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Author Topic: 3-way wiring questions  (Read 7032 times)

Offline danb35

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3-way wiring questions
« on: March 30, 2011, 04:32:38 pm »
Like many people, it seems, I'm scratching my head a little bit regarding installing the GE 3-way switches.  I'm wanting to install a few of them in my new (newly-built) home, but what I'm seeing on the installed switches doesn't match the booklet that came with the new switches.

I'm starting in a hallway with one switch at each end.  Each switch has four screw terminals, two on each side.  The top two terminals are brass, the bottom left is green, and the bottom right is black.  Each switch has four wires connected--white to top left (brass terminal), red to top right (brass terminal), bare to bottom left (green terminal), and black to bottom right (black terminal).

With the lights off and the first switch in the down position, I measure the following voltages relative to the green terminal: On the first switch, white wire 120V, red wire 0V, black wire 120V. On the second switch, white wire 120V, red wire 0V, black wire 0V.

With the lights off and the first switch in the up position: first switch white wire 0V, red wire 120V, black wire 120V.  On the second switch, white wire 0V, red wire 120V, black wire 0V.

With the lights on and the first switch down: first switch white wire 120V, red wire 60V, black wire 120V.  On the second switch, white wire 120V, red wire 60V, black wire 120V.

With the lights on and the first switch up: first switch white wire 60V, red wire 120V, black wire 120V.  On the second switch, white wire 60V, red wire 120V, black wire 120V.

From what I've been able to find so far, the four-terminal switch is more typical of a 4-way installation than a 3-way--but there are only the two switches on this circuit.  If possible, I'm trying to avoid crawling into the attic to check the wires to the lights--and of course avoid setting fire to the house or electrocuting myself.  What should I check next?

Offline oTi@

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Re: 3-way wiring questions
« Reply #1 on: March 30, 2011, 04:55:47 pm »
It sounds like the "first switch" is where your power is coming in. The "second switch" is where the load is, or it is coming back to the first switch.

Are the black, white and red wires at the second switch all part of the same romex cable?

What's the distance between the switches?

-----
The four terminals are normal: 2 travelers, 1 common, 1 ground. Ground often gets left out of discussions and counts, because it is a given. The bare ground wire is always used for ground, should always be connected if able, and is not required to make a (typical) device operational, but provides safety.
« Last Edit: March 30, 2011, 05:13:30 pm by oTi@ »
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Offline shady

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Re: 3-way wiring questions
« Reply #2 on: March 30, 2011, 05:01:34 pm »
We should probably start asking which region of the US you are in as wiring styles do vary, but then again Sparky's can be know-it-alls and there are still more variances in the practices they learned and use.

I would start off by looking at the diagram of a standard 3-Way circuit (many posted here so far) and really understand what is occuring in that diagram.  The two brass screws are for you travellers (these are the wires travelling between both 3-Way switches and power for the light just alternates between each wire depending on the position off/on of the switches).  The Black screws on each switch are for your power-in on one switch and your light-out on the other switch.  The Screws with the bare wire are ground.  This is in a typical 3-Way set up and you should check yours against this to be sure it matches.  There are many options in 3-Way wiring that still acheive the same result, so some electricians will use "their" method whether it makes sense or not.  Understanding the way a standard 3-Way layout works will help you in understanding all of the variants.

It sounds like White and Red are your travellers (typically this is black and red and white isn't used).  You can see that when either of your travellers have power (red/white) and the light is on, that both black wires have power on each switch.  This is because the circuit is fully connected between power-in on one switch and light-out on the other switch, if you flick either of the switches at this point the light will go out because you have broken that connection, but flick the other switch at the end of the hall too the light will come on as the circuit is complete again but it is using the other traveller.  Get it?  I hope ;)

Usually, the power side switch is easily identifiable as the black power wire going to the black screw typically comes from a wirenut bundle of other black wires (powering other switches in the same box).  The light side switch typically just has a single black wire coming into the box on its own (with a white and ground wire in a Romex sheath) attached to the black screw on that switch.  The single wire should travel directly up to a single light (it may daisy-chain from there to a series of lights/cans in a hallway.  It might help to take pictures of each box's wiring, with switches pulled up out of the way so we can see the make-up wiring in the box.
« Last Edit: March 30, 2011, 05:04:07 pm by shady »
Vera3 1.5.346, Schlage (3)DB (2)Lever, Kwikset (1)Lever, RCS TZ43 Thermo, (2) Vizia RZI06-1LX 600W Dimmers, (17) Monster (Leviton) Dimmers (6) Monster (Leviton) IWC Scene Controllers (1) Etherrain-8, (3) HSM 100's (1)GE 3-Way set

Offline RastusB2

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Re: 3-way wiring questions
« Reply #3 on: March 30, 2011, 05:48:16 pm »
Shady;
below is what I have mailed to GE/Jasco;
And their answer was to replace my RED traveler wire :(

My RED traveler wire has a voltage of 25 volts when the light is on, -0- when the light is off.

