Whoops! 3 way light switch issue and buzzing breaker box

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Old 12-12-11, 09:13 PM
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Whoops! 3 way light switch issue and buzzing breaker box

So tonight I tried to replace the 3 way light switch with a normal light switch that was prettier. At the time I didn't realize that a 3 way light switch was special. When I put the new light switch in there, I turned the breaker back on. There was a spark and it flipped back off. I quickly unattached the new light switch and reattached the 3 way light switch the way it originally was. However, now when I throw the circuit breaker to on, the lights that it controls will not turn on. How do I trouble shoot what is broken here?

On a side note, my contractor that replaced my bathroom floor also switched out my bathroom light fixture for a new one. Ever since he did this the circuit breaker box has been buzzing. Is this normal?
 
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Old 12-13-11, 04:56 AM
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A 3 way switch has two brass screws that are the travelers and one dark colored screw that is the common. Did you mark the wire that was to the common on the old 3-way and put the common back on the common of the new 3 way?

When you put in the "regular" switch you would have had one wire left over with no screw to put it on. What did you do with that wire?

In addition to the screws above there would also be a green ground screw. Did you put any wire but the bare ground wire on the ground screw at any time?

Have you tried reseating the buzzing breaker? !Caution! Turn off the main breaker before removing panel cover. Work very cautiously. There are still live parts in the breaker box even with the main breaker off. Always work as if breaker box is hot.
 

Last edited by ray2047; 12-13-11 at 07:51 AM.
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Old 12-13-11, 02:16 PM
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Thanks for all the suggestions above. When the single pole switch was installed, there was a wire that was put on the ground (hence the whoops...). It turns out that I wound up blowing the other switch in the 3 way circuit. I replaced it today (correctly this time) and now have lights!
 
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Old 12-13-11, 03:31 PM
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I have found that a 'buzzing' breaker is more often than not, not a direct problem with the breaker itself (unless a new circuit/breaker was added).

It usually is caused by a loose or intermittent hot wire / connection not fully tightened down.
Not twisting the wires together first, before using a wire-nut to make a connection is a prime example.

The connection arcs across an air-gap at the load end, producing 'noise' at the source and over-heating at the load/connection. This 'buzz' is a combination of both.

This is a potentially dangerous situation. The over-heating can be excessive enough to start a fire without tripping a breaker.

The loudest 'buzz' I've heard was due to pitted connections at an AC unit service disconnect box. Replacing the disconnect immediately resolved the 'buzz' in the breaker-box.

Double-check your connections to your switches, make a 'loop' around the screw and be sure none of the wire's insulation is within that loop.

If the buzz persits, have your contractor come back & recheck/redo the connections to your new light fixture.
 
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