Three way switch - FIXTURES IN MIDDLE

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Ok. I know how to install a 3way switch circuit with the fixture at the end. I can even understand the diagram in my book for a 3way switch circuit with the fixture in the middle. But what if there is more than one fixture in the middle? With that I'm stuck.
I'm fearing that I goofed. I already have the wires installed that I thought that I needed for this. I have, already, a 2wire to the first switch, and then I have 3wire from that to the first fixture, second fixture, third fixture, and second switch. I'm fearing that I should have put in an extra 2 wire line from the first fixture to go to the other fixtures. Is that right? (I hope not.)
So the question really is: with the way I have it now (with 3wire running through the fixtures, do I just pretend there is no second switch going on until the very last fixture? I'm unclear as to when to mark the white wire as hot. I certainly can't do that with the first fixture. When do you tape the white wire to mark it hot? Or, how do I pigtail in the 2nd and 3rd fixtures with the 3wire running through them??
I'd appreciate any reply or links to sites. (I've been searching through alot, including two manuals I have, but they never digram having more than one fixture.)
av(at)sover.net
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Have a look at this web site:
http://www.homewiringandmore.com/switchoutlet/3way/3way.html
It does a great job showing a variety of different wiring schemes for 3-way switches.
Adding additional fixtures in the middle shouldn't be much more difficult, if the 3-wires run through all the fixtures. Just add them in parallel to the first.
Hope this helps.
Anthony
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3-way
And how exactly is he supposed to add them in parallel? Assuming he means 4wire ( x/3) when he says 3wire, he has two travelers and a neutral running through each fixture. He can do one fixture that way, or two in series, but there is no way to do two fixtures in parallel. He needed to use 5wire for this application.
There are some expensive electronic switches that will work with one less wire, though I have never tried one.
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But doesn't show how to add another fixture!!

Well, yes of course, but using which wires? When I tried parallel (or what I thought was parallel) it didn't work.
If I pigtail the fixtures off the wires, it appears to defeat the 3way switching.
av
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Yep your right.

White as hot,,, your confused. The only way this is going to work is abandon the 3 way idea or add a new 3 wire romex from switch to switch.' You must have 2 travelers, a hot, a neutral the white, a ground and a switch leg. The hot is at one end, the switch leg comes off the other end then goes to the fixtures. Maybe feed them all hot and install an remote control systems.

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You sure?

No I'm not! You're supposed to attach a black wire to a white wire (and tag it to show that it is "hot").
The only way this is going to work is abandon

This doesn't make sense. You appear to be saying add another 3wire to my 3wire! Why in the world have 2 3wires?

I have two travelers: red and white.

I'd appreciate a more direct response to my problem and not simply assume that I don't understand 3way switching. I have accomplished that. If I just bypass all the fixtures (wiring red-red, black-black etc) and wire up only ONE fixture (as per correct method of 3way switch wiring) it works fine. I just can't figure out how to add the other two switches to the circuit using the 3wire that is running through them.
av
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I'm sure he's sure.

It makes perfect sense.
When there's only 1 fixture involved, it's essencially in "series" with the 3-way switch "loop."
You've got 3 fixtures. Now it's a whole 'nother ball of wax.

What you need to do is splice through fixture 2 & 3 as though they weren't there, splice fixture 1 to work properly with the 3-way set, and run a 2-wire from fixture 1 to fixture 2 & 3.

*you mean lights.

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av wrote:

