GFCI Problem wiht Three-Way Switch WAS Two Switches Neutrals Only, Switched Hots Not Used


I replaced an old two-prong receptable with a three-prong GFCI (no ground) yesterday. It won't reset. I found out that "downstream" there is a light on the next level down that is controlled by two switches, one at the top of the stairs, one at the bottom. The original receptable is fine (resets, green) as long as that light is not turned on. As soon as it is turned on, the new GFCI receptacle trips.

Now for the weird part. I open the light and it has two cables coming in, each with a black, white and pink wire. I assume (not a great idea) these are one cable each from the two switches, and that based on the color they are hot(black), neutral(white) and switched hot (pink). I would have assumed the light fixture's bulb holders would be wired with the switched hots (combined together) as hot (to the bulb holders' black wires) and the white neutrals should be combined and attached to the white of the bulb holders, but they're not. Instead the neutrals (really I should say...

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I have a fairly specific question related to three-way switches. While I understand in principal how they work and how to wire them (I think anyway), my specific wiring is not generating the expected results. Here is the current wiring:

---------- Switch 1: Switch 2: --------- | Power |---B---Common Common------W---X---B---| Light | | source |---W Traveler----B---Traveler W---| | ---------- | Traveler----R---Traveler | --------- | | ----------------X------------------------ Legend: B = Black wire W = White wire R = Red wire X = Splice/wire nut

The expected result is that both switches can independently control the light. The observed result is that one switch overrides the other (the overriding switch must be on for the light to be on, and, if it is on, the other switch will cause the light to flicker when toggled, but will not actually turn it off).

Given the above, am I doing something wrong or could...

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Tester is spot on about the lack of a neutral conductor, all you have is a hot and switched, the outlet doesn't have the necessary wiring. You'll need to run another line with a neutral. If that line also contains another hot then you can break off the tab between the two hot screws and wire the bottom with the new hot/neutral. If that hot comes from a separate circuit (not recommended), be sure to label this outlet as having two circuits inside so someone doesn't accidentally electrocute themselves. The best option is to fish a 3 wire bundle (plus ground) from the fixture light that contains the hot, switched (red), and neutral.

If you continue to use the existing wiring, I'd also double check that it's really a ground wire in the back of the box (in black insulation). It's entirely possible that you have an electrified box, in other words an electrocution hazard.

In the current form, electricity goes in the hot screw, and if something is plugged in the receptacle...

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Colors mean nothing

In the United States, land of freedom, there are no strict color codes except green, green-yellow or bare can only be ground. Hots can be any other color. Neutrals can only be gray or white, but so can hots.

And since multi-wire cables come in very limited colors (black/white/bare or black/white/red/bare), even the above is not a sure thing.

In 3-way switch circuits (UK/EU people call this a 2-way), the white wire in a multiconductor cable often gets used as a hot or switched-hot. This is also true in older switch loops.

That said, when possible, people often like to use white for neutral, black for always-hot, and red for switched-hot, to the extent that's possible.

Anytime you see a white or gray wire which is not actually being used for neutral, try to put a few wraps of electrical tape around the wire, so as to mark it as not neutral. This type of marking is not allowed for neutrals or grounds (unless the wire size is...

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–Check local regulations for restrictions and permit requirements before beginning electrical work–

Three-way switches allow for controlling a light fixture from two separate locations, these are usually used at the top and bottom of a flight of stairs or at two different entrances to a room. On this page are several wiring diagrams that can be used to map 3 way lighting circuits depending on the location of the source with relation to the lights. Included is a diagram for a 3 way dimmer and an arrangement to control a receptacle from two locations. For more information about these circuits and troubleshooting tips check below.

Source at First Switch and Light at the End

In this diagram the electrical source is at the first switch and the light is located at the end of the circuit. Three-wire cable runs between the switches and 2-wire cable runs to the light. The black and red wires between SW1 and SW2 are connected to the traveler terminals. The hot source is...

