Problem with Garage Lights and Two Three-Way Light Switches

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  #1  
Old 04-13-15, 06:22 PM
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Problem with Garage Lights and Two Three-Way Light Switches

Hi,

First, I should mention that I have used the "do it yourself" bulletin board/forum before for a problem with a ceiling fan and got very helpful advice from very patient moderators, so thanks for that.

Today I'm writing because I am having a problem with three lights in my garage that are/were controlled by a set of three-way switches, one at the top of the stairs that leads into my house and one at the bottom of the stairs.

The problem is that there was a "spark" at one of the lights--more of that later--and I have not been able to turn the lights on since, despite toying around with the switches.

Backing up, the problem began innocently enough. The three light bulbs were in the three separate sockets and all worked. We wanted to replace the bulbs with more energy-efficient bulbs, however.

Because the lights were sunk into the ceiling of our garage, which is quite high, I had to use a pole to grab the light bulbs and twist them out of their sockets. That worked fine for two of the bulbs, and I was able to put in their replacements with no problem.

However, there was a problem when I tried to replace the third bulb. Basically what happened is that I grabbed the bulb with the extension pole and twisted the glass part of the bulb out, but I DID NOT get the metal "collar or sleeve" that is typically attached to the glass and that typically is what screws into the light socket. Somehow the glass part of the bulb and the metal "collar" became disconnected, and the glass part came out but the metal collar stayed in.

But, I didn't notice that at the time, and so I removed the old bulb from the extension pole, put the new replacement bulb in the extension pole, and raised the pole with the new bulb up to the light fixture so I could screw it in. The metal part of the new bulb contacted the metal part of the old bulb (which was still inside the light fixture, minus the glass part of the bulb), and at that point there was some sparking (as I write this, I guess I obviously had the light on and the fuse wasn't switched off).

At that point, I lost the power to all three lights. Like I said, I've toyed around a bit with the switches with no improvement, although no doubt there's more I could have done/may still do.

Does anyone know what I most likely damaged? Would it be the wiring in the ceiling or wall? Or would the problem have traveled back to one or both of the switches? Or the fuse (I can see nothing wrong there, but maybe I guess).

I figured I'd check in with the experts here before I go further to get an opinion. If the most likely problem IS the light switch(es), I'll no doubt be back with some questions about wiring up new replacement store-bought switches to the existing wiring, which has also had me a big confused during my own fixer-upper efforts earlier.

Thanks for your time, I appreciate it.
 
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  #2  
Old 04-13-15, 06:39 PM
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Confusing.
You said the "fuse was not switched off".
Fuses can not be switched off.
What do you have fuses or breakers?
Do you know for 100% sure which breaker fuse it is?
Own and know how to use A volt ohm. meter?
Need to kill the power and remove that old bulb base.
A pair of needle nosed plyers can get it out.
 
  #3  
Old 04-13-15, 06:56 PM
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Another trick is to cut a potato in half & use that to remove the broken socket. Flip the breaker anyway & test the lights again.
 
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Old 04-13-15, 07:05 PM
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I've got a circuit breaker. It wasn't in the "off" position at the time that I was doing the work, I guess. So I did not break the circuit.

I DO know which breaker it is.

I DID eventually remove the old bulb base. I used the needle-nose pliers tip you mentioned above. When I did that, I switched the circuit off first, which is why I know which one it is.

I don't own a volt/ohm meter but could buy one and figure it out. Where would I be using it? At the light fixture, at the circuit breaker, at the switch?
 
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Old 04-13-15, 07:19 PM
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So, you still have no lights after flipping the breaker & replacing the bulbs? If that's the case, you need to see if there is juice, in the first 3 way switch after the breaker. If there juice there, you go to the second 3 way.
 
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Old 04-13-15, 07:25 PM
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OK, update.

Apologies for this, but I got the story a bit wrong. This happened a while ago, and I have been working on it on and off (with no success), and I guess I forgot where I was.

