Installing dimmer switch in old house

Page 1 of 2  
I want to install a dimmer switch to control the lighting in my dining room. My house was built in 1925. There are two light switches connected to one workbox. One light switch controlls the light in my dining room. The second lightswitch currently does not contol anything. At one time it probably contolled the light in the kitchen but the kitchen was remodeled 50 years ago and the lights in there are gone.
When I removed the faceplate to the workbox I found two wires inside. They are not color coded. One wire connected to the top of lightwitch number one ( controllng my dining room light). The second wire looped around a copper screw at the bottom of lightswitch number one and then continued on to lightswitch number 2 where it terminated.
How would I then install a dimmer to control the lighting in my dining room? I believe the top wire is hot. The bottom wire to lightswitch number two...is that a grounding wire...treated as a green wire? Or is that the second hot wire...treated as a black wire?
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload

The second wire is hot. It once fed both switches, and should have been cut shorter and disconnected when the 2nd switch was abandoned. The wire connected to the top of the switch goes to the light.
JK
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload

May I suggest that you do a little research and find some diagrams on how a switched is wired. This will help you understand what you have.
A switch, when wired correctly, will open/close the hot lead to a fixture. That means that one wire in your box (probably the bottom wire) is always hot and the other is hot only when the switch is closed. Technically, they are both considered hot wires.
Based on your description, it sounds like switch number 2 - assuming there is only one wire attached to it - can be removed (after shutting off the breaker of course).
Switch number 1 can be replaced with a dimmer by attaching the two leads from the dimmer to the 2 existing wires with wire nuts.
Of course, this all assumes that the existing installation is correct - it's possible that the existing installation is wrong and that the neutral wire is being switched. That would take a bit of investigation to determine, and should be corrected before installing the dimmer.
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload

Ouch. If you can't tell which is hot and which is neutral and from your wording about green, you are definitely not qualified to learn/do this task safely for you or for your house.
In a house that old there may not be ANY semblence of order to the color or use of the wiring and even if the colors can be determined, they aren't necessarily connected right back at the fuse/breaker box.
At LEAST get a basic electricity understanding and a cheap voltmeter/ohmmeter before tackling this job and definitely have someone knowledgable check out your plans.
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload

re: you are definitely not qualified to learn
Wow! You were able to make this assessment of the OP's ability to learn from just one post.
You have an amazing talent that you should market to corporate head hunters, educational institutions, major league sport teams and countless other organizations. .
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload

Real men leave the breaker on
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload

re: Real men leave the breaker on
I was a real man once...and have the scars to show it.
Ran 400 VDC in one hand and out the other, all the while holding a 30 lb power supply at arm's length while I twitched around shouting "Turn it off! Turn it off!"
A classmate (USCG training class) pulled the plug and saved my life. Me and my bloody hands came back the next day but 2 other guys quit.
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload
On Thu, 17 Jan 2008 11:24:59 -0800 (PST), DerbyDad03
[snip]

Try doing electrical work with one hand in your pocket.
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload

When I do, my lips get shocked.
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload

lol, that's a good sea story! Lucky thing it was DC, eh? Wasn't that the worst taste you ever had in your mouth? Bet you never did that again either, did you?
Cheers,
Twayne
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload
On Thu, 17 Jan 2008 10:59:10 -0800 (PST), Kbalz
[snip]

And if you're careful what else you touch, touching the hot wire will have no noticeable effect.
--
Mark Lloyd
http://notstupid.laughingsquid.com
  Click to see the full signature.
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload

Lazy, I mean, experienced, electricians do it all the time. I never had the guts to though.
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload

Yup. You see, I have this little knack for ... wait for it ... being able to READ! And I suspect from your tortured response that you are another one but where the OP was likely putting himself in danger, you are also a danger to those around you. You're definitely not the right tool for the job; you're just a tool, period. How's that for a talent? Unlike you, I explained why I said what I said, and offered further assistance in what in my opinion would be his best course of action to approach that job. The OP may accept or reject my post as he wishes. No hard feelings, I simply spoke what I believed. You on the other hand seem to have contributed nothing but an attempt to piss on a table top. Like the tool you seem to be.
Twayne
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload

