3-way switches with dimmers for lighting?

Discussion in 'Electrical Forum discussion & Blog' started by Karl in NY, May 2, 2014.

  1. Karl in NY

    Karl in NY New Member

    Messages:
    14
    Location:
    Northern NY
    I want to control a light from two locations, thus two 3-way switches...

    I also want dimming capability, and wonder if both switches can be dimmers, or only one?

    If both, which dimmer "wins" for control, the one from which the light was turned on from, or the one with the lowest setting?
  2. DonL

    DonL Jack of all trades Master of one

    Messages:
    4,134
    Location:
    Houston, TX
    You can have dimmers on both if wired properly.

    Are we spoiled yet ?

    I would just get my ass up and change it, and be happy to have any lighting.


    My Bad.


    Good Luck.
    Last edited: May 2, 2014
  3. Karl in NY

    Karl in NY New Member

    Messages:
    14
    Location:
    Northern NY
    Thanks for the reply, but not the information I was seeking.

    Which dimmer takes control, if there are two controlling the same light?
  4. hj

    hj Moderator & Master Plumber Staff Member

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    Location:
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    They are "cumulative" because both will be in line with the lighting. Normally you only have a one dimmer so you know what the effect will be.
  5. Karl in NY

    Karl in NY New Member

    Messages:
    14
    Location:
    Northern NY
    Actually, this is for his/hers reading wall lamps above the bed in the master bedroom. I think I will put each light on a different circuit, each with its own dimmer rather than combining them, even though we both shut lights off at the same time after going to bed and reading...

    It's sounding like that two dimmers on 3-way switches will create a dimming "war" between the two devices...probably better to have each independent of the other...
  6. DonL

    DonL Jack of all trades Master of one

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    Location:
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    In that case I would turn the light off and enjoy your spouse.

    A candle works good for mood lighting.
  7. Karl in NY

    Karl in NY New Member

    Messages:
    14
    Location:
    Northern NY
    Ain't my "spouse"...she's long-gone...this one actually can read, before turning the lights off...
  8. jadnashua

    jadnashua Retired Defense Industry Engineer xxx

    Messages:
    22,009
    Location:
    New England
    I have a number of dimmers in my home, and each one in the 3-way (these support up to 8 switches) can dim and turn on/off). So, there are products out there. It only requires x/3 wire to be run between them, so wiring isn't a major issue. It uses the third wire to talk to the master switch, and the master is the only one that has an indication of the illumination level. Lutron Maestro series does what you want. There may be others, but I've had some of those in my kitchen for going on 14-years now that have been trouble-free. I have one set near the sink and another near the entrance to the kitchen. THey have a neat feature such that if you press and hold the switch for a couple of seconds, then release, it does 'theater lighting' and slowly dims the lights to off. If you hit any of those quickly twice, instead of turning the light on at the last level, it turns on at max level. You need at least one 'master' and as many slaves as you need to control the lights (as I said, you can have as many as 8, so might be good on a long hallway, or say at the door to multiple bedrooms to turn on the hallway lights). Much easier to wire than 3 or 4-way switches. Each one gets the hot and neutral, and the third wire goes to the control lead on each one in parallel. You can feed the lamp from the closest location, so that also makes things easier.

    Way back when, I got mine at HD, but I've not looked for them there. THey had them in a two-pack, one master and one slaver, then you could buy more slaves if you needed them separately. In my case, I have no more than two switches in the circuit, but I did want control at all locations.
  9. Karl in NY

    Karl in NY New Member

    Messages:
    14
    Location:
    Northern NY
    Good info. Thank you. I was unaware of that product.
  10. bluebinky

    bluebinky Member

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    Location:
    Santa Clara, CA
    FYI, most CFL and some LED bulbs have trouble dimming. Make sure the dimmers and bulbs are compatible.
  11. Karl in NY

    Karl in NY New Member

    Messages:
    14
    Location:
    Northern NY
    I have given-up on CFLs in general, now that there are semi-affordable dimmable LEDs...the dimming range on CFLs is awful, compared to LEDs and incandescents.

    I have seen Phillips dimmable 60-watt equivalent LEDs as cheap as $5.50 on sale. A relative out of state is supposed to buy me 20 at that price, but they limit quantity to 5 purchased at a time, so multiple trips, at least to the car and back...
  12. DonL

    DonL Jack of all trades Master of one

    Messages:
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    Location:
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    The Cree dimmable LED bulbs are made in the U.S.A.

    Time will tell how good they are.

    They all seem to run a bit warm if you run them wide open at 120 Volts.
  13. Vegas_sparky

    Vegas_sparky Eat kitty

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    Location:
    LV,NV/ Nowhere,UT
    Maestros are my favorite. The new Maestro dimmers will have a selector switch for Incandescent or CFL/LED use. The tiny selector is at the bottom face behind the trim cover of the switch itself. Because CFL/LED also dim differently depending on load, there is a programming sequence to teach the dimmer what the minimum level will be. Its all spelled out in the manual.
  14. Vegas_sparky

    Vegas_sparky Eat kitty

    Messages:
    255
    Location:
    LV,NV/ Nowhere,UT
    Also, Cree is offering cool and warm white LED lamps. The cool is blueish white and a bit offensive to me(I know, hard to believe). Ive only seen the cool on sale. Warm is best for general residential lighting.

    The commercial electric 5"/6" retrofit can lamp/ trim are the best I've seen. They're brighter than their 65W incandescent counterparts. 10.5W, excellent color, dimmable, rated for damp locations.
  15. jadnashua

    jadnashua Retired Defense Industry Engineer xxx

    Messages:
    22,009
    Location:
    New England
    The Maestro line of dimmers is much more robust than when I bought mine. Back then, they had essentially three types, incandescent, magnetic transformers, and electronic transformers for low-voltage stuff. Now, there are lots more with various capabilities. They have been reliable. Overall, I've had good luck with stuff from Lutron. And, I see that now they can support up to 10 switches on a single circuit verses the 8 back then. It's probably the quality of the electronic switch, or maybe they went with a relay with a lower voltage drop across it. Don't know, but they do work.
    Last edited: May 5, 2014
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