Odd light switch wiring?


Old 05-18-17, 09:39 AM
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Odd light switch wiring?

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I believe these light switches were wired wrong. I was hoping to get a second opinion before I changed anything and maybe some insight into why this was wired as it is - ie, is there a purpose or does it look accidental? Here's how my story goes: I was adjusting the drop on a ceiling light when my detector told me the wires were hot at the fixture when the switch was off, so I guessed the switch was wired wrong. I shut off the breaker and opened up the switch. What is in the picture are three light switches that share one box.

The problem may be difficult to see because someone sprayed white/gray paint over the wires while painting the wall. There are five cables going into the box and only three switches. The neutral gray/white wires from all five cables are spliced together, but not attached to any of the switches. A hot wire from three of the cables services the three switches. Spare wire, that happens to be black, was attached to the neutral connection of each switch and spliced together along with the black hot wires from the two spare cables servicing the box. So what I believe I am seeing here is each light switch as two hot connections and a ground, but no neutral connections. I believe I need to make one neutral and one hot connection to each switch rather than two hot connections.

Details about the home:
I am the home owner. The circuit uses an arc fault breaker and the home was built a few years ago in the southeast United States.

Details about the switches that may not be important: the switch in the middle with the red wire is one of two switches that control 4 recessed canister lights. The switch on the left is one of two switches that control a single bulb hanging fixture. The switch on the right is the only switch that controls the hanging fixture I was adjusting the drop on.

Again, am I correct that these were wired wrong? Is there any logical reason to wire switches this way with two hots and no neutrals? Is this hazardous? Maybe this explains why that circuit sometimes trips repeatedly?

Thank you!
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Old 05-18-17, 10:18 AM
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Neutrals are only needed on smart switches or illuminated switches.

I believe you are thinking of a switch loop where you have a white and a black on the same switch. The white, which should be re-identified as a hot, is not a neutral.

If the switches work I would leave them alone. The non-contact detector is prone to false positives from nearby cables.
Old 05-18-17, 11:21 AM
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The wiring looks and sounds correct to me. No insult intended but I think the issue is your understanding of electricity and electrical circuits. A book on the subject, like Wiring Simplified, would be good.
Old 05-18-17, 12:34 PM
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Good picture. Very easy to see the wiring. As the others have said... the wiring is correct. I've taken and enlarged your picture plus added labeling to illustrate the setup.

All three switches are fed from that box.

Cable 1 is the line to the light that S-1 operates.
Cable 2 is feed/in - feed/out
Cable 3 is the line from S-2 to the other three way switch.
Cable 4 is feed/in - feed/out.
Cable 5 is the line to the light that S-3 operates.

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Old 05-18-17, 12:36 PM
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A couple of my concerns stand corrected. Have to do some research to figure out the rest, but at least I don't think anything bad will come of it. Thank you for the help.

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