3-way switch wiring -- so many ways!?


http://www.homeimprovementweb.com/information/how-to/three-way-switch.htm
shows 8 (eight!!) different ways of wiring 3-way switches.
I am trying to figure out how the switches for our patio lights (two separate fixtures controlled by the same two switches) were wired. Each switch has two black wires and one red wire -- no white with black tape at either switch. There are neutrals (several, wire-nutted together) in each box, but they are not connected to anything else in the box. The only configurations shown at the above Web site with no black-taped white wires are Option 1 "Fixture Controlled by Two Switches: Power Through a Switch Box" and Option 5 "End-of-Run Lights Controlled by Two Three-Way Switches"; but I can't see what the difference is between those two configurations anyway.
Any other possibility for 3-way switch wiring without black-taped white?
Perce
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With the red wire, you don't need a taped wire.
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It would seem to me that option 1 and 5 are essentially the same thing. The only difference I see is that option 5 has two lights connected in parallel instead of 1 light. That is the most common way 3 ways are wired and most likely what you have. It's consistent with what you describe in your wiring.
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Twayne wrote:

Many of the configurations shown at that Web site do in fact use black, red and black-taped white.
Perce
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Percival P. Cassidy wrote: ...

And they ( the neutrals) _shouldn't_ be tied to the switches; only the hot leg is to be switched.
What the others said re: layout; w/ 3-wire cable there's no need to use the white as a hot; hence no tape.
The fundamental question is "WHY" and "WHAT" are you trying to do?
If you simply want a another light on the same switches, that could be done by adding it in parallel to one of the existing ones w/o needing to know the actual switch configuration.
If it's more involved, then you'll need to figure out which is the feed and which are the travelers--that'll mean cutting the power and "ringing out" the wiring or discovering by another means which is the actual feed which may be deduce-able by looking at the arrangement--where is it most logical to have power coming from w/ shortest cable runs from what else is on the circuit?
--
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dpb wrote:

Which John also asks. Are you just trying to understand how the circuit works? Want to add to it? Doesn't work? Did it once work? Have you disconnected wires? Do you have a meter or test light? Lightbulb(s) are OK?

At least you need to describe what wires leave the box in the same cable or pipe and what those wires connect to inside the boxes. Romex or pipe?
In addition to the 3-ways shown in the link (all variations on the same circuit) there is a "California 3-way", and old knob and tube might use a "Carter" 3-way.
--
bud--

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There is only one electrical or schematic topology for wiring a 3 way switch . Hot wire from service to common on Switch 1, travelers on switch 1 to travelers on switch 2, common on switch 2 to hot terminal on load, neutral on load to neutral connection in service. All of the other configuration are physical topologies meaning you can have wires running all over the place but they better be like the electrical topology. If you bring the service connection in at a switch, doesnt matter which, the hot wire should connect to the common terminal on that switch. If it connects in the middle the hot wire will connect to a wire that goes back to the common on a switch. Dont just look at the diagrams someone else drew, draw up what you have. Identify the wires going from switch to switch, switch to lamp, etc. figure out which is the hot and neutral coming from the service. Until you do this you are just guessing.
Jimmie
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*Let's try a different approach. What are you trying to accomplish? Are you having problems with the existing wiring?
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*It sound as though you have a two wire line in one switch box and a two wire load in the other box and a three wire between the two boxes. In this instance 120 volts comes into one switch box. The white neutral of the two wire is connected to the white of the three wire to carry the neutral over to the next switch box. The black 120 volt hot wire gets connected to the black terminal on the switch. The red and black of the three wire are the travelers and get connected to the other terminals on the switch.
At the other switch location there is a two wire that goes to the light. The white on the three wire gets connected to the white on the two going to the light to carry the neutral up to the light. The black of the two wire from the light gets connected to the black terminal on the three way switch. The red and black wires from the three wire cable are travelers and go on the other terminals on the switch.
If there are additional cables in the box with the 120 volt feed then that feed is also supplying juice to something else.
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John Grabowski wrote:

I am returning to a problem I posted here 4 1/2 years ago under the title "weird pilot light behavior." I couldn't find it again in Google except where it was reproduced at:
http://www.homegardenguides.com/garden-forum/home-repairs-forum/69787-weird-pilot-light-behavior.html
To summarize:
Both 3-way switches (one in the house, the other in the garage) operate the patio lights just fine, but I have been unable to understand the behavior of the integral pilot lights. NB: *pilot lights," which should be ON when the lights are on, OFF when the lights are off.
I had not realized until a few days ago that there are so many possible configurations of 3-way switching. I posted my message here thinking that my lights and switches might be wired in an uncommon configuration that would explain the behavior of the pilot lights.
The switches are Pass & Seymour/Legrand TM83PLICC with integral LED pilot lights. The circuit diagram shows one end of the LEDs connected to a silver-colored screw labeled NEU and the other end connected through resistors to each of the brass screws labeled 3W. There are also a black COM screw and a green screw with the standard Ground marking.
I substituted these switches for the original ones that had no pilot lights and added the connections from the silver-colored screws to the whites in each box.
The pilot light of the switch in the house is ON in one position of the switch, OFF in the other position of the switch, regardless of the position of the switch in the garage. The COMmon of this switch is where power is supplied to the circuit.
The pilot light of the switch in the garage glows dimly, irrespective of the position of either switch -- except when there is no bulb in any of the fittings.
The Pass & Seymour wiring diagram shows such a switch only at the point where power is supplied to the system but a note says that the switches can be used in both positions. HOWEVER, a message at
http://www.diychatroom.com/f18/wiring-diagram-three-way-switches-pilot-light-22868/index3 /
indicates that Leviton prescribes a different wiring arrangement when a pilot light is required at the load-common position -- AND this requires not only an additional conductor between the two switches but also access to both of the pilot light connections (which the Pass & Seymour switches do not provide).
Perce
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On 10/14/09 04:27 pm, I wrote:

