Advanced 4-way circuit question

I have 5 rows of lighting I need to control from 3 locations. 2 of the locations would be to just power on and off. The 3rd location would be for dimmer control. However, I need independent dimmer control for each of the 5 rows. I know by wiring a single 4-way circuit, I can control power on and off at all 3 locations, but this would power on and off all 5 rows at the same time. Since I only need power control at two of those locations, I was thinking of wiring it as follows: - source power to the first 3-way switch (power control point) - then continue the circuit to the 4-way switch (power control point) - then continue the circuir into a junction box to split out to 5 3-way dimmer switches
The intent would be for the 5 3-way dimmers to control each of the 5 rows independently. Can this be done without causing a problem ?
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On 11 Sep 2006 14:46:53 -0700, snipped-for-privacy@comcast.net wrote:

You're not being clear as to what you want to do...
You have five sets of lights (A - E), you want to be able to control power on/of independantly for each of A-E from either of points 1 or 2, and the brightness of each of A-E from point 3?
Either way, it sounds like a candidate for X-10 switching.
It's that, or run a minimum of 12 conductors, and use 10 DPST switches and 5 dimmers.
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I think that you can make this work. However instead of using a 3-way switch and a 4-way switch you would just use two 3-way switches. One 3-way will have the line fed into it. The other 3-way will have the load coming out of it and going to the switch box housing five single pole dimmers. This way you will be able to turn all five rows of lights off and on using either 3-way switch and when the power is on you can dim or turn off each individual row using its respective dimmer.
John Grabowski http://www.mrelectrician.tv
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Interesting concept, but the problem is the final set of three way switches would have to have their traveler wires in parallel. Any one switch that was switched to turn on a bank of lights would also feedback through the system and cause others banks of lights to energize or disconnect

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Yes, you're right. It wasn't evident when I initially looked at it on paper with 2 of the 5 needed switches. Once you add the 3rd, a loop is created such that no matter what the position of those 3-way dimmers, the lights would never go out.
So, redesigning my original idea, instead of wiring the junction box between the 4-way switch and the 5 3-way switches, I think I'll place the junction box after the 2nd 3-way switch and replace the 5 3-way dimmers with plain dimmers (1 for each light bank).
So, the resulting circuit would be : source - 3way - 4way - 3way - junction - 5 plain dimmers - 5 light banks
Essentially the junction box would be spliting the common with all the neutrals tied together.
Thanks for the input.
RBM (remove this) wrote:

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What you're saying is pretty much how John Grabowski has described it, although I don't see any problem in keeping the 4 way switch

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Yup, that's the way to do it. Think of the 5 plain dimmers and 5 light banks as a single "device" fed with a _single_ switched hot and ordinary neutral. The switched hot and ordinary neutral are supplied by the inline string of 3-4-3 way switches.
Aka "divide and conquer" ;-)
--
Chris Lewis, Una confibula non set est
It\'s not just anyone who gets a Starship Cruiser class named after them.
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I don't think so. I think you were right in the first place.
Explain this loop to me that you refer to above.
I consider the possibility before I read the second post, and I don't think there is one.
I don't know where your first, second, and bank of five switches are to be, but if you do it without the 4-way, and without the 5 3-way, you'll have to go back to one of the first two switches to turn things on when the master power is off because of one of them. That is exactly what you were trying to avoid.
If you have a 3-way, a 4-way, and in parallel five 3-way dimmers, you'll have everything you want. Explain to me, in detail, why the lights would never go out. I think they will go out fine.
I presume you are not using fluorscents, unless you have special ones that can dim.
Posted and mailed, but please reply by post in the thread, or both ways. Not just to me.

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Think: in a 3-4-3 switch circuit, the light "toggles" on/off on any one of the switches being thrown.
If that second 3 way switch is paralleled 5 ways, consider this:
1) Have all the 5 paralleled switches flipped the same way. 2) Arrange the other two switches so that all 5 lights go on. 3) Flip one of the paralleled switches. Its light goes off. 4) Now switch one of the unparalleled switches:
    1) The lights that are on, go off     2) The lights that are off, go on.
In other words, unless ALL of the 5 paralleled switches are the same way, you can't turn them all off from the two unparalleled switches.
You need another threeway to make this work.
--
Chris Lewis, Una confibula non set est
It\'s not just anyone who gets a Starship Cruiser class named after them.
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Leviton mfg. makes a series of line carrier controls, some with dimming capabilities. These could independently control your banks of lighting through a single pair of wires, including dimming and from multiple locations

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Don't forget Lutron and Lightolier Controls. Both companies make "multi-location" dimming systems, and many smarter, memory based systems.
RickR
RBM (remove this) wrote:

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On 11 Sep 2006 14:46:53 -0700, snipped-for-privacy@comcast.net wrote:

Wire each row with a master X10 or Insteon dimmer switch.
The individual switch locations can be dimmer control or ON/OFF toggle functions. The Insteon, which is newer technology, give you the ability to have a remote status indicator of the dim level at each switch control. No special wiring is necessary (see below).
Try to put all devices on one hot leg of your incoming 240 V. service (I am boldly assuming you are in the North American power system...If not, please disregard.... Sorry)
Not doing so can cause control failure problems. There are products that bridge the hot legs to transfer carrier current control signals, but it is nicer not to be forced to use them.
http://www.smarthome.com/
is a source of products. They are not particularly inexpensive.
Beachcomber
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snipped-for-privacy@comcast.net wrote:

As a practical matter you need to install a set of dimmer controls rather than installing multi point switching. If you use three and four way switches: two way and intermediate across the pond: you will have an off switch built into each of the dimmers that you cannot control from the other two switching points. Installing a five circuit dimmer panel with two remote control points is far more practical. With the separate dimmer switches once they are turned down below the firing point of the lights they control or to the off position you would have to return to the dimmer to turn the lights back on. I suspect you will find that very irritating.
--
Tom Horne

"This alternating current stuff is just a fad. It is much too dangerous
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One way of looking at this is think of this setup is to consider it to be two distinct sections. The first is two 3-way switches providing two switch control of a "device", and the second section is a "device" that happens to consist of 5 dimmers and their lights.
Feed the power thru the 3-ways terminating in the 5 pack of dimmers, the dimmers split off the hot of the tail end of the 3-ways, and then feeds neutral and hots to the fixtures.
Of course, once you've thrown one of the three ways to power off the lighting, you can't turn the lights back on from the dimmers.
This is what John G described and is probably the best way to go.
If the second 3 way was a 4 way, and the dimmers all had three way switches, _then_ you could switch them all on/off at each location, _but_, once you switched one of the three way dimmers _opposite_ to the others, the regular switches would alternate which set of lights were on, and you couldn't get them all off (or on) without changing switches at the dimmers.
_That_ would drive you crazy in short order.
And finally, the most sophisticated/reasonably useful set up would be to set up a string of 3-4-3 pole switches in the normal "three position switching" pattern, where the final 3-way switch is adjacent to the 5 (ordinary) dimmers. Making a total of 6 devices required at the dimmer location. One master 3-way that operates with the other 3 and 4 way switch to three-point switch the "device", which again is the 5 dimmer/light fixture segment.
--
Chris Lewis, Una confibula non set est
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