For any configuration of 3-way switches: Hot from the panel goes directly to one of the switches, common terminal. Travelers go directly from switch to switch.
Common terminal of the other switch feeds back to the hot side of every load. Neutral from panel goes directly to neutral side of every fixture. There are no less than a dozen workable wiring configurations. The best is the one that uses the least wire. Mark with colored tape every white not connected directly to the neutral buss bar.
The number of conductors required in each pull depends upon the configuration used.
hvacrmedic
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Well, let me have a go: I believe the short answer is that you can't, you need 4 conductors (plus ground) between the fixtures. The way I like to think about n-way switching is:
a) the neutral has to go just as far as the last fixture. b) the travelers have to go from the first switch to the second switch. c) a "switched hot" has to go from the second switch to the fixtures.
Using --3-- to denote a cable with 3 conductors (plus bare ground), the usual "fixture in the middle" setup is "SW1 --3-- FIX --3-- SW2", where the first cable is carrying the neutral (white) and the two travelers (black and red), and the second cable is carrying the travelers (black and red) and the switched hot (white marked as hot).
However, in the case of multiple fixtures in the middle, you need 4 conductors between the fixtures: "SW1 --3-- FIX1 --4-- FIX2 --3-- SW2". That cable between the two fixtures has to carry four things: the two travelers in route from SW1 to SW2 (black and red), the neutral going to FIX2 (white), and the switched hot coming from SW2 (fourth color) to actually power FIX1.
So I believe that if you have only 3 conductor cable betweeen your fixtures, you need to add an additional conductor. I don't know whether the NEC allows you to have parallel cables making up a single circuit, or if you have to run a new 4 conductor cable.
Hope this helps.
Yours, Wayne
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I agree that four current carrying conductors are required from fixture to fixture in this configuration. Any conductor other than the neutral should be a color other than white wherever it is accessible and visible in the box. Seven or eight conductors plus grounds may exceed the box capacity so the best routing would be to keep the travelers out of the fixture boxes if possible. I would run the travelers and neutral from the near switch to the far end switch with three conductor cable, then the neutral and switched hot back thru the fixtures with two conductor cable. Don Young
av wrote:

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Using --3-- to denote a cable with 3 conductors (plus bare ground),

It would if I weren't reading this at 530 in the morning. :o)
It corroborates something I (finally) found diagramed on a website: http://www.the-home-improvement-web.com/information/how-to/three-way-switch.htm - option 7. Complicated as $&*T. But worse, as I mentioned, I already have the ceiling up and all nicely painted. And this is not a regular stud wall so I can't even begin to think about snaking anything. It looks like I'm not going to have to figure out a "nice" way to run a cable on the face of the wall. Does Ralph Lauren make designer wire?
Also, Mr. HA HA BUDDY wrote previously that I could just run a 2wire from the first fixture (that is already wired to work with the 3way switches) out to the other two fixtures. That sounds plausible to me, and uses less wire, i.e. a "nicer" way. Any second opinions on that?
THANK YOU TO EVERYONE WHO HAS RESPONDED SO FAR. I've sure learned a hell of a lesson about 3way switching with this mistake!
av
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AV,
When I first responded to your message, I was thinking the fixtures were at the end of the run. I apologize for not reading your message better.

Are the fixtures located on the walls or on the ceiling?
Any chance of going up to the attic, or down to the crawlspace/basement to get your cables from one point to another?

Yes, that will work, but you'll have to figure out how to get the new cable installed.
If all else fails, you might want to look into wireless options. Check out smarthome.com for some ideas.
Good luck!
Anthony
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ok you're redeemed. :o)

ceiling lights!

above the ceiling (which is hammered into beams with all of about 2 inch space) is solid stress skin paneling, and above that is my bedroom and office (covered in solid oak flooring).
and there is no attic. it's cathedral ceiling to the roof.
i'm cornered!!!

i think i have to bite the bullet and put in some sort of exterior chasing. i was thinking of builing a huge big box that would cover all the 3 fixture boxes, and then cover that box with some sort of frosted glazing (which would hide all the extra wiring), but i'm too tired.

hmmmm.... i'll see. but sounds expensive already. :o0
thanks. av
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AV,

You didn't mention what was in the walls or the floor.
Is there any chance of running a new 3 wire cable from one switch to the other? Maybe down through the crawlspace/basement, or even behind the baseboard of the wall?
If you can directly connect the two switches, you should be able to reconfigure the 3-way circuit so the fixtures end up on the end of the circuit. You could simply disregard the third wire that is running to the fixtures.
Possible?