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Someone enters the same room near the switch at the right of the graphic. He or she flips that switch. Now there is again a pathway for the electricity. This time it flows over the second of the two wires running between the switches.

When you encounter what was supposed to be a three-way circuit, and you can turn it "on" at one of the switches, but not at the other switch, unless the first switch is already "on," the problem is usually that one of the wires going into the switch is on a terminal for one of the two wires going out of the switch.

Not all three-way switches are the same, either. All of them have two screws on one side of the switch and one screw on the other side. But, the screws for the wires running between the switches may be on the same side of the switch, or they may be on opposite sides of the switch at the same end of the switch. You cannot make assumptions. It is not uncommon to find that one switch in a three-way circuit uses one arrangement,...

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You have two main options if you are in the US. (If you are in the U.K., let us know.) and two more possibilities, depending on the exact use cases.

1) use smart bulbs. That works very well for many people. The Hue white light bulbs typically cost $15 each. Once you decide to use smart bulbs, there are several options for what to use for switches with them. See the following topic:

2) use a micro relay that goes in the wall but put it someplace on the circuit where there is a neutral. There has to be one someplace. It's typically at the light fixture itself. This works very well for many people. The aeotech relays are on the official "works with smartthings" list. Lots of people use them.

3) use Lutron Caseta switches. Lutron has many lighting patents, they use different engineering than everyone else. And their switches can be used without a neutral wire to control dimmable dumb LEDs. The problem is they don't integrate directly with SmartThings. However, they...

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Customer: replied 5 years ago.

I have attached three pictures. One of the ceiling fan with lights behind. The other two are the switch boxes. I can take closer up pictures if needed.

Here goes for an explanation.

First, what I figure is the bad news. Whoever wired this made two splices with nothing but electrical tape. I assume this is because the ganged box was so tight they couldn't get the wire nuts in there, and if they couldn't I doubt I can. Maybe that's to code, but I would guess not. They did at least use lots of electrical tape.

Okay, box one is simple: One switch. Top left, white wire attached to brass screw. Top right: Red wire. Lower right: Black wire. No ground wire present.

Box two has three switches. I've labeled them A, B, and C, going left to right.

A: three-way to outside light

B: three-way to fan/lights

C: two-way to lights in next room (not the lights I'm trying to get off fan...

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A two way


is a switch which can help shift a load on or off from two different locations. For example: turning a light on or off from either end of a flight of stairs. This operation usually requires SPDT switches and there may be several basic methods and systems of


in order to achieve this.

To know more about two way switches, below are a few common questions answered by Experts.

The light on a two way switch at the bottom and top of a stairway turns on/off randomly and stops working. Is this normal operation of a two way light switch?

The problem being experienced here can be attributed to a loose connection. Usually with loose connections, the wire becomes too loose that it stops working completely. Sometimes, the two way light switches need to be operated at a certain orientation or manner for them to come on. When the switch is left in this orientation, the connection is intermittent due to wire temperature changes. To...

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In building wiring, multiway switching is the interconnection of two or more electrical switches to control an electrical load (often, but not always, lighting) from more than one location. For example, this allows lighting in a hallway, stairwell or large room to be controlled from multiple locations. While a "normal" light switch needs to be only a single pole, single throw (SPST) switch, multiway switching requires the use of switches that have one or more additional contacts and two or more wires must be run between the switches. When the load is controlled from only two points, single pole, double throw (SPDT) switches are used. Double pole, double throw (DPDT) switches allow control from three or more locations.

In alternative designs, low-voltage relay or electronic controls can be used to switch electrical loads, sometimes without the extra power wires.

Three-way and four-way switches[edit]

A double pole, double throw switch wired to act as a four-way...

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"neutral connection/impedance upstream, maybe even at the main panel?"

Downstream maybe, but not upstream so much (though newer GFCIs prevent incorrect installation).

