Having problems with 3 way dimmer switching.

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Old 12-23-11, 02:26 PM
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Having problems with 3 way dimmer switching.

Good evening and merry xmas all. First time poster here..
I am not an electrician by trade, of course im on the DIY boards, but i do have a lot of construction know how and am in the process of finishing my basement. 4 rooms, bathroom, bar, etc.
Ive got 90% of the wiring done, outlets, can lights in 3 rooms, etc. The last issue im having trouble overcoming is the matter of my 2 3 way lighting systems.

For whatever reason I cant seem to get power at the 2nd switch properly, but the first switch works just fine.

So in to my first switch, i have the black in to the switch, the white continuining on to the lights not hooked up to switch. The red wire out of the switch continues on to the lights. The ground, duh, and the red/white (denotes the 4th wire needed for the dimmer 3 way).

So the switch works great there.. lights on right, dim right, etc. no issues at all.

So when I go ahead and connect in the 14-3 wire heading to the 2nd switch is when I have the issue.
It should be pretty cut and dry, but im missing something.
The red white dimmer wire is 1 for 1 to the other switch. seems simple. THe black to black seems 1 for 1 and simple, as is the ground. The red wire at the 2nd switch is the one im lost at.
So at the 2nd switch, wired the way it is above, i have a white wire coming in from the first switch, with nothing to do with it, and the red wire on the switch with nothing either.
Do i need to run a line from this 2nd switch just like the first directly to the lights?

I hope this makes sense. I would love some assistance. I am at a loss, and we are rocking on tuesday.
Thank you in advance. Keep up the good work everyone.
Ryan
 
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  #2  
Old 12-23-11, 02:39 PM
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Welcome to the forums! It's spelled Christmas. Anyway. Are you trying to hook two dimmers on the same circuit? Unless they are specifically made for that application the older ones won't work in tandem. You will need to put the dimmer on one wall and a regular 3 way switch on the other wall.
The red wire at the 2nd switch
You said in the sentence before, that the red and white were one for one. Where did the other red wire come in to play at? Are you using a 3 way switch at the second location?
 
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Old 12-23-11, 02:53 PM
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from what the switch says, if you put the same switch at another location, you cant use the dimmer portion of it. so you can only use the dimmer portion at one switch, which is totally understandable.

So because im connecting 2 3 way switches im using the 14-3 wire, correct?

The ultimate goal is main switch on off, w/ dimmer control. 2nd switch simply on/off.

If im way overcommitted here then thats great, I just dont know that

The instructions say for single pole, leave the red/white capped, for 3 way, connect it, hence me purchasing the 14-3 and connecting the 2 at each end.

I do apologize for not knowing exactly what I need here. I do very much appreciate your time and patience.
 
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Old 12-23-11, 03:45 PM
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You are correct in what you have said, but I still don't understand about the red wire you don't have a place for. At the switches, you have the black to black, red to red, white to something, and that's where I am uninformed. There most likely is not a white wire from your switch. If it is another color, say red as well, then it would attach to the white of your 14-3.
 
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Old 12-23-11, 05:02 PM
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Colors aren't important common and travelers are. One common should be connected to the hot. That goes to the common terminal of the switch in that box. The other common goes from the other switch's common to the black wire of the light. Get those and the travelers take care of themselves. There is no standard color scheme only the way it is usually done and more then one standard way to wire a 3-way circuit. Power can come in at one of the switches or the lights. You may or may not have a 3 conductor cable between the switches.

Tell us the actual wiring, where power comes in and which color wires are used as commons and it will be easier to help you. I would suggest you first wire this regular three way switches and get it working. Then you can just swap out the commons of the regular 3-ways to the commons of the dimmers and the travelers to the travelers.
 
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Old 12-23-11, 07:01 PM
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so here is the way i have it wired.

from the breaker 14-2
since i will have more lights on this circuit i have the wires going in to 4 way connectors.



black white and copper
black - hot
black in to 4 way out to black on switch 1.
white from break in to 4way connector as well. no white connected to switch.
copper in to 4 way cnnector, with one going to green on switch (ground)
Then there is a red/white which in the intrusctions say in single pole leave capped, in 3 poleconnect it.

wire from lights comes in to same spot.
black connects to red wire on switch 1
white connects to 4 way connector
copper to 4 way connector.

so that, in its stand alone state works great,.lights turn on, dim, everything is hunky dory. its when i try to introduce the 2nd switch that i have issues.

i have tried simply running a 14-3 wire from the 4 way connectors, and I believe the switch directly 1 for 1, and it didnt work.
I guess im unsure what to do with the white wire at the 2nd switch. In my wiring above, the white never connects to the switch at all, just the blacks from the lights and the black from the breaker. so when i connect the second switch to the first using the 14-3 wire i have black, (hot) white, red and green.
Im just leary to connect white to anything because in the wiring above i never hooked in white to the switch.
hope this makes sense. i can try to draw it out if needed.
thanks for all your help so far guys.
 
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Old 12-23-11, 07:46 PM
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from the breaker 14-2
since i will have more lights on this circuit i have the wires going in to 4 way connectors
What is a 4 way connector?

I can't understand what you are doing so I can't help. If you tell me if power goes to the light or one of the switches I can give you a diagram on how to wire it. Also explain that 4-way connector.
 
