3 Way dimming

What wires were connected to the old switch were you are trying to put the AUX?

All three, black, red, neutral (and ground)

Okay…

I’m guessing a little bit here obviously because I’m not able to specifically look at everything, but my feeling is that the white wire that was attached to this old 3-way switch was not a neutral, but was instead a traveler wire. If you look at my first example drawling in post 10 above this would be the light grey wire.

Traditional 3-way switches used two traveler wires. (Power came down the black wire and the the first 3-way switch either pushed power down the red or white wire depending on which direction the switch was flipped. The second switch would either allow power to move from the red or the white wire to the light, depending on which direction it was flipped.) It’s very common for red and white wired to be used for traveler wires. I think all my 3-way setups have used these two colors.

Again, this is my best guess here. However, traditional ‘dumb’ switches never needed a neutral wire so if a white wire was connected to a 3-way I’d tend to think traveler rather than neutral. One easy way to disprove this would be if the white wire that went from the switch was tried to a bunch of other white wires in the back of the box. IF this is the case, this it’s almost certainly NOT a traveler wire.

I’m a bit confused on the “master switch” setup though. You said there were two black wires here, right? Do you remember how the old switch was wired up here? It’s possible that one black wire is line (ie, coming from the breaker box) and the other is a daisy chain to another switch somewhere.

Yeah - I am not so sure - this is a weird setup - I am thinking about getting one of the aeon micro switch - may work better for my needs.

Anyways - so we used to have a 2 switches leading to one light - now that are basement is finished we needed to add a second light at the top of the stairs per code so in the master box there are two wire bundles coming in - one is attached to the master switch which includes a black and red. It looks like the first wire bundle travels out to the light or the second switch - the two bundles white wires were nutted together and the second bundles black wire is coming off the master switch (perhaps the traveler?) - the second bundle only has a black and red. The second switch has one wire bundle and it has black, red and white - no wires bundled in the back, just a straight bundle coming through…Do I maybe have the master and aux in the wrong places? I had an electrician out and he had a hard time doing a different 3 way so I never asked him to attempt this one…

Thanks!

[quote=“Macadoodle, post:25, topic:4421, full:true”]
Yeah - I am not so sure - this is a weird setup - I am thinking about getting one of the aeon micro switch - may work better for my needs.

Anyways - so we used to have a 2 switches leading to one light - now that are basement is finished we needed to add a second light at the top of the stairs per code so in the master box there are two wire bundles coming in - one is attached to the master switch which includes a black and red. It looks like the first wire bundle travels out to the light or the second switch - the two bundles white wires were nutted together and the second bundles black wire is coming off the master switch (perhaps the traveler?) - the second bundle only has a black and red. The second switch has one wire bundle and it has black, red and white - no wires bundled in the back, just a straight bundle coming through…Do I maybe have the master and aux in the wrong places? I had an electrician out and he had a hard time doing a different 3 way so I never asked him to attempt this one…[/quote]

I think you may have it hit it there in the part I bolded… also the talk about the second light being added later helped.

Again, a guess here, but I THINK what you have is:

In the SECOND box (where you’re putting the AUX):

  • line (black wire) from the breaker
  • Travelers (red and white) going to the first box.

In the FIRST box (where you are putting the Master):

  • Travelers (red and white) from the second box. Loads (the two black
    wires) going from the switch to the two different light fixtures. (Typically multiple lights are just chained together, but because one
    was added later they were probably done in parallel.
  • A bundled of white wires nutted together, NOT connected to any switch
    (I think you’re saying this is in this box, correct?)

Now, if I’m right about all of this, AND if your master does NOT need a neutral wire, then this is how you should proceed with wiring:

In the SECOND box, put the Master switch. Wire it thusly:

  • Black wire (line from breaker) goes to LINE spot on switch.
  • Red wire (traveler in old setup) goes to TRAVELER spot on switch
  • White wire (traveler in old setup) goes to LOAD spot on switch.

In the FIRST box, put the AUX switch. Wire it thusly:

  • Red Wire (traveler in old setup) goes to TRAVELER spot on AUX switch
  • White Wire (traveler in old setup) gets nutted to the two black wires
    that were connected to your old switch.
  • Get a new piece of wire and connect to the NEUTRAL on the AUX switch,
    then connect that wire to the bundle of white wires connected in the
    back of the box.

It’s also probably a good idea to take some black electrical tape and wrap it around somewhere on both ends of that white traveler wire. This is just a note to future people looking at it that this is a hot line now, not a neutral.

Does all that make sense?

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This makes perfect sense! I am pretty sure the master needs a neutral though, at least from what I have read - or is that just the aux?

Thank you for all your help!!

Hmm… that would be a major bummer if that’s the case. If your master is an on/off then it probably does require a neutral. There are dimmer switches (such as the GE/Jasoc 45612) that do not require a neutral, but you can’t use 'em with CFLs or very low wattage LEDs.

So I threw in the towel and got two of the aeon smart switches, one for the 3- way and one for the 5-way…super easy install and worked like a charm! You only need to wire one switch, no idea why these aren’t more popular!?

