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clarification on multiple switch (3-way, etc.) configurations and using dimmers

clarification on multiple switch (3-way, etc.) configurations and using dimmers

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Old 10-28-18, 03:41 PM
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clarification on multiple switch (3-way, etc.) configurations and using dimmers

Based on some web searches, I have come to the understanding that "3-way switch" actually means two switches controlling the same light (or outlet). So then, what is a 3-switch configuration called? Is is called 4-way or 5-way, or something else? For example, I have a foyer chandelier where the foyer is located at split level; in other words, the front entrance to the home is half way between the lower floor and the upper floor. The chandelier light can be controlled from switch next the front door (which, again, is at split level), from a switch near the bottom of the steps down to the lower floor, and from a switch from the upper floor. Since "3-way switch" means a two-switch system, what is a 3 switch configuration called?

The second part of my question pertains to use of dimmers in multi-switch scenarios. Based on references I've found, I gather that using a dimmer with a "3-way switch" involves installing 1 dimmer, not two. In other words, a decision about which switch would be replaced by the dimmer must be made before a dimmer can be added to the system. This means the light fixture can be dimmed from one switch location, not both. Is that right? doityourself.com has an article on this at https://www.doityourself.com/stry/in...-dimmer-switch. In the first paragraph, it says "The primary thing that confuses most do-it-yourselfers is the fact that only one of the three-way switches needs to be replaced with the dimmer switch." So, I gather that dimmers cannot be used on both switches of a "3-way switch". Is that right?

If the answer to the is yes, is the decision about switch standard switch to replace with a dimmer simply a matter of preference? And, if the light is off, with dimmer set to a dimmed setting, does that dimmer setting control the brightness even when the light is turned on via the standard switch, i.e. the other switch?
 
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Old 10-28-18, 03:49 PM
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Three switches = four way, four switches = four way, etc.

There are two three way switches at the end and an unlimited amount of 4 way switches in between.

There are many dimmers that claim to work with an existing three way switch at one end. I do not rely on this as most dimmers will not function properly in a three way setup. A dimmer installed in a three way system is not plug and play. Wiring needs to be changed at both ends.

I use the Lutron Maestro dimmer with additional slave switches. With this system..... you can control the dimmer at all three locations. The wiring is a little confusing so if that is not your cup of tea..... you may want to bring in a friend.
 
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Old 10-28-18, 06:26 PM
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You have to but a dimmer that says suitable for 3 way. But when you flip the switch, the dimmer at the other end controls the strength. Eg if you left it on minimum, when you flip the on/off at the other end, it will be at minimum until you can walk to the dinner and change it.

There are also multi dinners but these get expensive as the electronics allow dimming from multiple locations.
How far apart are your 3 way switches?
 
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Old 10-28-18, 08:45 PM
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How far apart are your 3 way switches?
Let's call the switches A, B, & C, with A being on the lower floor, B being at entrance/foyer level, and C being at upper floor. C is about 12 ft. from B, and A is about 8 ft. from B.

From what I can gather from this discussion so far, a dimmer would have to be installed to replace one of the current switches and would control the light brightness regardless of which switch is used to turn the light on. So, changing brightness when the light is turned on from a non-dimmer switch would require moving to the dimmer and making the desired adjustment.
 
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Old 10-29-18, 04:57 AM
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The other thing you have to keep in mind is if you are going to replace a 3 way switch with a dimmer you need to verify what switches you have in what locations. Meaning you have a switch at the top, in the middle and at the ground level. You would think that since this would require a 4 way in between that the 4 way would be in the middle position. Logically it would seem to be but "wiring-wise" the 4 way could be on ground level. It is a matter of how the wires were run.

You should verify what type of switches you have at each location. Then once you do that then determine which of the 3 ways switches you want to replace with a dimmer.
 
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Old 10-29-18, 01:04 PM
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AFJES, thanks for your additional input. I was wondering about that and you've provided some clarification.
 
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Old 10-29-18, 03:45 PM
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dderolph you are more than welcome.

The best and only way to verify what type of switches you have at the locations is to pull them from the boxes. Again, be sure you shut off the breaker involved prior to doing this. Once you have confirmed the type of switches and their locations then we can proceed.

Again, 3 way switching means you can control one/many lights/receptacles from more than one location ( not more than two locations). In a 3 way two different locations. Anything more than two locations you are now talking a 4 way set up. A 4 way set up is anything 3 different locations (switch locations) and more. But the key is "wiring" there must always be a 3 way at the start and end of the "wiring" with multiple 4 ways in between - again physical locations of the type of switches.
 
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Old 10-29-18, 05:40 PM
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As I mentioned previously...... you can replace ANY switch with a dimmer and use two additional slave controls. It runs $100+ to install a dimmer and two slaves. If that is what you want to do and commit to buying the parts.... I will map out the wiring changes that are needed. It may require a meter on your part and definitely pictures of each switch location.

I've done this with many of my customers.
 
 

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