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Old 12-23-11, 08:09 PM
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4 way connector... just a way to connect multiple same wires together. think of it as a wire nut with 4 wires twisted n it. just cnnects 4 together is all.
heading down to draw a diagram.
 
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Old 12-23-11, 08:24 PM
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Heres one diagram to look at.

 
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Old 12-23-11, 08:41 PM
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i like your diagram. im going to see if i can mimic that... i just finished drawing what i have now , but shutterly has such small hard to see images. so ill have to upload it somewhere it can be full size.
thanks
 
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Old 12-23-11, 09:10 PM
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so now i have it wired exacly like your diagram (ill explain) and have no light from either switch.. seems just dead.

my new wiring.

From breaker
12-2 black wire to black wire on switch.

white wire to 14-3 white wire headed toward switch 2

ground twisted in with ground from switch 1 and ground headed to switch 2

that leaves 2 untouched wires, a red from switch 1, and a red/white from switch 1.

So i connected red from switch 1 to black wire headed toward switch 2. connected red/white on switch 1 to red headed toward switch 2 (red is extra color in my 14-3 wire).

once at switch 2

connect the red/white from switch 1 to the red/white from switch 2.
connect the grounds.

connect the white to white (which never hits switch 1 or 2)

connect black traveler to red wire on switch 2 (same as before on switch 2)
connect black wire from switch 2 to black wire headed to lights.


that in essence is exactly the way your diagram is showing me, and ive got nothing.

im so confused and upset.

i do want to thank you soooo much for your patience. I realize you dont have to help those of us lacking in knowledge, but its nice to know there are folks like you out there.
thanks again...

and on we go


EDIT... and the oddity continues.... i just flipped the switch again to check after a double check of the wiring, the lights went on, the dimmer sort of failed, and now they wont come back on... the dimmer worked a little, then went off... trying to figure this out. all new wires, no short i dont think
 
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Old 12-23-11, 09:23 PM
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ok, so its working and its not.

its working to a certain extent...
the dimmer on one of the switches, switch 1 has to be at JUST the right pt for it to work at all, and the light is very dim, but its on. once the dimmer is at that perfect spot, i can turn the light on or off from either location. if i mess with the dimmer at switch 2, it flickers off and wont come back on untili i get it working from switch 1 again.
so i am 95% of the way there, thanks to you...

if there is any reason folks can think of why the dimmer situation is so odd, id love to discuss it.

its like at the 1/2 pt in the dimmer control is when it comes on faint, anywhere else it wont even come on.
 
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Old 12-23-11, 09:30 PM
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Which color wire on the three way is common? Following my diagram do you have the black from the light in the left switch box to the common? Do you have the black from the power in cable in the right switch to the common? Are you sure you know which wire on the switch is common? It will probably be the odd colored wire.

i just flipped the switch again to check after a double check of the wiring, the lights went on, the dimmer sort of failed,
This is why I suggested using regular 3-way switches till you got it sorted out. It's very easy to fry a dimmer.
 
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Old 12-23-11, 09:50 PM
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i have it wired exactly like your diagram...

there are 4 wires on the switch

Green
Red
Red/white
black.

Black i assume is the common.

so yes, i have the black from power in, connecting to black on the switch.
then i have the 2 reds (red and red/white) as the travelers between the switches.

then on the other side i have the black from the light connecting to the black from the switch 2.


the switching itself is working... i can turn on and off the lights from either location, np. i wonder if somehow i damaged the dimmer on one of my switches. hope lowes is ok taking them back if so .

so knowing that the switching works, would you expect i damaged a light switch dimmer control?

just tried 2 fresh new switches, switching worked great.
then subbed them out for fresh new dimmers, and same issue as before. switching worked great, but dimmers were flaky, jittery just not right at all. hmmm
 
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Old 12-24-11, 05:51 AM
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You are using incandescent bulbs aren't you? You need special dimmers and bulbs for CFL.
 
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Old 12-24-11, 06:18 AM
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Follow Ray's suggestions. Take one of the dimmers out of the scene and wire in a regular 3 way switch in one location. It will simplify your troubleshooting. Two dimmers will only cause problems, now and later on unless they are specifically allowed to be used with each other by the manufacturer.
 
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Old 12-24-11, 07:18 AM
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The common on the 3way is typically a dark color, if not it will be different than the screws for the travelers. I think you might have a common transposed with a traveler.
 
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Old 12-24-11, 08:14 AM
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since my switch says the dimmer will only work at one location anyway, cant i save the money and just put a regular 3 way switch in at the 2nd location? it should still work as intended, being a switch, and the primary switch should still work as a dimmer right?
im headed to HD soon to buy a few regular three way switches.
thanks
 
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Old 12-24-11, 09:34 AM
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since my switch says the dimmer will only work at one location anyway, cant i save the money and just put a regular 3 way switch in at the 2nd location?
Yes. That is the normal way you wire a three way dimmer, one dimer, one regular switch.
 
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Old 12-24-11, 10:12 AM
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SUCCESS!!!!

its a festivus miracle

thank you all for your help.. the diagram, the patience, everything..
thanks for sticking it out with me.

THe 2nd switch, now a standard 3 way is working great. dimmer on the main switch working great. everything is right with the world of electricity.

thanks again for your help.
very much appreciated.
 
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Old 12-24-11, 10:38 AM
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Glad you got it. Thanks for letting us know.
 
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