Dual switches not working correctly after light modification

Discussion in 'Electrical Forum discussion & Blog' started by WildBill, Jul 19, 2015.

  1. WildBill

    WildBill New Member

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    Jul 19, 2015
    Location:
    Houston, TX
    I wanted to relocate the ceiling light in my garage so I hung two new lights and then removed the original light and wired in the cable to the new lights in place of the old light.

    Well, the box where the old light was installed is a bit of a bird's nest. There were previously four cables entering/leaving the box. Now there are five, with my new cable replacing the old light.

    My problem is that the dual switches are not working correctly.

    When the rear switch is up, the front switch works fine: up to turn the lights on and down for off. When the front switch is up, the rear switch also works fine.

    But when the front switch is down and the lights are off, the rear switch has no effect. Similarly, when the rear switch is down, the front switch has no effect.

    Wondering what went wrong.

    Here's the rundown on the cables at the box. #1 is a 2-wire that goes out to a nearby outlet; very near in fact, it's the outlet that brings power to my garage door opener, it's only two feet away. Cable #2 is the new one that goes to my new lights, a 2-wire. Cable #3 is a 3-wire that goes to the front switch. Cables #4 and #5 go to the power supply and the rear switch. I think #4 must be power because it's white wire is connected to the red on #3.

    Regarding the connections, the black on #1 is connected to black on #3. The whites on #1, #2, #3 and #5 are all connected together. The red on #3 is connected to the white on #4. The black on #4 is connected to black on #2 and black on #5.

    Can anybody tell me what to change to make the switches work correctly?
     
  2. Reach4

    Reach4 Well-Known Member

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    See if you can relate your circuit to this: [​IMG]

    I suspect that the common screw on the two switches is interchanged with a traveler.
     
    Last edited: Jul 19, 2015
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  4. WildBill

    WildBill New Member

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    It may effectively be that that is the problem. However, the issue began with changes made at the light. I'd like to understand what went wrong and fix it at the light. I'll try to draw a diagram of the present wiring.
     
    Last edited: Jul 21, 2015
  5. WildBill

    WildBill New Member

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    Upon further review, I believe cable #1, coming through a nearby outlet, provides the source power for the lights I'm working on. I believe cable #4 goes to the rear switch and cable #5 goes to a set of lights at the rear of the garage, which are also controlled by the two switches, along with the lights in the front section of the garage. Haven't been able to sit down and draw a diagram yet.

    One thing that has me a little curious is that the rear switch has only a 2-wire cable, with black on the common terminal, white on a traveler terminal and ground on the other traveler. Up at the box in the ceiling the ground wires in cables #4 and #5 are not connected to anything.
     
  6. DonL

    DonL Jack of all trades Master of one

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    It sounds like you or someone used the wrong type of switch, and you have your wires crossed.

    Be careful playing with electricity without proper PPE.

    Good Luck.
     
  7. jadnashua

    jadnashua Retired Defense Industry Engineer xxx

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    Using a ground wire on a traveler is a blatant code violation!
     
  8. WildBill

    WildBill New Member

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    Okay, I've attached my crude drawing of the circuit as it is currently configured. I left out the ground wires, though I am not ignoring the comments regarding ground wires on traveler connections. Can anybody comment on why my switches are not working as intended?
     

    Attached Files:

  9. Reach4

    Reach4 Well-Known Member

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    Yes. You need a wire between the two empty terminals on the two switches.
     
  10. WildBill

    WildBill New Member

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    That's what I expected somebody would say. That's where the ground wires are connected, but the ground wires are not connected up at the box in the ceiling. They're broken off up there. I'm wondering how this was working right before I took off the original light fixture.

    I don't see any 14/4 NM-B wire at Lowe's or Home Depot.
     
  11. Reach4

    Reach4 Well-Known Member

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    I expect the switches stopped working properly once the green wires were broken off.
     
