Neutral wire question


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Old 02-04-22, 08:43 PM
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Neutral wire question

Hi guys, I was hoping for some guidance in installing a Lutron Maestro MA-PRO

When you walk into my bedroom, there are 3 light switches next to the entrance. One controls 4 lights in the bedroom, one controls 3 other lights in the bedroom, and one controls the closet lights. Also, the lights in my bedroom are MR16 LED lights.

The switch that controls the 4 lights is a 3 way switch since there is another switch next to the bed that controls those same 4 lights. The one by the door is an on/off switch. The one by the bed is a dimmer. I'm swapping them out so they will dim from both ends (and to change the color of the switches from almond to white).

Initially, I installed the Lutron Maestro MACL-153M, but this switch is causing me problems and makes a loud buzzing sound when it tries to dim. LED M16 bulbs are known to have issues with dimming. So I contacted Lutron and they advised me to get the Maestro PRO. They also told me to make sure I have a "neutral wire" to hook up the PRO.

Here's the instruction manual for the PRO: https://www.lutron.com/TechnicalDocu...691112_ENG.pdf

I have 3 wires going to the switch, which are white, black, red (line, load, traveler). Red goes on the blue traveler wire screw. Black goes on the black screw. White goes on the gold screw.

Here's the part where the neutral wire comes in. It is my belief that I need to attach a pig tail wire that comes with the switch. One end goes to the silver terminal and the other end connects to the neutral wires in the switch box.

If you look at the picture below, you can see TWO separate white wire bundles twisted into a wire nut. Here are my questions:

1) Are these the neutral wires?

2) If so, WHICH neutral wire would I hook up the PRO dimmer to?

Thank you!

 
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Old 02-04-22, 08:55 PM
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The switch neutral gets connected to neutrals bundled together at the wirenut on the same cable serving the existing switch. The bundled whites are neutrals.
 
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Old 02-04-22, 09:03 PM
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The white bundles are the neutrals. Follow the black wire attached to the current switch back to the cable it comes out of. Then follow the white wire that comes out of the same cable and use that neutral bundle for your new switch.
 
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Old 02-05-22, 01:37 PM
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Ok, I looked into the outlet box. I think there is bad news for me. It does not look like the black wire leads to a source where the neutral wire comes from. See the pics attached. It's a jumble and it's pretty confusing.

The white/red/black wires on the far left are the wires that would go to the Maestro PRO. The rest of the wires are just a jumble behind the other two switches. The middle switch has a top and bottom switch that control other lights in the bedroom. The far right switch turns the bedroom closet light on/off.

Where do I go from this point? Am I out of luck or can I still make it work? Thank you.




 

Last edited by PJmax; 02-05-22 at 02:36 PM. Reason: labeled pic
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Old 02-05-22, 01:45 PM
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The switch in the picture is called a dead end switch. It's at the end of the three way circuit. It doesn't get its feed there and doesn't connect to the load there. Both those connections are at the other end.

That means you install the Maestro MA pro at the bed and a companion dimmer at the door.
Maestro companion slave

Interesting wiring there. That is a plastic box which means you need to have NM cables.
Your three way switch feed is in AC metal clad (BX).

If you decide to get a slave dimmer..... this is the wiring you would follow.....

I'm using black as the common color/wiring.
I can change the drawing to match whatever color is currently on the common terminal of that switch.
 

Last edited by PJmax; 02-05-22 at 02:32 PM. Reason: added diagram and comment.
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Old 02-07-22, 05:38 AM
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Hey, thank you for your post. So sorry I haven't responded in a few days. I never got the email notification you responded and I didn't see this until just now.

Just so we're on the same page, the pic above is by the bedroom entrance. I already have a companion dimmer installed next to the bed. The companion dimmer also has a red, white, and black wire plus the copper ground wire going to it.

Just going off memory from a few weeks ago when I installed it, I don't remember seeing any neutral wires behind that switch next to the bed. If I were to install the PRO next to the bed, where would the neutral wire be hooked up to? There are 3 switches next to the bed. One controls a single "reading" light over the bed. The middle light switch is now the companion dimmer. The right light switch controls the ceiling fan.

As for the color scheme on the diagram, I'm a little confused. The 3 wires that you used the yellow arrow to point to, black is hot, white is load, and red is traveler on my switch (I know you said in your post that there's no load, but I don't know another term to describe the white wire). Can you make it correspond with the picture?

Thank you!
 
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Old 02-07-22, 06:26 AM
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In the MAR-MSCAD diagram above the white wire going between the two dimmer units should have a band of black tape or stain at both ends. Such markings would also have been needed if the setup used to be an ordinary switched 3 way where the white wire was a traveler.


With those markings the white wire would be treated as any non-neutral wire except it may still not be used as the (switched/dimmed) hot in the home stretch from the switch to the light fixture.


The white wire between the dimmer units might be a control line, but that purpose cannot be determined without more information or even a schematic diagram for the dimmers.
 
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Old 02-07-22, 06:46 AM
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I am pretty sure it's a control line. Both ends between the master and companion switches each have a red, white, and black wire like it's a standard 3 way pole switch.
 
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Old 02-07-22, 09:41 AM
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An unrelated issue you have is the plastic box used with AC cable on the top left shown with the arrow. The plastic box has caused a loss of the effective ground fault path.
 
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Old 02-07-22, 10:50 AM
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When you have a dead end three way switch..... ALL three wires are control wires. There is NO neutral. Yes.... mark the white wire as a non neutral wire. I like to use blue. You can use tape, Sharpie, nail polish.
 