So the lights work.

I can control them--turning them on/off--with the light switch at the top of the stairs. What I can't do from there is use the motion sensor so I can keep the light switch in the on position and allow the sensor to turn it off. That USED to work but now doesn't.

In addition, the other switch, the one at the bottom of the stairs--which is a simple on/off--doesn't work at all.

What should I do? I have gone to the store, bought a new 3-way switch equipped with a light sensor, but couldn't figure out how to match the existing wiring to the new switch. Is that a logical first step?
 
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Old 04-13-15, 07:42 PM
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What connections on the new switch? What wires in the switch box. Does the new switch need a neutral. Does the box have a neutral. (White may not be neutral.)
 
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Old 04-13-15, 07:46 PM
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Thanks, Ray.

Those are the right questions to ask.

I'll take some photos and try to get back to you with all the information.

I'll post the photos tomorrow.

Thanks again.
 
  #9  
Old 04-13-15, 08:12 PM
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OK, here are three photos.

The first shows the OLD three-way switch (with motion sensor) as wired into the wall. There's another switch wired in there too, but it controls a different light and is unrelated.

You can see that there are three "capped" wires coming from the wall to the caps and eventually to my three-way/motion sensor switch.

We've got:
black from wall connected to black from switch
red from wall connected to red from switch
white from wall connected to brown from switch

The black from wall comes from a larger "grouping" (I can't remember the name of the "bundle" of wires but feel free to tell me and I'll use that word from here on in) coming from the top of the box.

The red and white wires come from a different grouping that comes from the bottom of the box.

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Here you see the capped connections again--red from wall to red from switch, white from wall to brown from switch, and black from wall to black from switch.

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And here you see those connected wires going into the switch. I get confused at this point because the switch becomes a "black box" and it's hard to know what's connected to what (you can't open the switch).

Did I give you enough information to start guessing at what wire is what, or no?

If so, I can show you photos of the new switch I want to attach this stuff to.

Thanks again.

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  #10  
Old 04-13-15, 09:13 PM
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What does the switch instruction say each wire color (except green) represents? Which are travelers which is common. On the switch you removed which color wire was connected to the common? Does this switch need a slave or will it work with a regular 3-way switch?
 
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Old 04-13-15, 09:33 PM
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That is an SL-6107 three way motion sensor. The "other" switch that connects to this is basically used as a single pole switch.

The wiring depends on which switch, the sensor or the regular 3w, gets the hot feed.
Disconnect the black wire from the sensor and see if that is hot regardless of switch position at other end.

Post the make and model of your new switch.

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The above diagram shows white as neutral. In your case I believe white and red are travelers.

Here is the complete link for your old sensor switch....
heath-zenith/data/manuals/595-4514-13.pdf
 
  #12  
Old 04-14-15, 08:46 AM
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Nice Info

Nice info, guys, and thanks.

I'm at work now but see the two most recent responses. Much appreciated. I'll get back today at lunch or after work and see what I can do.

Ray asked some questions that made me think I should clarify that the photos I posted were of the OLD three-way/motion sensor switch. Just in case that was confusing.

PJ seemed to correctly understand that. I'll read through his answer/look at his drawing and see what I can do.

Have a good day.
 
  #13  
Old 04-14-15, 06:19 PM
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The SL-6107 (old switch) documentation

PJ, so you were spot-on.

I somehow found the old "manual/documentation/instructions" for the old switch and yep, it's an SL-6107.

This reply from me will have three parts: a question, some images of the instructions for the old switch, and then some stuff about the new switch.

Questions first:

PJ said to "Disconnect the black wire from the sensor and see if that is hot regardless of switch position at other end."

I can and will do that, but how exactly do I determine if the black wire (presumably leading from the wall to the wire cap) is HOT. Do I need some little meter tool that I can buy at the hardware? If so, what's that called and how does one attach it to the wire and get a reading of "hot/not hot"?