It has been a while since I looked into it, but I was going to add some wireless stuff in our mobile because they put all the kitchen/dining lights on a single switch. But, we're building a new house instead, so I don't care anymore... Ha Ha.
I'm sure wireless wouldn't be cheap, but compared to some of the alternatives, it might be the least expensive solution.
Anthony
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hi... still there? I haven't looked into this thread in a couple of days. sorry.
your idea is a very good one were it not for the fact that the room is built on top of an old concrete slab. you don't want the whole story do you? ;o)
suffice to say, there's just no way to run anything underneath at this point. as it is, i had to build up the floor on some 2x6's so i could have a floor in the first place!
av the room is rather odd. i
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AV,

Does your 2x6 build-up allow any space for routing a new cable between switches?
What about the option of running a wire behind the baseboards?
Is there ANY way to get a cable from one switch to the other?
Anthony
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I appreciate your persistance. Really! Perhaps it is "error fatigue" (this was hardly my first mistake in the project) but I just don't think there's a way.
The wire to the first switch is "entombed" in stress skin paneling. (sandwich of sheetrock, styrene foam, and chipboard). Even if you were to convince me to remove the (very expensive) pine paneling that is covering the wall, and rout a channel in the chipboard (I already had to do that with a previous problem) and even if I COULD then manage a way to get that wire back down through the basebent, over to the nearest point of the second switch, I'd still have to run it under about 10 feet of flooring that is pretty much filled with insulation(NO I won't rip up the floor!) and then rip up a second very expensive pine paneling (that was a bitch to get into place because I had to shimmy it behind an angle bracing of the post and beam). In other words, quite a few IF's with no assurance of success, but alot of assurance of leaving myself a real ripped out mess.
I think the best option is to just run some sort of external channel from fixture to fixture to fixture that will parallel in each fixture with a piece of 12/2. No?
The other option I've been toying with is to build what would be a large casing that would cover the space of all three fixtures, which would be enclosed with frosted glass or plexi, and then just put in flourescents behind all that!
For now I'm living with one fixture working and I'm waiting for my second wind. :o)
av
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Here's another option:
What kind of fixtures are they?
If they each use say... 2 20 watt bulbs (like brass colonial candalabras) then you *could* put all 3 fixtures in series, and then triple the wattage of the lamps to 60 watts each, giving you about 20 watts of light from each.
Or, if each fixture uses 1 typical type A edison lamp, same drill- triple the wattage and wire the 3 lights in series.
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AV,

No problem. I'm kind of in the middle of fixing an oversight in a shower I'm working on, so I understand the frustration...
I don't mean to be pushy, just trying to help out if I can...

Don't stress skins have "channels" in them for routing wires? How did the wire get in the panel in the first place?
Also, you could probably pick up one of those really long (4 or 5 feet) flexible remodeling drill bits at Lowes, and drill down through the panel easy enough.
Any chance of drilling a hole down to the basement from each switch, then run the wire from hole to hole in the basement. This would be complicated, of course, if the basement ceiling is finished.

If you don't mind living with the appearance.
How far apart are the fixtures? Could you use one of those long remodeling bits to drill through the stress skin insulation to run the extra cable from box to box?

That would work too, if you don't mind the appearance. You might even be able to find a ready to go fixture at HD or Lowes that would cover the whole set.
I suppose you could get creative and build a drop down panel (1" thick or so) that you could run the cable through. Then use box extenders and mount your original fixtures. Finished appropriately, it could look like a fancy custom job.
Otherwise, look into wireless, or possibly even the series wiring another poster suggested (one bulb goes out, they all go out).
Good luck! Hope it all works out...
Anthony
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An additional 2 conductor cable should be plenty to fix things. If I understand correctly your physical setup is currently (using --3-- for a 3-conductor cable with ground): Power --2-- SW1 --3-- FIX1 --3-- FIX2 --3-- FIX3 --3-- SW2 And as discussed, you needed to run 4 conductor cable between the fixtures for this to work.
As far as fixing things, the minimum you need to add is a conductor from FIX1 to FIX3. But adding a conductor from SW1 to SW2 would also work, or from SW1 to FIX3, or FIX1 to SW2. Whatever is simplest from a physical standpoint. In any of these cases, you can use the new conductor as part of one of the travelers, freeing up a conductor in the existing cables for neutral or switched hot.
BTW, watch out for the box fill limits.
Cheers, Wayne
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