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#354033 - 09/03/11 09:02 PM Fun with ELECTRICITY!
Ken.C Offline
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Registered: 05/03/03
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So we just bought a house. It's a former foreclosure that got flipped to us, so there's a few weird things here and there. One of those is that the pair of switches in the kitchen meant to control the same light control each other. In other words, there's a switch on each side of the room, corresponding to the ceiling fan/light assembly.

When you turn on the one near the living room, nothing happens. OK, turn on the one near the dining room. If the first switch is on, the lights/fan come on. If the first switch is off, nothing.

So I figured out that the first switch is actually wired in series with the second. Does anyone know how hard it would be to restore these switches to proper operation? I'd rather not pay an electrician for something this minor, although we may well have one come out to install exterior outlets and one in the utility room with the FiOS boxes.

There's also a switch in the hallway that's upside down, but I'm pretty sure I can handle that one myself. wink
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#354036 - 09/03/11 10:55 PM Re: Fun with ELECTRICITY! [Re: Ken.C]
St_PatGuy Offline
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Registered: 03/07/05
Posts: 7463
Loc: Glendale, Arizona
Make sure you stand on your head while you fix the hallway switch.
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#354041 - 09/03/11 11:42 PM Re: Fun with ELECTRICITY! [Re: Ken.C]
CV Offline
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I'm of no use to you with regard to your question, but congratulations on the house! How long before you get your system situated and pics posted?

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#354052 - 09/04/11 11:37 AM Re: Fun with ELECTRICITY! [Re: CV]
bridgman Online   content
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Registered: 08/25/04
Posts: 6148
Loc: Bowmanville, Ontario, Canada
Sounds like three way switches, which IIRC are supposed to have two wires running between them, where one of those two wires isn't connected.

The basic idea is that if switch A is in one position then power flows down one wire, and if switch B is in the same position (connected to that wire) then things light up (or burn, or whatever) and if both switches are in the other position then power flows down the other wire. If the switches are in different positions then power is going down one wire but the other switch isn't connected to that wire. You get the idea.

Get a good electrician or at least feed drinks to one and ask them all the important safety questions, of course.
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#354053 - 09/04/11 11:40 AM Re: Fun with ELECTRICITY! [Re: bridgman]
bridgman Online   content
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Registered: 08/25/04
Posts: 6148
Loc: Bowmanville, Ontario, Canada
Of course it's possible that they aren't three way switches and that's why it never worked properly laugh
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#354057 - 09/04/11 11:55 AM Re: Fun with ELECTRICITY! [Re: bridgman]
Adrian Offline
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Registered: 12/27/08
Posts: 6897
Loc: It's all about the location.
Congrats on the house, Ken....fwiw, I had a three-way switch in my last house wired wrong in the stair/hallway. Each switch worked but they wouldn't cancel each other out depending whether you were upstairs or downstairs...you'd have to go back to the same switch to turn it on or off. I bought myself one of those home electrical books with some diagrams of how to wire three-way switches. The electrician wasn't even in the ballbark when I checked both switches....I rewired according to the book after turning the power off, eazy peazy.
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#354062 - 09/04/11 03:05 PM Re: Fun with ELECTRICITY! [Re: Adrian]
Joe_in_SC Offline
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Registered: 02/16/04
Posts: 309
Loc: Charleston, SC
It's not very hard to do the wiring as long as you have:
3-way switches (they have 3 screw terminals vs. 2 on a regular switch).
A 3-conductor cable between the switches (3 insulated wires plus a ground for 4 wires total)
There also needs to be wiring from each switch to the light fixture, which it sounds like is already there.

Do a search for 3-way switch wiring and you'll find plenty of wiring diagrams. Make sure the power is off at the circuit breaker before you mess with anything. Use an electrical tester or VOM in both boxes just to be sure. If the switches aren't working right, they could be fed from different circuits.

If this doesn't make sense or intimidates you, get an electrician. You don't want to risk starting a fire or electrocuting yourself for the sake of a couple of hundred bucks.
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#354063 - 09/04/11 03:57 PM Re: Fun with ELECTRICITY! [Re: Joe_in_SC]
Ken.C Offline
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Registered: 05/03/03
Posts: 18044
Loc: NoVA
Yeah, so that 3rd step is the bit I don't have. I took the plates off after turning off the breaker, and one has a red wire, but the other doesn't.

The hallway switches are a different matter--those are both 3 way switches, with red wires, but the two lights are independently controlled by the switches. Wahoo.

Looking in our furnace/water heater/panel/fios room, I see that the fios dude has hooked the power into the light socket. Delightfully primitive. So we may have an electrician in our future in any case.
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#354066 - 09/04/11 04:42 PM Re: Fun with ELECTRICITY! [Re: Ken.C]
Joe_in_SC Offline
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Registered: 02/16/04
Posts: 309
Loc: Charleston, SC
It sounds like they ran the 3rd wire (traveler) from the switch to the light fixture instead of running it switch to switch. You should definitely have it looked at by someone with electrical knowledge. If they made a mistake like this, there's no telling what it would take to straighten it out. Fishing the right wires between the switches and light can be a pain.
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I started out with nothing & I've still got most of it left
M60 VP160 QS8 EP350
M22 VP100
Algonquins

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#354067 - 09/04/11 04:45 PM Re: Fun with ELECTRICITY! [Re: Ken.C]
Joe_in_SC Offline
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Registered: 02/16/04
Posts: 309
Loc: Charleston, SC
Originally Posted By: Ken.C
There's also a switch in the hallway that's upside down, but I'm pretty sure I can handle that one myself. wink


Rule of thumb: If the switch says 'NO', it's upside down. wink
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I started out with nothing & I've still got most of it left
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M22 VP100
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