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Old 02-07-22, 11:38 AM
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Ok, so the black/white/red wire are control wires and there's no neutral. So where does the neutral wire come in your diagrammed suggestion? That's what I'm trying to understand.

Two questions actually:

1) In your diagram, this is diagrammed with the master next to the bed and the companion/slave next to the bedroom entrance?

2) Where is the neutral wire coming from to connect to the silver terminal?

Thanks.
 
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Old 02-07-22, 02:47 PM
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Unless you have a three way switch loop...... the power and the lights are in one switch box.

Since you have a dead end three way switch..... the line and load is at the other end.
That means there would be power and neutral there.

If the three way switches were added after the original wiring..... you could have the line and load at the lights with a two wire switch loop to the the three way switch circuit at the bed end.

I'd need to see the wiring at the bed end to comment further.

This diagram explains what I'm describing. There is a two wire switch loop cable from the light to the first switch. Then a three wire cable from that switch to the dead end switch.
 
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Old 02-07-22, 03:33 PM
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Ok, I will get a picture of you with the wires in the other box next to the bed. That box also has 3 switches. The left switch turns on a single light over the bed as a reading light. Middle switch is the Maestro companion switch. Right switch controls the ceiling fan. I will get you that pic soon. Thank you!
 
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Old 02-07-22, 05:47 PM
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Ok, I looked behind the 3 switches next to the side of the bed.

Left Switch: This switch controls the single reading light over the bed.
Middle Switch: Lutron Maestro Companion Switch
Right Switch: Controls the ceiling fan

The left switch is on a different breaker than the middle and right switch.

Left switch: 2 black wires and ground going to it.
Middle Switch: Red, White, Black, and Ground wires going to it
Right Switch: The switch itself has two black and green wires coming from it and as you can see in the pics, it's connected to the wires coming out of the wall.

I see two white wires coming from the left switch twisted together. I don't think they're neutrals? But even then, the left switch is on a different breaker than the middle/right switches. If I were to put the PRO switch there in place of the companion switch, then where's the neutral?

If you need more information or pictures, please let me know.









 
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Old 02-07-22, 08:06 PM
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I do know the wiring was not done by an electrician.
I can see another end of an AC (metal clad) cable there.
When making up the splices in an electrical box.... all grounds are connected together.... even if they're from different circuits.

I see red, black and white on the middle switch in question. This is also a dead end three way switch. Since you have two dead end three way switches..... the wiring is spliced somewhere. There is no neutral at either three way switch.

There is a line and load cable on the left switch however that cannot be used as it's on a different circuit.
 
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Old 02-07-22, 09:20 PM
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The previous owners had a handyman who did everything for them. It wouldn't surprise me if this is his work. I don't want to call an electrician b/c if the wiring has to be replaced, I don't want to break the walls and all of that.

So bottom line, are you saying there's no way I can have the Lutron Maestro PRO and the companion dimmer with the current wiring set up?
 
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Old 02-07-22, 09:23 PM
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That is correct.

You'd need to locate the place where those two three wire cables connect to.
You would likely find the line and load at that same point.
Possibly a splice box in the attic ?
 
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Old 02-07-22, 09:29 PM
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That's above my expertise. I wouldn't be able to do that and would have to hire an electrician to do that.

What's your take on what joed said in post #3 of this thread? Is that doable at all?
 
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Old 02-07-22, 09:36 PM
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That is a neutral from a different circuit and can't be used.
Even if you could use it.... you don't have line and load at one of the switches,
 
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Old 02-07-22, 09:42 PM
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Ok, thank you. So what are my options at this point? Just forgo having a dimmer and just put in standard on/off switches? If I hired an electrician, would this require breaking through the wall to get the right wire in place to make this switch work?
 
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Old 02-07-22, 10:46 PM
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You should be able to use the Lutron Maestro LED+ linked here or the Maestro PRO which is the advanced dimmer kit. These dimmers don't require a neutral to operate.

Lutron Maestro LED+
 
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Old 02-08-22, 05:09 AM
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I have the Maestro LED+ in my wall right now. The problem with the LED+ is that it makes a loud buzzing sound when the lights dim. Lutron told me this is because I have LED MR16 bulbs and those bulbs are notorious for issues with dimming. They told me that I need the PRO and to make sure I have a neutral wire for the PRO. That's why I made this thread.
 
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Old 02-08-22, 02:50 PM
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Sorry.....
It's hard to keep the different threads separate and when they get long I don't reread the entire thread. So you're back to just switches then.
 
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Old 02-08-22, 03:06 PM
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Thatís ok. Whatís crazy is there was a dimmer next to the bed before.

I have no path for a dimmer? I think I can if I put in halogen lights rather than LED but thatís not preferable.

If an electrician had to replace the wires, it would involve breaking through the wall, right? No way to do it clean?
 
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Old 02-08-22, 04:51 PM
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You have plastic boxes at both ends. You have AC (metal flex - ACC) at both locations.
In my opinion..... the three wire ACC was at both ends originally.
Then the metal boxes were removed and plastic installed using the ACC along with newer NM cable.

That means more than likely the ACC is stapled to the studs and cannot be removed.

First you'd have to locate the splice point.
Cut the wires off the ACC in the plastic boxes and push the metal shell out of the box.
Remove the ACC from the splice box. It would remain dead in the wall.
Now fish a new NM cable from the attic to the box.
 
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Old 02-08-22, 07:06 PM
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Yeah that's too crazy for what I'm trying to do. It's just disappointing b/c I really wanted a dimmer in the bedroom. I suppose I will just have to put in a 3 way switch by the entrance and next to the bed?

 
 

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