  12. WildBill

    WildBill New Member

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    But the switches were working a week ago before I took off the light fixture at the box and added new fixtures a few feet away. I don't think I broke any ground wires while removing the fixture.

    Anyway, I think I'll do a test by connecting a wire between the traveler connections through the garage.
     
  13. DonL

    DonL Jack of all trades Master of one

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    The Ground wire should be going to the Box/Fixture ground.

    I would hope you are killing power when you are wiring things. A breaker can protect the wire, but not you.

    The way it is now, It is not even safe to change a lightbulb.


    Good Luck. Never get shocked while on a ladder.
     
  14. JerryR

    JerryR Member

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    31qKPnylMzL.jpg
    Why 14-4?
    14-3 has 3 conductors (14/3WG NMB, Black/Red/White PLUS a ground) and is readily available from Lowes or HD.

    http://www.lowes.com/pd_70160-295-63946855___?productId=3129317&pl=1&Ntt=romex 14-3
     
    Last edited: Jul 23, 2015
  15. WildBill

    WildBill New Member

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    JerryR, I can replace the wire to the rear switch with a 14/3 and it would provide a connection to the currently unused traveler. But the wire to the front switch is already a 14/3 and all the wires are in use. If I want to replace that wire and provide a traveler connection I would need a cable with four wires.

    But instead of replacing anything I think I'll just get a 14/2 and run the black wire between the traveler connections on the two switches. Then there's no need to make a connection at the box, which is already pretty crowded. The hard part in either case is running the cable through the walls and the attic above. There's a lot of stuff up there I'll have to move in order to pull up floorboards and run cable.
     
  16. WorthFlorida

    WorthFlorida Broad-Wing Hawk

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    So let me get this right, before the move of the light both switches DID in fact was able to turn on/off the light. You do have three way switches? And by removing the ground wire (the bare wire in 14/2) from the traveler the three way function stopped working?

    I'm wondering what other magic wiring there is in your home. If you're not the original owner of the home I would get an electrician out and get this problem fixed so it is safe. A good one will usually see other problems. My son bought a home built in 1970's with aluminum wire. That part is safe and was inspected by an electrician, but someone added a copper wire running throughout the home for ceiling fans and smoke detectors and the workmanship shows that it was done who did not know what they were doing.

    If you screw up on plumbing you get a leak, if you mess up on electric you can get a fire.
     
  17. WildBill

    WildBill New Member

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    Before moving the light both switches worked correctly. I do have three-way switches.

    The switches stopped working correctly after I removed the original light and replaced it with a cable to two newly installed lights.

    In the process of doing that the ground wire being used as a traveler must have broken, though I had no indication that anything I did had caused a wire to break.
     
  18. jadnashua

    jadnashua Retired Defense Industry Engineer xxx

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    It could be something as simple as a poor connection. Any wirenuts in there? Especially if there are more than a pair of wires, it's easy to not have them all anchored properly...then, you have to use the proper sized nut in the first place.
     
  19. JerryR

    JerryR Member

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    It sound like some hack used the bare wire that was intended for a ground as a traveler wire. That was illegal and dangerous.
    WOW, Looks like someone originally repurposed the bare wire as a traveler instead of running 14/3 between the switches. That is Unsafe and illegal!!!!! That wire carries power.

    I think if you want to control the lights from more than one location you should consider something like a wireless solution below.
    SkylinkHome SK-8, Wireless 3-Way On/Off Kit
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Jul 28, 2015
  20. adrianyoung

    adrianyoung New Member

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    That is the thing that I expected someone would state. That is the place the ground wires are associated, however the ground wires are not associated up at the crate in the roof. I had problem with ground wires, their contact to garbage disposal system.
     
  21. hj

    hj Moderator & Master Plumber Staff Member

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    You should have just connected the new lights to the wires going to the old one WITHOUT doing anything to the other wires. Now, we are just guessing as to which wires are incorrectly connected.
     
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