http://www.homegardenguides.com/garden-forum/home-repairs-forum/69787-weird-pilot-light-behavior.html
http://www.diychatroom.com/f18/wiring-diagram-three-way-switches-pilot-light-22868/index3 /
Ooops! Make that "line-common"
-- AND this requires

Perce
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">

http://www.homegardenguides.com/garden-forum/home-repairs-forum/69787-weird-pilot-light-behavior.html
http://www.diychatroom.com/f18/wiring-diagram-three-way-switches-pilot-light-22868/index3 /
*The wiring is the same for any three-way set up: A line on one switch, the load on the other and two travelers between the two switches. In your case you have an additional neutral requirement due to the pilot light.
Don't compare the P&S to the Leviton switches. The wiring requirements for the pilot light are different.
You didn't mention if the one pilot light that works actually comes on when the load is on.
I'm not sure what the problem may be. Some thoughts do come to mind: The switches are not wired properly. One of the switches is defective. P&S goofed and later found out from the field and customers such as yourself that their product does not work as intended.
If you are sure that the switches are wired correctly I suggest giving P&S a call and see what they have to say on this issue. I looked on their web site and could not find any wiring diagrams.
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Percival P. Cassidy wrote:

http://www.homegardenguides.com/garden-forum/home-repairs-forum/69787-weird-pilot-light-behavior.html

The original is: <http://groups.google.com/group/alt.home.repair/browse_frm/thread/7ab08f84cb50b03b/d86b9b7a69028b1a?hl=en&q=%22TM83PLICC%22:alt.home.repair#d86b9b7a69028b1a

All the diagrams from your web link are wired the same (as John said). There are just variations in configuration depending on where the feed, switches and light(s) are relatively to each other.
There are a couple other ways to do it.

This is not the same description, at either the house or garage, as in your old thread.
Your old thread said the switches illuminated correctly with incandescent bulbs but work strangely with CFLs. The switch illumination depends on one of the "3W" terminals at each switch being pulled down to neutral potential when the patio lights are off. It is pulled down because the terminals connect only to an incandescent bulb which is a relatively low resistance to the neutral. That is not true with CFLs (and is why a number of devices, like timers, don't work with CFLs). I would guess capacitance between wires becomes a major effect in what is happening. Replacing one of the lamps with an incandescent should make the switches illuminate correctly. If you have a "dimming CFL" you could try that - I don't know how they are different.
--
bud--

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<http://groups.google.com/group/alt.home.repair/browse_frm/thread/7ab08f84cb50b03b/d86b9b7a69028b1a?hl=en&q=%22TM83PLICC%22:alt.home.repair#d86b9b7a69028b1a
*I had the CFL thought in the back of my mind, but did not look at the original post. That is most likely the problem. Another device dysfunctional as a result of CFL use.
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On Thu, 15 Oct 2009 16:43:51 -0400, "John Grabowski"

"traveler" is red, not taped white. That is generally the "right" way to do it. The white is never switched.
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Percival P. Cassidy wrote:

http://www.homegardenguides.com/garden-forum/home-repairs-forum/69787-weird-pilot-light-behavior.html

I disconnected all but the neutral and ground conductors from the switch in the house, then touched the hot conductor to the two traveler screws in turn. The LED illuminated in one case but not in the other. I popped the rocker part of the switch and found that one of the connectors from the LED unit was not making contact with its corresponding traveler terminal. Once I remedied this deficiency all was OK.
Perce
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White taped Black or no tape. I change the color on wires with tie- wraps
Didnt realize you were trying to wire switches with pilot lights. Same as a 3 way switch but they will not work unless you have bulb in the socket. Dont know what effect CFCs have on them. This is why I said look at it schematicaly. All you need to make it work is a couple of neon bulbs across the travelers. As long as the switches are in an off combination there will be current flow for the neon bulbs through the load. Since this current is only a few milliamps it will light the Neons and not the main lights. Dont expect the colors shown in the diagram to be used. Hopefully the wires coming from the service panel will have the right colors. I dont know much about the inner workings of CFC's but it is conceivable that only one Neon may light at a time. The off voltage of a incandescent lamp is less than 100 ohms which is a short circuit for a Neon bulb. If the CF Cs have high enough off resistance only one neon may light at a time, the one that fires first.. Neon are also photosensitive lamps, in the light they come on easier than lamps in the dark.
Jimmie
Jimmie
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