Adding new 3-Way switches and new fixture

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Lancer525

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Standard Disclaimer: I am by no means an electrician, and I only know enough about it to know that if I flip the switch and the light doesn't come on to call an electrician!

Okay, I've seen the excellent "Sparky Channel" YouTube video, HERE on 3-way switches and circuits, so I have a good idea of how to wire the switches up. I've also watched the great video on LED flat lights from HomeRenoVisionDIY, HERE and I already have the lights to install. My questions aren't about installing or wiring, specifically, but more about technical details.

Currently, there is only a standard duplex plug in the wall of the hallway where I want to install the new LED flat lights. I know that wiring up a 3-way switch takes running a traveler between the two switches, and those wires are white, red, and gray. The video from Sparky Channel explains how to wire up these switches, so I think I have that part okay.

The first question I have is, do I have to use 12/3 wire? These are LED lights, and don't use as much electricity as incandescents, so could I not use 14/3 wire for this? I have absolutely no idea what the "code" says, because I can't make heads or tails of it. The online copy I read is the worst-written document I have ever seen. Maddeningly imprecise, vague, and utterly non-specific where I need it to be specific. I have to have something to tell me to use this specific wire, with this specific box to meet code, and the one I've seen does not do that. Or I don't understand the jargon they're using. So, could I use 14/3 wire, and what specific kind would I get? The local big-box has something called Solid Romex SIM-pull CUNM-B W/G 14/3 that according to the picture has the right colored wires inside the jacket. I'd think this would be the right one to get.

My second question involves the specific methodology of connections. I am going to be adding a wire to the switch off of the existing duplex plug. I do not know what the wires are inside that box, so I can't tell anyone what the existing conditions there are. I think that I can add wire to that existing plug, to go up to the first switch, right? Here's my specific question. I already have some 12/2 (black and white with ground) wire, so I'd need to know what wires to attach to the existing plug and where, to run up to the first new switch that will be installed above it. I already know I'll have to run the new traveler from the first existing switch to the second existing switch.

The third question is, I only am installing two lights. I don't know for sure what to do with the wire at the second light. Do the wires just end there, and not go any further?

When I get home from work I can draw a diagram showing where I'd like to put everything, but I have no idea what wires to connect to where to make it work.

Anyone feel up to trying to help me figure out that hot mess I've just tried to describe? :oops:
 

Lancer525

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Here is the basic I use; 3-way Switch Wiring - Electrical 101

12/2 from the recep to the switch, and 14/2 from the 2nd switch, to the fixture.
Okay, that makes sense, and I can do that.

Depending on what it looks like inside the box at the outlet, I should be able to hook the new 12/2 to the other set of screws and it still be a hot leg to the switch, right?
 

Snoonyb

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You can do that, however, a more serviceable wiring practice is to wire nut the respective conductor together, with respective pigtails connected to the recep. This method ensures that were the recep. to fail, that all downstream circuits/devices remain hot/live, while replacing the failed component.
 

JoeD

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If the circuit is 20 amp then you can NOT use #14 wire.
 

Lancer525

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You can do that, however, a more serviceable wiring practice is to wire nut the respective conductor together, with respective pigtails connected to the recep. This method ensures that were the recep. to fail, that all downstream circuits/devices remain hot/live, while replacing the failed component.
Okay, I hate to say this, but that whole thing means absolutely nothing to me. It may as well have been written in a foreign language. I do not know what "recep" is, I've only heard the term "pigtail" as it applies to pork products or little girls' hair, and there is absolutely no explanation of which wire is which "respective conductor". You're going to have to explain it to me by saying it as simplistically as "the white wire from the plug goes to the blue wire from the light and the purple wire from the light goes to the orange wire in the wall." or something equivalent. I am, as I have stated, not an electrician, and I do not know the jargon. I certainly don't know the abbreviations of the jargon either.
 

bud16415

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I have been following this thread and will try and help a little. First off knowing nothing is not a bad starting point, but you must be committed to a level of understanding as electricity is nothing to be taken lightly and point by point directions may get you thru this project but it will be a very slow process without some general knowledge to start with.



First it sounds like you want to feed this new 3way lighting starting at an existing outlet on the wall. What is in the outlet is a receptacle or recep for short.



Before you start working you need to kill power to that receptacle and to do that you plug something into it like a lamp and then go to the main panel and flip breakers off until the light goes off. This works best with a helper watching the light and yelling to you. Once the power is off that breaker is marked with its rating 15a / 20a That tells you what you have feeding it and the size wire needed throughout that circuit.



Once you have killed the power it is safe to remove the outlet and take a look at the wires this will also tell you the gage or size of the wires as once you learn a little you can see the difference in sizes visually.



One method is as you described using the extra set of screws and this is probably not the best way to do it as mentioned by the pigtail example.



A pigtail is a short wire kind of like a jumper wire that is used to take one wire and make it into more than one wire by using wire nuts.



If your outlet is simple and just has a feed coming in and no other wires running out yet you take the wires off the outlet screws and join them with the new feed for your 3way and also a pigtail with a wire nut and then the other end of the pigtail goes to the screw on the outlet. Now you have just single wires going to the outlet and power leaving the j-box short for junction box and going to the 3way light circuit. The wire nuts and wires are pushed to the back of the box and the outlet screwed back down.