The YELLOW wire from BOTH Primary and Secondary switch, show 67 volts at all times, light on or off.

       Primary switch works, Secondary switch does not.

YELLOW wire shows a constant 67 volts on the Primary switch when the paddle is pressed.

YELLOW wire shows a 67 volts on the Secondary switch, when the paddle is pressed.


I unhooked the RED wire from BOTH the Primary Switch and the Secondary Switch and also where it passes through the light mounting box.

Whenever the light is ON, the RED wire still shows a voltage of 25 volts in BOTH lengths of wire. Inductive voltage?

YELLOW wire shows a constant 67 volts on the Primary switch when the paddle is pressed.

YELLOW wire shows a 67 volts on the Secondary switch and drops to 23 volts, when the paddle is pressed.

BOTH SWITCHES still did not work, so I replaced Both Switches with a new working pair.

 
  I wired this new set with a 50' length of 18 gage, wire from the Primary switch's yellow traveler wire to the Secondary switches traveler wire.

This time BOTH SWITCHES worked. ( traveler wire still shows 67 v. when power is applied)

I am afraid to use the RED TRAVELER WIRE that is currently in the wall set up because I need to know if this is inductive voltage & is what is causing my issues.

I have this same wiring setup in two other WORKING setups, and I don't want to cook something if this wiring will eventually fail

GE/Jassco Duplex Outlets -16-, GE 3 Way Dimmer -6-, GE 2 Way Dimmers
-8-, GE Lamp Modules -6-. GE Appliance Module -8-, Leviton VRI06-1L  Vizia RF + 600W Incandescent Scene Capable Dimmer-VRI06-1LX, Schlage Dead Bolt, Schlage/Trane Thermostat, Schlage IP wired Camera -3,-Vera 3 UI5 v1.5.408

Offline shady

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Re: 3-way wiring questions
« Reply #4 on: March 31, 2011, 02:09:55 pm »
@RastusB2

Are you forced to use one of the travellers to jump power over the Primary/Master switch side?  If so it may be possible to use a hot wire from the same box that the Primary/Master switch is in, it may be on a different circuit and should use its neutral as well but this needs to be done with care to make sure the other circuit (if it is another circuit) can handle the load of the lights and is a lighting circuit.  You might try the same experiment using the external wire but use it for a power jumper instead of a communication jumper and see if you can get the swithces communicating over the travellers (without any 110V power running through any of them).  Thsi would tell you if it is even worth exploring getting your power from somewhere else.  Also it may be easier to add power to that switch box than to try to add another traveller that may pick up voltage through induction anyway.  If you had that wire disconnected at both ends and were still reading power to ground, then that must be induction (and must be the cause of the communication problems).  give that a try and see if you can get the house wire to work when you remove possibility of induction.
Vera3 1.5.346, Schlage (3)DB (2)Lever, Kwikset (1)Lever, RCS TZ43 Thermo, (2) Vizia RZI06-1LX 600W Dimmers, (17) Monster (Leviton) Dimmers (6) Monster (Leviton) IWC Scene Controllers (1) Etherrain-8, (3) HSM 100's (1)GE 3-Way set

Offline RastusB2

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Re: 3-way wiring questions
« Reply #5 on: March 31, 2011, 07:42:20 pm »
Shady, well I must have cooked this new set. I can press the paddle on the secondary switch and nothing happens, so in frustration, I clicked it on & off about 6 times and it came on - FULL. So I thought I'd click it off and it took another 7-8 clicks. At this time I noticed that the aluminium case was shocing me! and what was making the switch work was my touching the case. I decided to "HOT" wire the secondary switch from another duplex  outlet and still use the out of the wall traveler wire. No change, I had to use my touch to get the switch to work, well, sorta work. It took turns using the on posistion as an off posistion and vice versa - Still was shocking me.       Friday, I will try another power supply to see if something is wrong with my infeed wires. I have checked the light hook up -4- times & and you can see from the JPG how it is wired. Funny thing is, I tried both of my BAD secondary switches, and they are working just like the new secondary switch - so they may not be bad, just acts like a bad ground?
(PS) Shady, how did you use the Dell Axim as a remote to Z-Wave?)

