Need Help! Complicated 3 Switch Circuit


(Todd Whitehead) #1

I’d like to start by saying I have a pretty good grasp of how 3-way (and 4-way) light switches are wired. My issue is not understanding it, but trying to think of a way to compensate for a poor choice made by an electrician 25 years ago.

Here we go.

I have a circuit where power comes from the panel to a 3-way. The white wire was capped off and the black went to the common wire.

Then there was 14/2 wired to the traveller terminals (black and white). That wire goes to a 4-way switch where another 14/2 is attached. Black wires attached to one side, white to the other.

Then, that 14/2 wire goes to another 3-way. The box with that last 3-way has 2 other 14/2 coming into it. One goes to the light, the other one is always hot. BUT THE ELECTRICIAN CUT THE BLACK WIRE ALL THE WAY BACK IN THE BACK OF THE BOX!!!

So, in that box, I really only have an always on white wire.

Now, I want to use an Aeotec Micro Smart Switch. The instructions for that switch show a diagram for use with a 3-way, but I really just don’t understand it. And I’m not sure if I can use it or not.

I THINK it wants me to put the switch in the last box and run the wire out of the common side of the last switch to the switch input side of that micro switch. (That terminal is too small to take a 14-guage wire, so you cannot run anything with current on it, so it would just be used to signal the switch that the state of the other switches have changed.)

But I cannot think of a way to wire this without that black wire that the electrician so thoughtfully chopped off.

I don’t think I can even put the switch up in the light fixture, because I would assume that only the one 14/2 would be going up there (white would be active all the time, but black would only be hot if the light was supposed to be on, so I cannot wire it there.)

I think I’m pretty much out of luck, but I thought I’d check with the brain trust here. Does anyone have any ideas?

Thanks!
-Todd


(Mike Maxwell) #2

Folks have been having issues controlling the AEONS by feeding 120VAC into the control side of the AEON as shown in aeon’s drawing, just a heads up. Thread here:


(CaesarsGhost) #3

I would reccomend ringing out all the wires so you know exactly where each cable is run between the 3 switches, draw a picture, and then see how many wires you really have to work with. Your description was alittle confusing to me, it sounded like you have a 4 way configuration with 2 out of the 3 switches being powered form the panel. Then you mention the black wire being cut, but did not specify which one of the 14/2 runs had the cut and where it was going.


(Todd Whitehead) #4

Here is a diagram:

I’m thinking the only solution is to replace all three switches with a master and 2 slaves like this:

-Todd


(Mike Maxwell) #5

You have a third option. Replace the light in the top circuit with a 120v relay.
Use the hot and neutral in the last box as power to an aeon, connect the light to the aeon load, connect the relay contacts to the aeon input switch port.


(Todd Whitehead) #6

@Mike_Maxwell

I’m not sure I understand what you are proposing.

The light only has neutral and switched hot. If I tie the power from the light switch into the wires going to the light, how do I tell the light to turn on and off when a switch is toggled?

Thanks,
Todd


(Mike Maxwell) #7

That last junction box has a switched hot, a neutral and an unswitched hot according to your diagram.


(Todd Whitehead) #8

But the electrician that installed it cut the hot wire off in the back of the box so I cannot tap into it.

Thanks.

Todd.


(Mike Maxwell) #9

Awesome… Just cutoff, not even enough room to get a wire nut and extend it 4 inches?
Having a hot un-insulated conductor in a junction box probably isn’t the best situation to be in.


(Michael Barry) #10

if you can’t get that hot you are in rough shape I think. No outlet or something nearby you can pull another from?


(Ray) #11

Your solution is a little more expensive but seem like the only option. Don’t forget to either remove the circuit breaker for the cut wire or cap off that wire at the panel.


(Todd Whitehead) #12

@Mike_Maxwell,
I completely agree, that’s why I said in my original post:

All caps, exclamation points, because it’s stupid, and potentially dangerous.

It is literally cut even with the rest of the Romex sheathing back where it is clamped into the box.

The “good” news is, it turns out that what I wanted to do doesn’t work anyway, I had the exact same experience that is talked about in the thread linked above on another circuit. I got the Aeotec Micro Smart Switch working, and after I stuffed it all into the box, it works with ST turning it on and off, but no longer detects a switch state change (current or no current) to toggle the load.