In the future if that outlet fails all you need to do is take the two wires off not 4 and change the outlet. Also the 3way light will still work with the failed outlet.



What ever size wire is to the outlet needs to continue for all the rest of the 3way light circuit.

I won’t explain the 3way wiring as you say you know what to do there.
 

Lancer525

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I have been following this thread and will try and help a little. First off knowing nothing is not a bad starting point, but you must be committed to a level of understanding as electricity is nothing to be taken lightly and point by point directions may get you thru this project but it will be a very slow process without some general knowledge to start with.

I won’t explain the 3way wiring as you say you know what to do there.
Wow, a response I can understand! Take my upvote, please!

I get the part about cutting everything off, and it never occurred to me that the breaker would list the amperage (duh, oversight on my part). Knowing that I'm not an electrician makes me extremely cautious about fooling around with it, so that's a given. Thanks for the reminder, though. Oh, and I'm using Wagos, not wire nuts. Seems safer and more secure that way.

I still don't follow the reasoning behind using a pigtail, as it just seems to me to be easier and less complex by not adding in one more thing. If the outlet fails, I'm going to have to take all that off anyway to get it out and replace it, so why bother adding in one more piece? If I can just attach the 12/2 to the existing empty screws on the outlet, that's the simplest thing to do. So if I come off that outlet that way, the 12/2 going to the first switch should be hot (when the power is on) all the time, going to the switch, if I follow it correctly. So far, so good.

Using the 14/3 (or 12/3 if I have to) I'll go from the first new switch to the second new switch. I can then use either 14/2 or 12/2 to go to the lights.

When I get to the second light, the wire doesn't have to go any further (or back to any switches) so it can just stop at the light, right?

I think I have this. I'll either be letting everyone know that it worked perfectly when I did it, or my spouse will be posting to let everyone know that I'm in the hospital recovering from the electric shock because I screwed something up. (just kidding, I'll kill all the power at the breaker box by shutting of the main switch!)

When I started with the idea of this, I had no clue what to do, but I honestly think I have it now!

I'll be posting in a few days or so to let everyone know. Thanks!
 

bud16415

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The idea behind the pigtail and I have done both methods is that it doesn’t require the power to the light to go thru the jumper on the outlet. Using the switch in some ways is simpler but it limits you to only coming off once and sometimes you branch a circuit more than once. The other problem is it is much easier to shove 3 wired B,W,G back into the box than it is to shove 6 wires back in.



The main reason I like doing the pigtail is it is IMO a better connection and down the road when someone opens up the box likely me after I forgot what I did. I don’t have to try and figure out what wires are power and what ones are load. It is simple to change the outlet as well.

It is like lots of things where there are many methods of doing something, when you are getting started someone tells you this is the right method of doing it and so you do it that way.
 

Lancer525

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The idea behind the pigtail and I have done both methods is that it doesn’t require the power to the light to go thru the jumper on the outlet. Using the switch in some ways is simpler but it limits you to only coming off once and sometimes you branch a circuit more than once. The other problem is it is much easier to shove 3 wired B,W,G back into the box than it is to shove 6 wires back in.

The main reason I like doing the pigtail is it is IMO a better connection and down the road when someone opens up the box likely me after I forgot what I did. I don’t have to try and figure out what wires are power and what ones are load. It is simple to change the outlet as well.

It is like lots of things where there are many methods of doing something, when you are getting started someone tells you this is the right method of doing it and so you do it that way.
Fair enough. I'll have to get into the box to see what it looks like in there, but it won't be today. Thanks again for sharing your knowledge!
 

Guzzle

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#14 wire is about 1/16" in diameter. I made up a bunch of wire loops with #12 on up to #28.
 

Lancer525

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I hope everyone had a pleasant and peaceful Thanksgiving!

This guy's got a great sense of humour, and I followed the example perfectly.

The only issue I have with the entire concept is, that it's just adding in a bit of wire that is unnecessary. There are only three wires coming into the box where the plug is. A black, a white, and a copper ground. All are connected to the plug. There are open screws on the plug, so I should be able to just add wires to those, to go to the switch I am going to be installing above it. Then, following the wiring on the Sparky YT video, I should be able to install both three-way switches and both lights, without adding in any unnecessary wires.

I'm going to attempt it tomorrow. Wish me luck!
 

Guzzle

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There are many ways it won't work and only one where it does.
If it doesn't work, label each switch lever up or down & record the light being on or off, four combinations.

Each switch wiper goes to the lamps, or to neutral or to hot.
More combinations.

With this wiring, luck or faith hardly ever work. :(
 

Lancer525

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Ran into some other homeowner problems, and had to put this one aside for a bit. Kitchen sink stopped up and had to do a little plumbing in the interim! I promise, I'll get to this electrical soon... Hope everyone isn't disappointed!
 

Guzzle

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For me, doing sink unclogging or 3 way wiring is a toss-up.
But, at least once the wiring is right it doesn't later become "upright".

Kitchen sink clogs with grease, bathroom sink with hair. :(
 

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