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Old 12-03-2011, 02:43 PM   #1 (permalink)
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who knows electrical wiring?

We've been in the house for almost a month now, and while we've had the plumbers out several times, I don't have enough problems with the electrical wiring to call an electrician. We do have 4 lights that are acting weird. They're all dual-plate plugs, with one switch on one side of the room and the other switch on the other side of the room. Normally, when stuff like this is wired correctly, either switch can turn on or off the light, but with these 4 lights, both switches have to be in a certain position, or the light doesn't come on. For those of you familiar with binary, normally when the switches are equal (11 or 00 in binary), the light is off, and when they are inequal (01 or 10), the light is on, but in the case of these 4 lights, both switches must in one and only one configuration (11 for example) for the light to come on, but in the other 3 states (00, 10, and 01) the light is off.

It seems like these lights were installed by the previous owners, and it seems like they wired these 4 lights wrong. To the electricians in the audience, is it possible to get this behavior from a miswiring, and is this something I can fix myself? I know enough about electrical work to know how to turn off the breaker, and follow a wiring diagram on a switch box.
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Old 12-03-2011, 02:51 PM   #2 (permalink)
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Wiring a 4-Way Switch : Electrical Online : Electrical Online

I've used that site for questions such as this.
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Old 12-03-2011, 02:51 PM   #3 (permalink)
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That sounds like they didn't install or improperly installed 3-way switches.

You may or may not be able to easily fix this. You may just need to replace the switches with the correct ones. Or you may need to run another wire from one box to the other. It should have 1 hot wire going into the first box- 2 wires from box1 to box 2 - then from box 2, the wire to the light.

Hopefully they just screwed up and wired 2 regular switches in series.

I don't know if these things are widely available now, but you can get wireless 3 way switches if the room isn't properly wired. Just connect the main switch to box 2 and the remote switch to box 1.
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Old 12-03-2011, 02:52 PM   #4 (permalink)
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It's called 3-way switching. It takes both special wire (has 4 conductors including ground instead of the usual 3) and special switches (simply called 3-way switches).

Installing A 3-way Switch With Wiring Diagrams - The Home Improvement Web Directory

Given that they made the attempt to do this, figuring out whether or not they did any of it correctly or if it was completely wrong will dictate how much work needs to be done. If it is a simple misconnection at a switch, simple. If they didn't run the correct type of wire to begin with, it gets a lot more time consuming.
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Old 12-03-2011, 03:04 PM   #5 (permalink)
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^^ What they said...
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Old 12-04-2011, 08:45 AM   #6 (permalink)
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That's what I'm looking for guys, thanks! I'll pull the plates when I get home this afternoon and see what I find. I'm betting they've only got two wires running to three-way switches. The frustrating thing is that while these 4 don't work, there's a 5th one that works exactly as it should, and it was installed at the exact same time but it works just fine. Boggles my mind.
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Old 12-04-2011, 12:49 PM   #7 (permalink)
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All the light switches in my house are in sideways so they go left-right not up-down.

10 years later, I still haven't worked out why.
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Old 12-04-2011, 01:27 PM   #8 (permalink)
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If they were all installed at the same time and one circuit works then I bet the correct wiring it there but someone showed the homeowner how to do it then left and the homeowner finished the job incorrectly.
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Old 12-04-2011, 01:51 PM   #9 (permalink)
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Here you go, I have fixed this problem more times than I can count. It is a three way switch set up as said before (4way switches have 3 different switches to operate the lights)
The chances are the wiring is correct but someone along the way replace one or both of the 3way switches with a single pole switch. This will make it necessary to turn on one switch to energize the other switch. It is easy to recognize, a single pole switch will only have 2 screws on it (not counting the ground screw(green)), the 3way switch will have 3 screws on them(not count the ground screw). You need 2 3way switches for the circuit to operate correctly. Ideally on a 3way circuit you will have a feed (power) come to one switch, a 3 conductor wire(not counting ground) running from that switch to the next switch, and the load(the lights) coming out of that last switch. Now they are not always ran this way, some electricians like to use "switch legs" so that feeds(power) is ran to the lights and a wire is ran form there to the switch(switch leg). These set ups require a little more thought to run a 3way circuit.

Pm me some pictures and I can walk you through it.
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Old 12-04-2011, 03:07 PM   #10 (permalink)
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Quote:
Originally Posted by BoBo View Post
All the light switches in my house are in sideways so they go left-right not up-down.

10 years later, I still haven't worked out why.
The electrician that did the installation had a crick in his neck.
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