Images of the instructions for old switch (in case this is helpful):

Here's the front page
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Here's the wiring diagram
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Images of new switch, new instructions for new switch, plus more information from those instructions:


The instructions for the new switch say:

Here's what the new switch looks like. There's a silver wire (not insulated), two black wires, and a blue wire and a green wire that come out of the same "hole."

Err...I'm having a tech problem here and it won't let me upload the image. I'll try submitting this reply and starting a new reply....
 
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Old 04-14-15, 06:23 PM
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continuation--the new switch

Images of new switch, new instructions for new switch, plus more information from those instructions:


Here's what the new switch looks like. There's a silver wire (not insulated), two black wires, and a blue wire and a green wire that come out of the same "hole."

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Here's a photo of the relevant section of the instructions for the new switch.

hmm...again, a problem adding an image. I'll do another post.
 
  #15  
Old 04-14-15, 06:29 PM
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Instructions for new switch

Finally, the instructions for the new switch.

First, here's what it "says" in the drawing.

The black wire "on top" of the switch is attached to a traveler from the wall.

The blue wire from the switch is attached to a traveler from the wall. Once one identifies a traveler, which I have not yet, does it matter which one you attach to?

The "lower" of the two black wires from the switch is attached to a "tagged" wire from the wall. There's no tagged wire...

The green wire from the switch and the "bare" wire from switch attach to the ground.

And here's the drawing:

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  #16  
Old 04-16-15, 08:33 PM
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So PJ, I did check that black wire coming from the wall and leading to the three-way switch with the motion sensor.

It's HOT.

So then what would be my next step?
 
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Old 04-16-15, 09:15 PM
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I realized I didn't follow PJ's instructions perfectly and went back to do it again.

First, all wires from the wall that lead to the 3-way switch with the motion sensor are hot.

I tested the black wire when the other 3-way switch was up, and it was hot.

I then tested the same black with when the other 3-way switch was down, and it was hot.
 
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Old 04-16-15, 09:20 PM
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First, all wires from the wall that lead to the 3-way switch with the motion sensor are hot.
I doubt it. Sounds like you used a non contact voltage detector. They can not be use to actually test for voltage. For that you need a multimeter, preferably analog (or a test light or a solenoid tester).
 
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Old 04-17-15, 02:53 PM
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Yeah, I think you're right. It was a "pen-like" thing I bought for five bucks at home depot, with a single metal "pole" at one end. It had a few different positions you could turn it to, and one would allow you to detect electricity/get a "beep" even when you weren't touching a wire.

OK, back to Home Depot.

Thanks.
 
  #20  
Old 04-18-15, 07:35 PM
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got the multimeter

OK, I got the multimeter-analog, even. Photo below.

So how do you use this thing? I'm going to fire up a video to try to learn this on my own, but the instructions just say "to measure AC power (I'm assuming my light is AC, right?), turn dial to the AC part and then..."

So, which part of this dial would be appropriate for measuring/detecting AC current?
 
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Old 04-18-15, 08:44 PM
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That meter will work fine for you. You'll see I've made some highlights. The red box is around the 250vAC scale. You can measure up to 250vac on this scale. If you look at the actual meter face you'll see three red lines. You match that number up with the scale you are set to. In this case you'll use the 250 markings. Full scale would be 250vac. You will be seeing roughly half scale measurements for 120vac.

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In order to check for always hot. You need to connect one lead of the meter to the black wire in question and ground.... either the metal box or a ground wire in the box.
 
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Old 04-19-15, 07:22 PM
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Multimeter Update

PJ, many thanks for the information and the graphics work there.

So I followed your instructions. The black wire is HOT no matter which way the other switch is flipped (up or down).

The only thing that confused me is that I set the meter at 250, as you suggested, and I anticipated a reading about halfway, as you suggested, but in fact it buried the needle to the far right (past 250). That seemed weird...any thoughts?

