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condoowner 08-01-2012 04:15 PM

3 way switches weirdness!
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Hello fellow HouseRepairTalk members!

I am not very knowledgeable in wiring, electricity and such, but I've replaced several 3 way switches and light fixtures to this day and never happened to be stuck with a weird wiring configuration. Basically, I have 2 light switches controlling a light fixture.. Basic 3 way config you will say (and maybe it is..) but I am confused with the wires. I only wanted to replace the switches and the light fixture, but I forgot to mark the wires and now I am lost..

Right now I have:

1 switch that has NOT been modified in any way (not replaced and not tempered with) this is switch 1 in the diagrams!!
1 switch that I replaced (and perhaps inadvertently wired wrong....)
1 light fixture that puzzles me....

So to be clear I've put together 3 diagrams of what I saw when I went to reinstall the switch and fixture..

These are the symptoms that something is NOT wired properly:

Switch 1 needs to be ON for the light to turn on, or else switch 2 is useless (but still has power to it!)
While switch 1 is OFF, switch 2 has power (its a dimmer and the green LED is lit up) indicating there is power going to it
If switch 2 (the dimmer) is dimmed to a minimum, the light fixture is lighting at 20%. I have an identical dimmer somewhere else, when the dimmer is at lowest setting, the light is off...

Please look at my diagrams.. Next step is to call an electrician if I cant figure it out on my own!


nealtw 08-01-2012 05:18 PM

This should help, look at var. 4 power to light first.

JoeD 08-01-2012 06:16 PM

It's a three way switch loop.
The white wire at the light is bringing unswitched power to the sw#2 and sending it through to the sw#1 on the white. The white at sw #1 is the common connection.
The black at sw#2 is the switched hot going back to the light fixture. The black at sw#2 should be on the common screw.

condoowner 08-01-2012 06:43 PM

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I think Ive fixed it, but Im not sure how... :)

I basically looked at the diagrams at the website you refered me to, and looked at the wirting diagram of the dimmer switch instruction leaflet, and noticed the black traveller wire from switch 1 is going to the screw on the left side of the dimmer swirtch, and the red traveller wire going to the lower (silver) right screw on the dimmer switch.

Then the common stayed on the black screw on the dimmer switch.

I basically had reversed the travellers... Now its working perfectly!! The only thing is, when the dimmer switch is ON but at lowest setting (the dimmer at the lowest intensity), the lights are very faintly lighting ON..

So 2 questions:

If everything "seems" to be working properly, no heat, no noise, no flickering, can I assume all is OK and let it like that or will I burn the house down???

Whats going on with the dimmer at 0% and lights still on?


nealtw 08-01-2012 07:21 PM

AC power cycles on and off 60 times a second. A dimmer switch just keeps it off a little before coming back on, it should not be used as an off switch.

condoowner 08-01-2012 07:41 PM

Ok understood!

Thanks guys!! Until I notice anything wrong, case closed!! :)

condoowner 08-04-2012 02:53 PM

Oops, case unclosed! ;)

I went to install permanently the dimmer switch and noob's mistake, I realized the electric box is TOO small!!! ..... SO I went to buy a Leviton switch that is smaller than the Cooper dimmer I first bought, but still, it comes with 3 wire nuts and I can foresee this being a problem to fit everything in a 2" box... I cannot enlarge the box as it is sitting against a firewall (between 2 condos) and that's probably why the builder installed a 2in box at first.

So I am left with 2 options: install the dimmer away from the light fixture (not my favorite but it will do) or find a dimmer that will fit in a 2in electric box WITH everything else (wire nuts, wires, etc......)

Are you guys aware of such dimmer? Why are they so large???? Maybe you guys can recommend a dimmer that has remote control? SO I could put it on the other switch and use a remote to dim the light...

TGMcCallie 08-04-2012 04:42 PM

Check here for these shallow lutron dimmer switches. These are the ones I have in my home and they work just fine. The slide beside the flip switch is neat and you can keep the level set when you turn the lights off so when you turn them back on they come on at preset level.


condoowner 08-07-2012 10:52 AM

Hey TGMcCallie,

I have visited a Lutron reseller, and was surprised to see that the switch you suggested will barely fit in the 2" electric box I have to deal with... I have contacted Lutron and they are not recommending installing a dimmer in such small box due to heating problems and potential failure of the switch. This apparently could result in a fire which I am not interested to even consider.. They however recommended a Maestro dimmer with a remote controller to install in location #1 (the large box). Remember, this is a 3way application!! I have sent an email to them to ask to specify which model exactly I should buy but they have not been of real help.

I understand there is a dimmer that Lutron manufacture that has IR capability and comes with a remote controller. I happen to own a Logitech Harmony One remote controller. I was wondering if it would be possible to control the dimmer switch with my Logitech Harmony ??

So I am left with only 2 options:

Maestro IR dimmer in location #1 (the far one) with a remote controller and a normal switch in the 2" box
No dimmer at all... :(

Anybody can comment or recommend the exact model I should get? I found Lutron's website to be a pain as there are too many products, and there is no product finder wizard....


condoowner 08-26-2012 07:37 PM

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solved! I have installed a lutron wireless dimmer in location #1 (the larger outlet box) and made up an adapter plate for the pico remote at location #2. An electrician told me how to get rid of the 3 way feature and now it is only a one way light with one switch, the other one all wires being capped... (with the power passthrough of course..).

For the adapter plate for the Pico remote, I have used a pair of small round magnets glued to the plastic plate with cyanoacrylate (crazy glue). That being said, I am wondering if it is safe to use that, due to the proximity of the magnets to the wires in the box, and because the remote is literally next to the magnets.

Anybody think its unsafe/will create problems? On the wire side, I am thinking about electrical interference... on the remote side, I am thinking about radio interference and potentially turning on the light while no one is home???? Possible? The remote uses RF.

Look at the pictures, at least this looks sharp!


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