Okay, I have what I think is a strange occurrence, and I'll do my best to
I'm trying to jump power from one of my 3-way switches that turns on my
kitchen lights to another switch that will control my under the cabinet
lights. Since I believe the switch I'm trying to get power to is not the one
that is directly getting power from a power source, but rather is getting
the power from the traveler (red) wire. So, what I did was pigtail the power
from the traveler to the switch that runs the under the cabinet lights. I
have yet to wire the undercabinet lights, but that switch seems to be wired
fine. (There is one hot that is always hot, and the blacking going to the
lights [or what will eventually be lights] is live when I flip the switch.)
Now the strange occurrence is my 3-way switches. The one I did not jump the
power to has to be up for the other switch to work. If it is down, the one I
jumped power to does not work. Part of me thinks it's because I have not
wired the cabinet lights yet. Could that be what is causing this strange
occurrence? (I'm asking now before I climb up into the attic to try this, in
case there is something I'm missing.)
wow, it almost sounds like you're calling me both lazy and stupid? Is that
the case? Maybe a bit lost, but I've never been called lazy and stupid (and
especially in the same sentence).
We've done 90% of our home remolding ourselves (and trust me, it's not a
fresh coat of paint). We've removed walls, raised ceilings, tiled a
countertop, etc. Rewired lights, added lights, etc. So, I guess you can see
why I take offense to you calling me lazy and stupid.
BTW, I know exactly what wires are going to which switches, etc. Did I ever
say I didn't?
There's a solution below, once you've decided to treat your
house wiring with the respect it deserves, but first, a little
If you can't draw what wires go where and figure out what the
attached lights are going to do with each flip of a switch,
you shouldn't be messing with house-wiring in the first place.
This isn't because it's beyond your capabilities. It's not
all that complicated. It's because you are manifestly being
both lazy and sloppy. If you weren't lazy, you have figured
out how the existing set-up worked, and you wouldn't currently
be confused about what had gone wrong. If you weren't
sloppy, you wouldn't have lost track of the wires. Lazy and sloppy
is worse than stupid, when you're doing house wiring.
Now you're GUESSING what you did wrong, and hoping that
another more or less random change will make it right.
And that *IS* stupid.
In this case, you can't do what you're trying to do,
because NONE of the wires at the second switch
in a two-switch system are always hot.
I suspect that you've swapped the colored wire from
the cable that runs to the existing light fixture
with the wire of the same color from the cable that
comes from the first switch.
I guess that is what confused me, because we checked all the wires, and the
red to the other two way (the one that the load was not going into) was hot
at all times, even when we turned either of the two-way switches on and/or
off. Wiring like I have, the new switch seems to be fine. That is, it is
getting power in and power out. but now the two way switches are acting odd
(i.e., one needs to be on for the other two work).
Remember that at any given moment, only one of the two travellers has
power. Which traveller has power is determined _only_ by the 3-way
that's attached to unswitched power (the "line 3-way", as opposed to "load
If you use a simple two way switch to "tap" off a 3 way circuit traveller, the
2-way switch will only see power when the "line 3-way" switch is the position
that energizes the traveler the 2-way is on - when it's in the other position,
the traveller connected to the 2-way won't ever see power, and hence
the light is unconditionally off.
You can "improve" the situation by replacing the 2-way with a 3-way (the legs
connected to the travellers, the center contact to its load), but you'll
end up in a potential insanity-inducing situation. Ie: label your switches
A, B and C. A is the load-connected 3-way switch for one bank of lights, B
the load-connected 3-way switch for the other bank, and C being the
line-connected 3-way switch. In one B setting, C will turn both banks on
and off simultaneously. In the other B setting, toggling C will swap which
bank is on.
I think that'll drive you insane ;-)
[You'd have a "Y"'d two-way. The center switch (the load 3-way), alternates
with the switch on _each_ leg. Ick!]
I _assume_ you want your undercabinet light to be switch on-able only
when the main overheads are on. So that if you turn off the overheads,
the undercabinet will go off. To do this, you need to connect
the 2-way switch to the switched hot going to the overhead mains,
not the travellers.
Depending on the layout, simply attaching the 2-way switch to the center
conductor (probably white if it's 12/3 or 14/3) will get you the appropriate
hot, but you won't have a neutral for the undercabinet fixture. Or,
Chris Lewis, Una confibula non set est
It\'s not just anyone who gets a Starship Cruiser class named after them.
replying to Chris Lewis, Alexcwt wrote:
I assume you want the undercabinet light to be independent of overhead light.
You can add a small 120v (coil) SPDT relay to create an always hot wire. It
would draw a small amount of power when it's in the close position but save you
the need to run another wire in the wall to the switch.
The con: it's going to make a click sound every time either of the 3 way switch
Please check your local code before doing this.
You mean other than the light not working?
