3 way switch problem
Did I screw up with my rough wiring?
I have 3 lights on a 3 way switch. the power enters at one of the switch boxes. I ran 12-3 romex between all swiches and lights. The configeration is as follows: (incoming power)Switch-light-light-light-switch. I have fought with this thing for 4 hours now and am beginning to wonder if I should have ran a 4 conductor wire in there somewhere. Have done some searching on the web and in my limited book collection and can’t find a wiring diagram anywhere. Any ideas where I could find a diagram to help me or am I screwed?
Did I screw up with my rough wiring? Yes
You need 2 travelers between the switches and a power and neutral to each light.
I would have used 3 conductors between the switches and 2 conductors elsewhere. First light gets line power, next light, and wire to first switch. First switch gets wires from first light and wire to next switch.
You're right you are short a wire to make it work as wired.
Most times power into the system comes into one 3-way switch. Then 12-3 is used to move the 2 traveler wires and the nuetral to the 2nd switch. Then 12-2 is used to provide power to the lights.
The best I could come up with with your wiring set-up was one light would work (see picture). You're still short 1 wire to carry power back to the other 2 lights. Often the easiest way to fix this is to run a couple lengths of 12-2 wire back to the first 2 lights. Use these new wires (not shown in picture) to transfer switched power & neutral back to the first two lights.
There are other ways to fix this. But, they all involve adding wire. Either between the switches or between the lights. I suggested adding wires between lights as that's usually easiest if things are finished, and you have attic access.
What wires are easiest to get to in your rough in? Or, are they all now behind finished walls?
attic access, you have got to be kidding! I haven't been that luckey since high school.
Between floors in a drywalled ceiling. Already cut out 2 of the boxes(will replace with old work boxes) and have started to fish wire. the last run is going to be d#$% near impossible to fish. Got no one to blame but myself. Ain't life grand.
Sorry to add fuel to the fire, as I have goofed a few times myself, but don't you wish that you had asked first? I am finally starting to believe the old saying of "no stupid questions" Can you use the existing wire to pull the new one?, or to many staples? Lesson well learned is how I try to regard my many mistakes. Have fun!
You do things like I do. Never mess up where it's easy to fix.
Kinda afraid you'd say it was inaccessable.
Good luck fishing wires. I had an electrician uncle of mine help me fish some really hard wires once. Was amazed at where a pro can get wire to.
Don't know if this will help, but -
I like to run the 3 wire from one switch to the other, then go to the lights. Saves messing with some of the 3 wire stuff.
Don't know if this will work for you or not - Just thought I'd mention it.
And don't feel TOO bad about it - We ALL make mistakes, and most of us learn from them. (See tag line)
A life spent making mistakes is not only more honorable but more useful than a life spent in doing nothing. [George Bernard Shaw]
Here's 12-3 between the switches and a light, with 12-2 connnecting the other two lights off the first light. This would have been the better way to do it:
Here is the method the others are talking about, getting that fourth conductor into the mix between the lights:
On white wires that are used to carry power, don't forget to use a black Sharpie to color the last couple inches of white insulation black.
I'm am no e- man, but does this help?
When you have doubts about how to do it ...
Test it before you close it in.
many thanks to all who responded. Yesterday was one of those days. I am going to finish up the job by adding a additional 12-2.
don't you just love it when you learn something new? Don't you just hate it when ya get stung by something new to you! Never done more than 1 light on a 3-way before. I bet some sparky's made this mistake once early in their careers.