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brewer79 02-17-2014 11:23 AM

Seperate Electrical Problems
I have two electrical problems, they are separate and don't run on the same circuit.

The first, and I think is the easiest, is my outdoor porch light. It's controlled by a switch inside. The light no longer turns on, and yes it's not the bulb. I took the switch out and replaced it but apparently the outlet isn't hot anymore. Is this going to be a major fix?

The second problem involves a three way switch downstairs. Only one switch works properly right now. I tried to isolate the hot wire but only found that it's hot in one box, not the other. I'm thinking that might be a major problem.

Any advice would be greatly appreciated.

nealtw 02-17-2014 11:38 AM

Welcome to the site.
Squirals in the attic????

Wuzzat? 02-17-2014 12:35 PM


Originally Posted by brewer79 (Post 100461)
A Is this going to be a major fix?

B The second problem involves a three way switch downstairs.

A Less so if you know what all else is on the same breaker. You might also start looking for a tripped GFCI somewhere.

B Three way switches have Phantom Voltages
which will really confuse because the voltage you read depends on the type of meter you use.
I recommend a 120v, 100w or larger incand bulb in a socket with pigtail leads as a tester. Almost any hardware store carries this item.
If you put your multimeter across the bulb you have made a low impedance meter as mentioned in the link.

You'll need to figure out which of the three switch terminals in the switches are the wiper/common terminals and which are the switched terminals. Usually the wiper screw is a different color than the other two screws.
If you don't like troubleshooting of the very tedious kind, take a gamble and replace both switches. But, I recommend the troubleshooting! :D
BTW, test each switch before install with a multimeter.

Good problem, in any case.

bud16415 02-17-2014 01:21 PM

I don’t see why you would get more phantom voltages off a 3way than any other home wiring circuit. Don’t use a homemade light bulb tester if you don’t want to use a meter then buy a little two wire voltage tester with a light.

To the OP Google 3way switch circuit and you will find many illustrations on how they are wired. Its pretty straight forward once you see it. As to your outside light I don’t think it’s the wires in the house gone bad I would start by checking the connections in the light or look for voltage at the wires at the light. Based on what you have already done.

brewer79 02-17-2014 01:56 PM

Thanks for the help so far folks.

The three way switch, I had replaced the switches (both at the same time, and yes they were three way switch replacements). The one switch still didn't register any type of voltage. I'm using a pretty heavy duty multimeter that does a whole bunch of stuff. With the wires isolated on both sides and the circuit on, nothing registers hot on the one box. The other box registers though. I'll check it out again in the warmer weather and see what happens.

As far as the porch light, no critters in the house (at least I hope not). I think the socket might be corroded out because it's so old, but would that affect the reading at the switch?

nealtw 02-17-2014 02:13 PM

On the three ways did you replace wire for wire when you removed the old ones?
The outside light is more likely to have loose connection at the light box if the power goes to the light first. If it appears power should be coming to the switch first, a loose conection between there and the breaker panel.

brewer79 02-17-2014 02:16 PM

I don't believe power goes to the switch first, I know that the switch is on a circuit with a bunch of other outlets that don't have a problem.

I did replace wire for wire on the switches but it still doesn't seem to work. That's when I took the switches out, left all the wiring out of the box and tested it to see what registered hot.

nealtw 02-17-2014 02:34 PM

You will have to look in the light box for lose wires, if not there somewhere else that feed that, You could have a loose connection in an outlet box or light with a working outlet or light.

The three way should have a three wire, red black and white,and ground. You will have to figure out if the three wire goes from one switch to the other or to the light and then to the other switch.
Does the box with power have a two wire and a three wire? does the other box have a two wire and a three wire?

Wuzzat? 02-17-2014 07:49 PM


Originally Posted by bud16415 (Post 100476)
I don’t see why you would get more phantom voltages off a 3way than any other home wiring circuit.

'Cause depending on how it's wired, source=lnms&tbm=isch&sa=X&ei=AcgCU_mzOcLz0gGrxoCAD g&ved=0CAkQ_AUoAQ&biw=1050&bih=738#facrc=_&imgdii= _&imgrc=qpBNuo4x9RidAM%253A%3Bq7VkAGP9uwMWSM%3Bhtt 2Fwiringdiagrams%252Fswitches%252F3-way-switch-wiring-diagram.jpg%3Bhttp%253A%252F%252Fwww.ezdiyelectric
one traveler is energized and the other traveler within the same cable is not, as part of normal operation.

nealtw 02-17-2014 08:13 PM

I think it's fair to think he confused some wires. This site shows 9 correct wiring diagrams. Identifing witch wire goes where is the first step.

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