Gosh...Don't you hate it when you need to make the choice between responding to such inane babble and just leaving it alone since responding to it justifies it? I guess I'll give it one quick shot, then sit back and wait for more babble (or, in a perfect world, a humble apology) to appear in response.
Let's recap what you posted:
"...you are definitely not qualified to learn/do this task..."
Nothing...absolutely nothing...in the OP's wording could possibly give anyone reading it a sense of the OP's ability to *learn*. I'll agree that at this point in time he may not be able to *do* it (safely, correctly, whatever) but based on one question, no one, not even one as astute as you, could possibly assess his ability to *learn*.
It also appears that although you claimed to "have this little knack for ... wait for it ... being able to READ", you either didn't read, or chose to ignore, my direct response to the OP where I:
1 - Offered a course of action, just like you did. 2 - Provided a brief explanation of how a switch should be wired. 3 - Ended with the caveat that in an older house (or any house for that matter) proper wiring procedures may not have been followed along with the suggestion that the OP determines how the current switch is wired before replacing it with the dimmer.
And finally, I just gotta throw this in. I find it curious that when I related my experience about getting hung up on a 400VDC power supply, your response was all buddy-buddy, using things like "lol", "great sea story" and even ending with a hearty "Cheers". However, in other posts you've called me a troll and a tool. I'm having trouble determining your true feelings for me. Please stop playing with my emotions.
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload
DerbyDad03 wrote:
MUCH BILGE WATER DRAINED
The problem that many of us have seen in your posts over many months is hat you are an anagonistic, aggressive and arrogant asshole.
No offense, mind you.
And I for one won't allow your crap to appear anyore on my machine.
Bye.
<PLONK>
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload
pgcampbell wrote:

Its obvious by your questions that you have no experince with this type of work, and and you should not be attemping to do it based upon typed direcitons from folksomn this group who hae not actually seen the wiring and tested it with a meter.
Yes, an electrician can be expensive. An electrician can also be a lot cheaper than a fire or an emergency room visit if you make a serious error.
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload
wrote:

I'd like to poll all the members of this group who currently know how to wire a switch. Please press 1, 2 or 3 based on the group you fit into. Thanks for taking the time to respond.
1 - I was born with the requisite skills to open any electrical box and immediately understand how it is wired. I never had to open a book, ask a question, take a course or be shown how to work on a circuit. The first time I took a cover off a switch box I simply used the skills inherent in my biological makeup and dove right into the repair.
2 - The first time I wanted to replace a switch I did some research. I asked some questions, took a book out of the library and/or asked someone with the required knowledge to teach me how to do. After I was confident that I understood the situation and the steps required, I replaced the switch myself.
3 - Whenever I run into a situation where I don't have the knowledge or skills, I put my tail between my legs and call a professional. I don't want to learn anything new and will always be afraid to venture into areas beyond my current scope of knowledge.
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload

Slanted questions. For example ....
I have one acquaintance, aged 15 who passed a technical exam with 87% first time, who is more than competent to a) Understand and b) Work on it.
I have another who, no matter how many times I explain a basic (domestic AC) electrial circuit, he doesn't 'get it'! Fortunately he comes and gets me to oversee electrical repairs to his house and also to repair the 12 volt systems, with multiple batteries, of his transport truck!
Obviously (2) is the better answer. Good point made though.
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload

With the combination of wrong, misinformed and un-understandable posts I've seen on this group over that last three months or so, there should be a #4.
4 - I ask on this group, throw out all the responses from this poster and the other louts here, take the most reliable information, and then verify it independently elsewhere before I go any further.
You're quite a troll; I could amost predict this response from you.
Twayne
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload
wrote:

Amen. Several people killed recently in yet another 'electrical fire'!
While I agree with some of the directions/suggestions in these answers, must agree that when anybody starts asking questions in the manner of this original post, using terms such as "I believe the top wire is hot ..." and whether one of the wires is 'ground', it seems very apparent they have no idea how or why a light switch works. That warning that those switching wires may even be in the neutral lead (who can tell from the info. given) is also pertinent in any old, possibly often modified and possibly messsed around with 1925 wiring. Please be careful; and is it really necessary to try and install a light dimmer into such an old system?????
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload

Related Threads

    HomeOwnersHub.com is a website for homeowners and building and maintenance pros. It is not affiliated with any of the manufacturers or service providers discussed here. All logos and trade names are the property of their respective owners.