A GFCI device measures the hot and neutral current downstream (LOAD terminals of the receptacle) and from the receptacle in the device (if it has one) for balance. Any difference greater than ~0.005 amps trips the GFCI.

Newer models of GFCI receptacles will not reset if the incoming power is incorrectly hooked to the LOAD terminals instead of the correct LINE terminals.

If the device has been replaced in the last few years it could be incorrectly wired.
If it WAS operating and now is not this is very unlikely.

Moisture (bathrooms and exterior) can cause GFCIs to fail.
They are not very ruggedly built (no coating on the electronics inside) so moisture leads to corrosion and failure.

In most cases simply replacing them is the easiest step to fixing the...

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Larger image

1 switch and 2 lights

Larger image
Review: Basic 120V and 240V wiring

120Volt circuit requires 2 wires to complete circuit
120Volt requires Hot and Neutral
When installing a switch, the Hot wire is cut, and switch installed.
Switches always turn the Hot wire on-off.

Neutral wires are never connected to switch
Only the hot wire is turned on-off. The neutral is always continuous between Load and breaker box

240Volt circuit also requires 2 wires to complete circuit
240Volt requires Hot1 and Hot2.
No Neutral wire is involved in 240Volt circuit
Read more
240Volt circuit can be turned on-off by cutting power to either Hot1 or Hot2
Double-pole Switches can turn both Hot wires on-off.

Electricity from pole to breaker box
How to replace circuit breaker
How to select wire size and breaker size
Maximum 12 boxes per 120volt circuit

3-way switches - ...
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Well I tried searching for a good messagboard on electrical help/handyman and came up with not much. Nothing that could help me here anyway, so I decided to post this here. I know very little about this stuff, but I think I can handle this.

Easy question:

I am trying to replace a regular up/down light switch in my bathroom(house built '66) with a light dimmer switch. I saw a tv show that showed how to do it and it looked soooooo easy, of course they were replacing a brand new switch with a brand new switch.

Problem: the old light switch, when pulled out, has a black wire coming from the back/top and a red wire coming from the back/bottom. That's it-2 wires.

The new one I want to replace it with has a black wire from the back/right side and a black wire from the back/left along with a green wire coming out to, the ground, this much I know.

There is also a double outlet right next to the switch. It has a red and white coming out of it, the red...

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Sing pole switch is a switch that you ordinary use for lights in your living room, it goes on and off.

while the 2way switch are the light switches in the stairs. you can switch on the light when your down and when you reach the top you can switch it off. or the other way arround. you can switch the light on or off. in sort a 2way switch can turn on or off a light bulb in 2different locations.
to do a setup for 2way switch is to have 2pcs of 2-way switch. connection is also labled at the back of the switch.

there is also a 3-way switch for 3-5 locations. for 3 location switches you need 2pcs 2-way switch an a 3way switch. the connection goes like this; power source = 2way switch = 3way switch = 2way switch = light bulb.

for 4 locations, it goes; power source = 2way switch = 3way switch = 3way switch = 2way switch = light bulb.

for 5 locations it goes power source = 2way switch = 3way switch = 3way switch = 3way switch = 2way switch = light...

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A three-way wall switch is a variation of the standard single-pole switch that makes it possible to control a ceiling light or other electrical fixture from two different locations in a room. In a hallway or large room, for example, installing three-way switches at both ends lets you turn the light fixture on or off from both locations.

An additional switch adaptation, four-way switches, are used in conjunction with three-way switches to control lighting from more than two locations.

This is not common in most homes, but you may see it in very large rooms, such as open-concept, kitchen/great room home layouts, where a central bank of lighting fixtures might be controlled from more than two entry points

Screw Terminals on Three-Way Switches

If you examine a three-way switch, you will notice several differences when compared to standard single-pole switches. First, the body of the switch will be thicker and bulkier than a single-pole switch. And the...

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