3-way switch box - missing neutral ?

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Old 06-23-17, 09:19 AM
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3-way switch box - missing neutral ?

I am trying to setup Insteon Dimmer switches (2477D) in a 3-Way setup. This location was already wired with some older switches.. Quick notes/history:
  • My home was built in '68. A remodel was done in '08. I purchased the house in '14. From what I can tell, most of the house was re-wired during the '08 remodel.
  • I have installed many Insteon Dimmers/Keypads in my house. Also some 3-way lights with a switch on each end

Almost all of the switch boxes in my house have a bundle of white neutral wires. There are 2 spots in the house, both part of separate 3-way lighting setups, where I don't have a bundle of neutral wires. Both of these I have been unable to setup the Insteon 3-way config. These 2 switch boxes ONLY have what looks like the set of traveller wires - a singe 4-wire set - Red/Black/White/Ground .. However, in both of these scenarios the 'Other' switch box in the 3-way setup DOES have neutrals

I've tried to bundle the traveller 'white' with the others in the switch boxes do have a neutral, but it didn't work for me

Any solutions for this setup?
 
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Old 06-23-17, 09:28 AM
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sounds like you have a 4way switch ,how many terminals on that switch, it is common not to have a neutral in some boxes for 3 ways.
Geo
 
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Old 06-23-17, 10:52 AM
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@geochurchi - apologies here as my terminology may be messed up. I have 2 switches that control the same set of lights.. i.e. a hallway with a switch at either end .. Thought this was a 3-way (I am stealing from the Insteon manuals and terminology)
 
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Old 06-23-17, 11:16 AM
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There are several ways to wire 3-way switches that were all perfectly acceptable and code compliant till the 2011 NEC required each switch box to have a neutral conductor. Today, the methods that didn't have a neutral in each box are no longer code compliant.
 
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Old 06-23-17, 03:27 PM
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Describe the wiring in detail at both ends or even better... shoot and post a few pics.
There should be neutral at one of the switches.

http://www.doityourself.com/forum/el...-pictures.html
 
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Old 06-23-17, 04:07 PM
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Insert pictures may not work. if not upload to an image sharing site that allow you to either post a URL of just the image or remote link to just an image not a page of HTML.
 
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Old 06-23-17, 06:08 PM
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Appreciate the replies to this thread. I'll have to open up my switch boxes again before I can provide some pictures and wiring detail. Best info I have right now is the lack of white neutral bundle in one of the switch boxes .. i.e. only a single 4-wire Red/White/Black/Ground

 
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Old 06-23-17, 06:11 PM
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That would be a three wire w/ground.
The ground wire is not counted as a conductor.

There definitely will not be a neutral at the switch with only the three wire cable.
 
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Old 06-23-17, 06:26 PM
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Thanks Pjmax... yeah where I have had success with the Insteon 3-way wiring, there was a whole extra bundle of white neutrals for me to tap into on both sides.

The 2 separate 3-ways where I am stuck are both the same.. One switch box with the 3-wire plus ground but no bundle of whites.. Probably not upgraded with the rest of the house

I was gonna try a test of tapping into a neutral bundle from a different switch on the same circuit. Is this a valid test or not advised? BTW This would only be a test and I wouldn't leave it this way
 
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Old 06-23-17, 06:28 PM
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You can use the neutral as long as it's on the same circuit.
 
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Old 06-23-17, 06:43 PM
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- I will give this a shot to see if it works.

Not sure how to fix but I maybe I can get an electrician to run a neutral wire between the 2 boxes. The other box is on the other side of a wall but less than a foot of separation.
 
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Old 06-23-17, 06:47 PM
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You can't run a single wire inside the wall. It would need to be a cable like 14-2 w/ground NM-b and just use the white and ground. Cap off the black wire.
 
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Old 06-24-17, 04:37 PM
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I will have to see how the switches are wired to be sure, but you should be able to rewire white wires being used as travelers to neutral.

Insteon switches do not have to be actual 3 or 4 way switches for it to work as one. If you look at the installation manual for your switch, only the first switch is actually switching the load.
Only one switch needs to be actually switching the light and the other switches can be used as just a remote switch.
This means, you can just have 1 hot and 1 neutral in the junction box for them to work. No need to run new cable. Just have to rewire.

If I'm understanding your description correctly, you have 2 separate 3 way switch circuit and both have 1 box without neutral. Am I correct?

Ignore existing wiring, and connect white wire going to the other switch to neutral in first junction box. Connect black wire going to the other switch to line . Cap off red wire going to the other switch.

Now you have neutral in the other switch.

Basically just follow wiring diagram in the manual and forget about how the existing switch was wired. You just have to figure out which wire is going to the light and which wire is the line feeding the switch.

After this, you just to have to link and program the switch without load to control the switch with load (first one)


What is nice about inteon or other smart switches are that one one switch needs to be switching the load and the other switches can be pretty much anywhere in the house and don't even need to be on the same circuit.
 
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Old 06-25-17, 08:01 AM
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Thanks for the tips lambition

If I'm understanding your description correctly, you have 2 separate 3 way switch circuit and both have 1 box without neutral. Am I correct?
Yes this is correct. There are 2 separate 3-ways where I have this issue. One in the hallway as per this thread, and a second one for my back patio ( 1 switch in kitchen and another in master bedroom). I have had success in other 3-way switches in my house using the standard diagrams for this configuration. These diagrams are provided by Insteon as you mentioned.

Following the Insteon wiring diagram, and demonstrated in this youtube video - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=twEvh3Vua8U :
  • secondary location - capped the load wire on the Insteon switch
  • secondary location - bundling traveller (separately tried either black or red) with the black hot wire and connected to Insteon switch 'line'
  • secondary location - bundling white traveller with the neutral bundle in this switch box. Also connected to Insteon switch white neutral

In the above setup on secondary switch location, I am able to get power over to the 'primary' switch box with single 3 wire plus ground . A couple of observations:
  • primary location - line/hot is found on the white wire
  • primary location - line/hot still seems to be connected to the load somehow as it goes on/off based on toggling switch in secondary location

@lambition - one quick clarification ( and my terminology may be off). When you mention 'junction box' you are referring to a switch box correct? i.e. I always thought the 'junction box'(es) are up in my attic for connecting different loads onto the same circuit
 
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Old 06-25-17, 02:33 PM
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Can you find out which option was used from following link?
3 Way Switch Wiring Diagram

You will have to fine out which cable runs where, then start from there. Once you figure this out, it will be easy enough.


It is very unlikely that you will have to pull new cable to get neutral. Just needs re-wiring.

When you mention 'junction box' you are referring to a switch box correct?
Junction box is a switch box if the switch was installed. Junction box basically is any box that a junction of electrical wiring is made.
 
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Old 06-25-17, 08:31 PM
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thanks for the help folks.. This is a really great forum with helpful insights.

Unfortunately I got ahead of myself on DIYs.. Spent the whole weekend painting an attached rental unit and didn't get back to this 3-way.. I will take a shot maybe on tuesday

I'll take a look at those 3-way wiring diagrams and see if I can match it up
 
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Old 06-26-17, 05:29 AM
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Also keep in mind that if the power for this 3 way light circuit originates from the light fixture that there may not be a neutral in either of the two switch device boxes. If you have two switch boxes and each of the two only has one switch and that one switch has only one x/3 (plus ground) this would be an example of the power originating from the light fixture and won't have a neutral in either box to tap into as the neutral would be in the light fixture box (you will have a white wire going to the switch but that would not be a neutral in that case). As mentioned there are multiple ways to wire 3 way switches.
 
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