4/1: UPDATE
I ran new power, neutral and grounds to feed both units by using power cords plugged into 2 differant outlets that were 20 feet away from this ceiling light. It made no differance, the new switches act the same. Meaning, the primary will power up the light and is controllable on dim settings and the secondary switch may or may not turn on the light and may or may not turn off the light. You have to press the paddle a bunch of times. Also, the secondary switch has a TOP, lable but its the top of the paddle, that shuts light off, if & when when it does work. I did notice that when it does shut off the light, I don't get the blue light. I only get the blue light if the primary switch shuts off the light.The only thing common to the original set up is the neutral wireing connected to the light and the in wall power feed from the primary switch,  to the light. I have eliminated the common, ground and hot wires and it still doesn't work. As soon as I can, I will eliminate the neutral wire by running another neutral wire. Then the only thing left is the hot wire to the light!!!
« Last Edit: April 01, 2011, 06:18:39 pm by RastusB2 »
GE/Jassco Duplex Outlets -16-, GE 3 Way Dimmer -6-, GE 2 Way Dimmers
-8-, GE Lamp Modules -6-. GE Appliance Module -8-, Leviton VRI06-1L  Vizia RF + 600W Incandescent Scene Capable Dimmer-VRI06-1LX, Schlage Dead Bolt, Schlage/Trane Thermostat, Schlage IP wired Camera -3,-Vera 3 UI5 v1.5.408

Offline oTi@

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Re: 3-way wiring questions
« Reply #6 on: April 01, 2011, 09:30:32 pm »
I have a bit of a hard time following exactly what you're doing, but in general I would say be careful with getting power from alternate sources.

Also, if the aux switch is shocking you, something simply isn't wired right.

Start with making the primary work by itself. If that controls the light just fine, you'll know you got all of that wiring sorted out ok. Then try hooking up your aux right there where your primary is, so without any existing wiring in between. If that works, you'll know that your aux switch is (still) good and you need to focus on the wiring between the primary and the aux.
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Offline RastusB2

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Re: 3-way wiring questions
« Reply #7 on: April 03, 2011, 01:29:25 pm »
Thanks for the heads up;
I have basically removed both the Primary and the Secondary switches, wired them by applying the correct wiring scheme (minus the walls) and attached a light. The Secondary switch still seems to be irradiacte on which is the on and which is the off posistion. You also can't control the dim levels and when it does turn off, the blue light on the Primary never comes on. The Primary has always worked correctly, even when it was in the wall location. I am at wits ends on this because this is the third set of dimmers. I did have one set working correctly abiet using a travler wire laying on the floor  :o) and Jasco recommended using the wire in the wall and it killed that set (they have agreed to replace my switches) and every since then, nothing works (same wiring as in the Jpeg)
So I thought I would remove all known issues, wiring, travlers, fixture, & noise.
I also have a PIR senor mounted in this location so I thought if I had another loction, setup, I could eliminate that possibility as well. Since I have two working locations, I am going to move there and ad hoc a setup using that circuit.
The thing I am having trouble getting a grasp on is; there is 67 volts coming from the Secondary's YELLOW wiire and there is also 67 volts coming from the Primary's YELLOW wire as well (units not connected to one another, just main power in) According to Jasco, "The Traveler wire is not meant to have power running on it at all unless it’s the signal coming from the secondary to the primary switch when in use. If there is current on the traveler, it will damage the unit. Unfortunately the only solution would be to rerun the traveler wire to ensure it has nothing on it."
ALL of my switches have had voltage on the YELLOW, striaght from the packages, no eceptions.
BUT, I have more switches coming and I'll try a 'clean' voltage circuit, where a known set is working ---

UPDATE: 4/9
I had contacted Jasco and they sent me new switches. These new style switches are not wired the same as the 'old' switches. The new ones do not have 110v applied to the secondary switch, just a traveler, common and a neutral. I had removed a working, old style set of switches and replaced them with a set of new ones and it worked. Then I removed this working new set and placed them in the location where I was having issues and they worked here as well.
So, I feel that if you are having issues with GE  -3- way dimmers, try the new style GE # 45613, Mod#ZW3003 & Mod#ZW2002 ( no wires from the back, just screw terminals) and you will have success!.
« Last Edit: April 09, 2011, 02:02:41 pm by RastusB2 »
GE/Jassco Duplex Outlets -16-, GE 3 Way Dimmer -6-, GE 2 Way Dimmers
-8-, GE Lamp Modules -6-. GE Appliance Module -8-, Leviton VRI06-1L  Vizia RF + 600W Incandescent Scene Capable Dimmer-VRI06-1LX, Schlage Dead Bolt, Schlage/Trane Thermostat, Schlage IP wired Camera -3,-Vera 3 UI5 v1.5.408

Offline danb35

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Re: 3-way wiring questions
« Reply #8 on: June 06, 2011, 03:19:29 pm »
Wow, I can see I let this one sit for a while--got busy with other things.  Thanks all for the suggestions, though I'm still scratching my head a bit.  To answer the geographical question, I'm in central South Carolina, and with some poking around with a DVM, I'm pretty sure these lights are wired like this:

http://www.homeimprovementweb.com/information/how-to/three-way-switch-option4.htm

...though there are a few things that drawing doesn't explain.  For example, with the switches removed, I see about 15 volts to ground on both the red and white wires.  The doorbell and smoke alarms are on the same circuit, which may or may not have anything to do with what I'm seeing.

If I'm understanding that drawing correctly, and the instructions for the switches correctly, I don't have a true neutral available in either of the switch boxes--and that would mean the switches won't work for me in this application.