Thanks for taking the time to help! You made this install much easier on me!

For a three-way, yeah… possibly. For a single pole though you have the problem of the switch getting “out of sync.” which may or may not be a problem for some people.

Glad you got a solution though… and I am a fan of the micro controllers. I put one in each of my kids ceiling fans to turn on/off the power to the ceiling fan. Very small units but work like a charm.

Video demo for the three way pushbutton control of an Aeon micro shown in the schematic I posted above.
pushbutton three way dimmer using one Aeon micro

Folks with a sensitive temperament may want to mute the audio…
It just happened to be what was playing at the time. :smiley:

Why doesn’t it work with CLFs and LEDs?

Chris - I’m having similar difficulty with a 3 switch, 5 light set-up. Your description above looks very promising, particularly because it seems to address my situation where all the wires between the switches/breaker/lights are 2-wire, not 3. Before I give it a try, can you shed any light on the wiring of the 2nd auxilliary switch?

My set-up looks like the top section of the picture posted by Macdoodle earlier in this thread, except I have a coil of white (neutral) wires connected together which is where I will draw the neutral for the 1st auxilliary switch as you described. The box for the 2nd auxilliary switch has two black wires and one white, plus a coil of neutrals. So I presume I’m adding a wire to connect the neutral, nutting the two two black wires together, and connecting the white wire to the traveler?

Hope I’m making sense and I just want to add my thanks for your efforts to assist so many of us.

That sound right to me @garrettb. I think that should work for you.

Thanks Chris.

Unfortunately on further investigation last night and talking to my friendly neighborhood electrician this morning I think my wiring just isn’t compatible with these switches. I have no 3-wire conduit in any of the three switch boxes, so I think I’m missing that traveler wire.

In my current configuration I have my dimmer (Lutron, 3 wires, dumb, as shown in the picture) at what I believe is the closest switch to the breaker, then two more dumb on/off switches down the chain. I presume the location of the dimmer is why I don’t need a traveler? Just for grins I tried installing a known-good Master at both ends of the chain, but couldn’t get it to power up much less turn on the lights.

Is there a way to hook up these switches with two wire conduit from load and line that doesn’t require rewiring? I’ll confess I’m a far cry from an electrician, but unless I’m missing something I’m about ready to throw in the towel.

Garrett

Oh, you definitely have travelers. Those red wire coming off the switch in your pic are traveler wires. The black is load (or line).

Look at my first post in this thread with my pretty little pictures. Instead of a red and white wire, they just used a black and white wire as the traveler wires. You should be able to use the same setup I’ve got there and go with it.

I don’t find it unusual that when you put in the master it didn’t work. There’s fundamental difference between traditional 3-way and Z-wave 3-way setup so you in all likelihood never created a complete circuit.

Chris,

Thank you. I am deeply grateful for your perseverance and giving me a fresh shot of inspiration, and pleased to report I made some progress today, I think. Suprisingly, the new Master I tried worked as soon as I hooked it up and I had complete control of the lights. Also, before I even replaced the other two switches I could turn the lights off from these switches, but when I turned them back on they came on at minimum dim, as expected I suppose.

So I replaced the dumb switches with the GE auxiliaries following your diagram (but with the extra aux switch, see below). Unfortunately, I have no on/off control. The lights do strobe while I’m holding the aux switches in the on or off position, but they stay on. So close but not quite there!

@chris,

Success! The dimmer switch must have a burned out traveler circuit. Tried another dimmer and all is working as it should be!

THANK you again for helping me and others get this working!

Garrett

My questions was answered above

This is an awesome post and @chrisb got me a lot further than I was. It should definitely be put on the FAQ.

However, I am now stuck at a weird problem.

I started with a regular 3-way switch, using the GE dimmer from Lowes, paired with the Aux switch from the Lowes GE 3-way switch kit (i.e. not currently using the on/off switch from that kit). Both boxes had grounds tied together and neutrals separately tied together in the back of the boxes.

I put the master (dimmer) where the original dimmer was, and connected load to a black bridge wire connected to a neighbor on/off switch in the same box, line to the other black wire from the original dimmer, red traveler wire to the traveler terminal, and ground (removed from a bundle in the rear of the box). The master does not use neutral.

I wired the aux switch by connecting the two original black wires together with a wire nut. I ran a bridge from the neutrals tied together in the back of the box. I’m using the ground wire from the same cable as what carries the red traveler. So the ground terminal on the master is probably directly connected to the ground terminal on the aux (which, as I’m wondering as I’m typing this, may be my issue).

The dimmer (master) has power and works all the time. However, the aux switch only works once :slight_smile: I can turn the light off using the aux, but can’t turn it back on. I’m wondering if I don’t have a real ground and now there’s no return path for the traveler signal when the neutral is disconnected? It looks like the aux switch has power when the master is on, but no power when the master is off…

Anyone seen something similar?

I managed to get the switches to work after swapping line and load on the dimmer. Not sure why that works. However, the auxiliary switch is still not working 100%. It works fine for turning the dimmer on and off and dimming down. But when dimming “up”, it only brightens to about half-way most of the time.