Electrical wiring puzzle

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  #1  
Old 05-14-02, 09:05 AM
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westportwarrior
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Electrical wiring puzzle

I bought a house from a do-it-yourselfer who did tons of work. I found a wiring puzzle that I cannot unravel. There's a light over the entrance hall that is controlled by three switches (I believe this is known as a four-way switch). This was wired in a way that works, but appears to be very different from standard procedures. After opening two of the junctions, I learned that the circuit consists of (1) a standard three way switch at one end of the light, (2) a two-pole switch at the incoming power junction, (3) the load and (4) another switch (I haven't opened it yet) in another room. This last switch I can happily detach as I find it useless. I can re-wire a three-way switch (using only two of the three existing switches), however, I am baffled by the two pole switch. This two pole is one of the switches I need but would be happy to replace with a new standard three way swtich. The problem is understanding how the circuit currently works and how to remove the two pole with a standard three way swtich. Even more baffling to me is that when I test the two pole switch with my voltage tester three of the four wires (what I expected to be controllers) showed power??? I thought that should lead to a dead short? The lights continue to work, but I don't why. Can you give some guidance on how I should proceed? I could do it if it were new construction, but as I can't see behind the walls, I am at a loss to design an appropriate circuit. I want to disconnect all unneccessary power going to that third useless switch, but I am afraid that might cut off the power to the light. Your help would be most appreciated.
 
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  #2  
Old 05-14-02, 09:56 AM
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jlbos83
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Before we start the specualtion, we need more facts:

It would be helpful to know what cables come into each box, and which wires from which cable are hooked to which screw on the switch. Obviously you won't be able to tell where the cables are coming from and going to, that's where the specualtion starts.

You said the second switch was a two pole, but then you said four wires. Can you please describe the setup there?
 
  #3  
Old 05-14-02, 10:19 AM
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westportwarrior
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Thanks for responding jlbos83. The two pole has four screws in all: two at the top (right and left) and two at the bottom (right and left). The wire colors were red (upper left - tested hot) and white (upper right - tested hot), then red (lower right - tested hot) and white (lower left - no current). The wires on the left were both from the same cable and appeared to be from the circuit box, and the two on the right were also from the same cable (but of course a different cable from the two leads going into the left).
The second three way switch (the one I plan on keeping) was simple, with common - black, and white/red going through the switch.
 
  #4  
Old 05-14-02, 10:30 AM
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jlbos83
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OK. Sounds like what you are calling a 2-pole is a four-way switch. It's got two travellers on each side, and switches which is hooked to which. It doesn't say on-off on the switch, does it?

So, we have 2 three ways and a four way. So one of these should show how it is wired. One you figure out which, you just need to figure out how to turn it into one of these .

If you need nore help, holler! Let us know what you find out.
 
  #5  
Old 05-14-02, 11:30 AM
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westportwarrior
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Right again, re the on/off, jlbos. Thanks so much for the references. I am sure it's one of these circuits. You're very helpful. I guess this circuit is pretty standard after all.
 
  #6  
Old 05-14-02, 11:39 AM
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jlbos83
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OK, so for fun, I'll keep guessing. Since the four was has whites and reds hooked to it, I'm guessing that the power and light are both hooked there. The only question is whether the power goes to the light first, and then runs to the 4-way to switch, or to the switch, and then on to the light.

If there is one additional two conductor cable in the box, then it is coming from the light, if there are two, one is the power and one goes to the light.

Once you study the pics, you'll understand it pretty quick, I think.

Either way you will have an easy time replacing that switch with a 3-way, and eliminating the other. We will need experts to tell you what to do with the wire that remains (the three conductor between the 4-way and the eliminated 3-way).
 
  #7  
Old 05-14-02, 12:25 PM
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Wgoodrich
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Before you take anything apart and to limit your heart ache document that you have two more conductors that are wirenutted in that box with the switch that has four screws that is not touching that switch but is wire nutted separately. Then document these two conductors wire nutted come from the two cables entering that box.

Then document in the two boxes with the switch that has only three screws if there is a power source in one of the switches and a swtich leg in the other switch.

You will not be able to eliminate any of the switches without installing new cable if you have the wiring design that I suspect you have.

Tell us how many cables and what color is in each cable entering each box. Then we will piece together what you have before you do something that you may regret later.

I suspect you will find switch leg in one three way switch and power source in the other three way switch.

Wg
 
  #8  
Old 05-14-02, 01:25 PM
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jlbos83
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WG-
I was guessing (key word) that since the four way has red and white on both sides the black was probably taking the power to one of the three ways and bringing the switched power back from the other. Otherwise one side should have had black and red, with the white carrying the neutral out to the switch and then on to the light (at least that's the picture that is in my head, without seeing it). The same would go if the power was coming in at one of the three ways, the white would have been carrying the neutral along. The exception I can see would be if the power and the light were both going to the same three way, then there could be trouble, depending on which one it is. But from the original (incomplete, but all we've got right now) it didn't sound that way to me. Does this make sense? Or am I misreading the clues? It's kind of like a detective story!
 
  #9  
Old 08-05-02, 07:37 AM
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westportwarrior
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Thank You

I want to thank jlbos83 and Wgoodrich for your advice regarding my electrical circuit problem. I finally got to it this weekend and was able to fix it. I decided to leave the original configuration, namely a 4-way switch "sandwiched" between two 3-way switches. As it happened the incoming power and the load were both located at the middle 4-way switch. It took some thinking, testing and sketching out the circuit, but eventually I got it right. It was very satisfying to accomplish it myself, and I couldn't have done it without your help. Many thanks again, and the links you offered were also very helpful.

The Westport Victor (with help from friends).
 
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