 11:38 AM.
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Old 05-30-17, 08:34 AM
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Had an electrician friend come by over the long weekend. Aside from some smaller things the original electrician did incorrectly, there does not appear to be anything overwhelmingly wrong.

We've determined the issue is with the light itself, or much more undesirable, possibly a loose neutral. We removed the porch lights and then switched out the light in the hallway that was causing problems to see if the same issue occurs again. If it doesn't, we'll switch out the porch lights to confirm they're not the issue.

If either the hallway light goes out again or the porch lights only come on at 50%, we'll start looking for a loose neutral. Hope we don't have to as it seems like a royal pain (we already checked the panel and everything is good there).
 
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Old 05-30-17, 10:03 AM
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Good test method of a type we often recommend.
 
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