I had one lead of the meter set touching the black wire from the wall and the other lead to the meter touching the copper/ground wire inside the box.

Thanks for the patience with me on this, the graphics work, the reading multiple steps, etc.
 
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Old 04-19-15, 07:33 PM
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The only thing that confused me is that I set the meter at 250, as you suggested, and I anticipated a reading about halfway, as you suggested, but in fact it buried the needle to the far right (past 250)
Test the meter in a receptacle. One probe in the wide slot and one in the narrow slot. You may need to jiggle the probe a bit to get good contact.

Just to repeat Pete:

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  #24  
Old 04-19-15, 08:24 PM
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PJ, will do.

Thanks for the "repeat, Pete," although I think I did it right.

But I'll test in a receptacle as you suggested and get back to you. Probably tomorrow.

Thanks, and have a nice evening.
 
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Old 04-19-15, 08:50 PM
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Do we really look that much alike?
 
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Old 04-20-15, 07:04 PM
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Oh, apologies, Ray.

When you post on here and then look back to see the thread, sometimes you see it in chronological order and sometimes you see it in the exactly opposite order. I think I got confused that way.

Anyway, thanks again, Ray, for hanging in with me.

So, I figured out what I did wrong with the multimeter. I knew where to direct the rotary dial because of your helpful picture, but I misunderstood the dial itself, and I had it pointed 180 degrees in the wrong direction.

So, now I have figured that out and tested the black wire from the wall, connecting the multimeter to that black wire and to the ground. And yes, you were right, it's hot and when I had the dial set at 250, the needle indicator was about halfway up. All as you predicted.

That was true with the other switch, the one at the bottom of the steps, in both positions--flipped up and flipped down.

So, what would be our next move?

As always, thanks. Many thanks.
 
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Old 04-20-15, 08:03 PM
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I had it pointed 180 degrees in the wrong direction.
oh my..... you want to be very careful of where the dial is set. Applying power with it in the wrong position can be



Ok..... the black wire that says attach to the tagged wire goes to your hot wire. So that will be black to black.

The other black wire that says attach to traveler goes to the same place the brown wire was going to which I believe was white.

The blue wire goes to the other traveler which is where the orange/red wire was going to which I believe was red.
 
  #28  
Old 04-20-15, 08:24 PM
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Gotcha, PJ.

And thanks for the caution about the fire hazard, I'll be more careful.

I understand your instructions for the three wires from my new switch. There's a fourth wire, though.

I assume I just don't connect that to anything, huh? That's matches what was on the old switch anyway.

If so, is it safe to leave that "free" and unattached that way, or should I tape off the end and/ore put a wire nut on it?

Thanks again,
 
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Old 04-21-15, 12:06 AM
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I see two blacks, one blue, a green and a bare.

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I didn't think I needed to post that the green and bare go to the ground.
What other wire did I miss ?
 
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Old 04-21-15, 07:04 PM
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OK, PJ!

First, you'll never insult me if you mention something you think you should be able to note mention and just assume I'll know. So it was good to mention that I should attach the green and the bare to ground, and I did.

Strangely, in the old switch, the green was left unattached. I don't know how dangerous or common that is, but it seems better to run to ground.

Anyway, better news! You have now successfully helped me attach the new three-way motion-sensing switch at the top of my steps. The on/off function works and so does the motion sensor.

I can't thank you enough for slugging through with me.

Now, the switch at the bottom of the steps still doesn't work. But I'm going to take a look at that tomorrow. You may hear back from me. But even if I never get that one working, having the one at the top with the motion sensor work is the big deal. But of course I'm still hoping for success at the bottom too.

Thanks again. Can't say it enough.
 
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Old 04-21-15, 07:26 PM
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You're very welcome.

More than likely the second switch is missing a jumper. Just give us a holler when you get to it. (use this thread..... don't start another one as all the wiring info we used is here)
 
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