# Really dumb question about electrical wiring

• posted on August 23, 2004, 6:56 pm
I am in NJ, USA and I am trying to convert the wiring of an outside light from 2-way to one-way.
The light was previously controlled from inside the kitchen and also from the garage but the garage switch is now completely isolated and disabled.
What I have is black, white and red wires (plus unsheathed earth) coming out of the box for the wall-light and the same coloured wires coming out of the switch-plate. Near-miss accidents have confirmed that the black and red wites going to the switch box are live, I have no idea about the white wire.
I believe that the red wire probably needs to be either dead-ended or combined with one of the other wires but have no idea which.
The little electrical knowledge I have was acquired in the UK where the wiring conventions are different in terms of colour-coding though I will admit to having been baffled by 2-way switches there also.
I just need to know what the combinations should be in the light fitting and in the switch for simple one-way operation.
Thanks in advance for any help.....
Neil

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• posted on August 23, 2004, 7:54 pm
Neil Ralley wrote:

In the US, White is (almost) always the "Neutral" or Grounded conductor. Not the Ground wire, but a Grounded/current carrying conductor.
Black and Red may be Hot (120V to the White wire) or might be switched Hot.
What I don't understand is where the power is originating in your scheme. IOW, how are Blk and Red becoming Hot?
KITCHEN GARAGE BLK X--------------------------------------------X
RED Y--------------------------------------------Y
WH Z--------------------------------------------Z
Or perhaps Blk,Red,Wh do *not* simply go from one box to the other; there may be an intermediate box supplying power.
Jim

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• posted on August 23, 2004, 8:01 pm

It's a two way switch. The black and red are _probably_ the travellers.
The easiest way to turn a two way switch into a one way is to not use the second switch. Beyond that, it starts requiring you intimately understand how the light, switches and power are arranged.
--
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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• posted on August 24, 2004, 1:28 am
snipped-for-privacy@comcast.net (Neil Ralley) wrote in

The method that a 2-way (oft called 3-way) switch works is: you have a black power in you have a white neutral in the neutral connects directly to the load (the light) the black, will connect either in the switch box, or in the light box, to the single-side terminal of one of the light switches. The wire from the other single side terminal on the OTHER switch, goes back to the HOT side of the load (the light). The double side terminals on the switch....run ONLY between the switches. The way i've always wired these is: black to power the first switch, red and white are the 'runners' between the switches' and black goes back from the second switch to the light. This keeps the color code in shape at the light, in that you have a black and a white at the load, with black being hot...and white being neutral. The switches work like: Switch 1 = position 1, power thru black, to red, to red terminal on other switch, which is at position 1 also, thru black to the light. flip either switch to position 2, and the circuit is broken. flip either switch to another position from here, the circuit is restored, either via the red wire, or the white wire that runs between the switches.
--
Anthony

You can't 'idiot proof' anything....every time you try, they just make

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• posted on August 24, 2004, 1:30 am
What you call 2-way is really called 3-way. You will be changing from 3-way to 2-way. 2-way means "off" and "on". If red is live without being connected to the kitchen switch, the garage switch is not isolated like you think. I hesitate to give you the answer because you don't know exactly what you have and I don't want to kill you. The first step is to shut off the power at the breaker, disconnect all wires at the kitchen switch, and figure out which black and white and bare wires are coming from the breaker, and which black and white and red and bare wires go to the garage. The supercondensed answer is that, in the kitchen, you will end up connecting white to white, putting the switch between the blacks, abandoning the red, and connecting the grounds to each other and to the green screw. Get a book. May the "force" be not with you. -B

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• posted on August 24, 2004, 12:38 pm
I think that Jim may be correct about an intermediate box in the basement from which one red/black/white cable goes to the light fitting (and before I dismantled it, on to the garage) and another red/black/white cable goes to the switch.
Unfortunately the box which I suspect to be the one is in a location which is not easy to access.
There has to be some combination of these wires which will work but I have yet to figure it out.
Thanks for the input so far, it is helpful.

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• posted on August 24, 2004, 2:40 pm
I managed to access and open up the box in the basement and I am 98% sure that it is connecting the switch and the light fixture to the main.
The connections appear to be as follows:
Coming in from breaker panel - one pair - Black and white
Black from main connects to black on switch
White from main connects to white in light fixture
White from switch connects to black in light fixture
red from switch connects to red in light fixture.
I still have not figured out why the red sparked when it touched the metal switch-box, I guess that the whole switch must have been live from the black feed.
So, how do I simplify this so that I just have a simple on/off switch?

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• posted on August 24, 2004, 5:34 pm
Well, it was obviously the correct box - it is a spur from a power point which also accomodates a washer, a dryer and a dehuminifier which is not great but one lamp shouldn't make a big difference.
I finished up dead-ending the two red cables and am using the white running from the switch to the box as the other half of the black circuit. The white in the lamp fixture now goes back to the board.
Having been through this I now feel like taking a run at the 3-way switch for the basement light which defeated me a year or two back and which has meant us taping the switch at the basement end of the equation because the circuit breaker kept going off after I had rewired it when we replaced the upstairs half of the 3-way set-up.
I realise that this is horribly basic stuff but the colours and wiring protocols are different from what I grew up with in the UK. The upside is that over here shocks are less likely to be fatal with 110V vs 240V. Even in the UK I can recall an afternoon trying out all of the combinations to get a 3-way switch wired when I was rewiring a house. The power was dead easy - an upsatairs ring, a downstairs ring, a cooker-point and some electric storage radiators - and the lighting was fine too except for that one 3-way switch....
To those who responded thankyou for your input. Books are OK but there are times when human input is quicker and more effective and this was one of them.
Best Regards,
Neil

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• posted on August 24, 2004, 6:47 pm

Neil: Just to help confuse you some more? :-) Suggest this; find out which hot black wire comes from the fuse/breaker panel (called in the UK the CU or consumer unit). That's the 'feed'. Make sure that black goes through the on/off switch to another black which goes directly to the light fixture, or by continuing it through the other box (presumably using black) and then to the black wire to the light fixture. (You could draw it out on a piece of paper?). The white neutral should be continuous through to the light fixture, not switched, in the same manner. Ignore the red, disconnect it. Also all grounds should be continuous through and connected to all boxes and metal frame of light fixture. You may end up with the second box entirely dead /disconnected or merely used as a through connecting point for black (live), white (neutral) and ground (earth). You can leave the switch out there disconnected or remove it and put a blank plate over the box for neatness and safety.. Any help? Terry in Canada. Ex Liverpool UK!

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