I know what you're trying to do, and it's easy enough to sketch out, but
with no neutral, you're out of luck. If you DO find a neutral, make
sure it's from the same circuit that feeds your 3-way.
Another way of putting it: lightbulbs need an electron goesinta
and an electron goesouta. Without the neutral you don't got a
[Note to the pedantic: with AC, you still need a goesinta and a
goesouta, but they switch roles 60 times per second. With one wire,
you don't have a goesinta and a goesouta at the same time ;-)]
Best way to do this is to tap the hot and neutral directly off
the already-3-wayed kitchen fixture leads.
Chris Lewis, Una confibula non set est
It\'s not just anyone who gets a Starship Cruiser class named after them.
JK, You don't want to use the traveller. The hot to your 3 way, if it is the
one fed by your breaker should be hot all the time no matter what position
you put either 3-way in. It will probably be, should be the black wire, and
the travellers will probalby be red and white(white being recoded black).
Depending on the layout you may or may not have the neutral running through
the same switch box. Check to make sure the neutral is pigtailed in THAT box
You are going about this all wrong and using the wrong tools.
You only need two tools. One is called a telephone, the other is
called the Yellow Pages. Open the yellow pages, go to the "E" pages
and look up the word "Electrician". Call one of them and hire them
before you electricute yourself or burn down the house.
The reason they have professionals is because no one else, especially
idiots like yourself, should be touching wiring, or for that matter,
plumbing, paint, lumber, concrete, or anything. Any tool beyond a
telephone, phone book, and pen and paper are beyond your ability to
use. Let the professionals do all your work for you, unless you have
some sort of suicidal tendencies or are trying to ignite your house
for insurance purposes, in which case you belong in prison before you
destroy your whole family in the inferno you are about to create.
Before you even touch another wire, call the fire department and warn
them of the impending fire you are about to experience. Then call any
electrician in the Yellow Pages, and tell them to immediately come to
your home and shut off the breakers for you, until you can get them to
rewire and inspect everything you touched. Do not delay. call
immediately. Your home is on the verge of a flare up. By the time
you read this message, it may be too late. If you had posted your
address, I would have already phoned the Fire Department for you.
Shut off your computer NOW, and call for help. You may already be
smelling smoke. In fact, dont use your own home phone. Get out of
that house NOW. Take your family outside and use your cell phone or a
neighbors home to call the Fire Department. GET OUT NOW !!!
If you survive this fire, DO NOT ever touch wiring again. It is
extremely complicated, and you are incapable of doing wiring. Besides
that, it's illegal to touch wiring without an electricians license.
GO - GET OUT OF THERE............
Doug, I'm really trying not to read anything into your numerous posts
because there is an obvious communication gap between my posts and the
various responses. But you come off as being a bit of a know it all.
No, I'm not a professional, but I have a decent understanding of electrical.
(I was trying to figure out what Chris was saying, that's all (when I
originally read it, I thought he was saying I didn't need to have a neutral,
which is why I asked [it raised a red flag]...don't assume that I'm
experimenting, I've never wired anything without double- and triple checking
everything, and being 100% certain I have it wired correctly.)
No, there isn't. You really apparently <don't> know what's going on
I'm not going to say you're absolutely going to burn the house down, but
it simply isn't going to work to do what you started out trying to do as
others have already pointed out.
Either get a pro in to solve this by getting a hot feed from whereever
this pair gets its feed or run another circuit or extend another hot
feed to where you need it.
Although, given the obvious lack of knowledge wrt to wiring despite what
other reconstruction you've done, the use of an electrician to handle
this part of the project would undoubtedly be money well spent letting
you do other things.
If this is still a continuing project, I'd suggest you look into
finishing all else up to the point of closing in walls and then get a
guy in once to take care of it all rather than a switch at a time...
IMO, YMMV, $0.02, etc., ...
In that case, the problem you presented in the original post is
You can't do, by any normal means, the thing that you said you
were trying to accomplish, which is to take an always-on supply
feed to another switch from the box containing the second switch
in a 2-switch system.
If you understood what you were doing, you'd have known that
before you tried.
You can't GET the results you are claiming to get without
changing things that you are claiming not to have changed.
I understand that you're sure you know what you've done.
That's the problem. You ARE sure, and you're wrong.
He may not have phrased his advice in a very diplomatic manner, but it
was good advice: you clearly don't understand the first thing about what
you are trying to do. You gave a crystal-clear demonstration of that,
when you asked Chris Lewis if not having a neutral would cause any
problems. Anyone who has to ask that question has NO BUSINESS working
with electricity because he knows NOTHING about it.
It's no big deal if you paint your house without knowing what you're
doing; all that happens if you screw up is you wind up with an ugly-
looking house. But if you screw up electrical wiring because you don't
know how to do it right -- AND YOU DON'T -- you can electrocute someone,
or burn your house down.
Screwed-up electrical work can KILL.
You don't have the knowledge or skills to do it without screwing it up.
PLEASE call a professional.
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