So, my only recourse is to use Z-wave switches and slaves. Oh, and I found another 3-way wired with a cut hot wire and will need to do the same thing there. So between the Aeotec modules not working as designed and the stupid electrician move Instead of 3 aeotec modules, I’ll need 7 z-wave switches or slaves. ($300 instead of $125)

The electrician actually did two stupid things. Cut the wire, and chose to run one 14/2 hot to each end rather than using 14/3 like the text book circuit requires.

Thanks!
-Todd


(Mike Maxwell) #13

Regarding the three way micro trigger states. The LV input has three configurable trigger states:
Toggle: the default (follows toggle switch)
Momentary (on if off, off if on)
Three way, which I’ve not used, but given the name, is probably the one to use.


(Todd Whitehead) #14

@Mike_Maxwell,

This thread talks about using it to control a 3-way circuit:

It just doesn’t really work reliably.

I hooked everything up in a different circuit in my house and it worked exactly as I expected it to. I turned off the breaker to stuff everything in the box and when I powered it back up, ST could control the light, but flipping the switches had no impact on the light state. Others in the thread above have had the same experience.

-Todd


(Mike Maxwell) #15

Yea, I know, been posting in that thread to. I run all my three way Aeon’s (dimmers and switches) using low voltage/dry contact, and I’ve not had any issues. The only conclusion I can make is that the AEON micro switches aren’t as durable using 120vac control, hence me trying to convince everyone to use low voltage for these when in a three way config.


(Todd Whitehead) #16

Yep. They work great when they are just running LV on the switch loop. That’s not always an option. I’m thinking I might just foregone the 3-way capability in some cases and let the switch in the box with the Aeon control it (cut out the other switch(es)).

-Todd


(Mike Maxwell) #17

I’m not giving up on you man, in those two other boxes you could stuff cheapo monoprice contact sensors, wire the toggle to the aux contact port and do three way control in ST?


(Cooper Lee) #18

I can think of at least 3 ways to do this - only one of them would utilize traditional “wiring” schemes - the rest are all based on ST solutions;

1.) Replace the light bulb with a Hue (if you have a Hue system) or a Wink light bulb. Then use the white and black to have it always on and replace the three switches with Leviton or GE switches (i wouldn’t use the AeoTec) and use ST to turn them all on/off when any one of them is switched (light included)

2.) The same as (1) but use whatever light bulb you want and break the circuit at the last switch closest to the light - i.e. use the black wire from the prior two switches as just a pass through since you can’t get to your hot lead closest to the light. Then use the same mentioned switches and un-cap the white in switch 1 to power the first two “dumb” Z-wave switches.

3.) Use it exactly as it is wired but insert a DPDT relay in the box closest to the light - that way you will have power available for a SmartSwitch… Even when all the others are off…


(Jared) #20

Sorry to rez this thread, but did the OP consider pulling the switch box out of the wall and pigtailing that cut black wire out? Then you can put an old work box in the hole or angle screw a new work box in. It seems like it would have solved all your problems.


(Josh) #21

Sorry to further resurrect the thread, but hoping someone can help me on a very similar note…

Here’s my situation:

  1. Equipment: AEON Micro Switch (Dimmer) G2.
  2. Location: Kitchen
    Dimmer Switch (yes I know, it’s not Zwave) connected to another On/Off
    Switch at the other end of the kitchen. **Trying to install the Aeon at
    the On/Off switch at the other end of the Kitchen (what I believe is the
    Aux).

Working Assumptions:

  1. The switch on the other end of the kitchen is the aux (THIS IS WHERE I’m INSTALLING AEON MICRO).
    I tested it and the black wire on the AUX is cold when I disconnect the black wire at the Kitchen Dimmer.
    The Black Wire at the Kitchen dimmer is always hot – I’m assuming that’s the AC LIVE

  2. The black wire at the Aux is a live wire (unless it’s a traveler somehow? – this one confuses me) I probably should have disconnected the normal dimmer switch and tested all the wires coming into it… not just the black.

  3. The red wire at the Aux is the Load (This also confuses me as I’d expect a red to be a traveler from the Master)

  4. The white wire is a traveler from the Master

Here’s a diagram of how I’ve wired it up… after looking at it, I
realized I need to connect the green wire on the Master to the
Neutral–it’s currently not connected. I’ll try this tomorrow to see if
it helps.

HERE’s what’s happening

  1. When I turn on the power and the AEON Switch is On and the Kitchen Master Dimmer is ON, the lights are On.
  2. I cannot turn off the lights via the Kitchen Master when the AEON Switch is On.
  3. When I turn off the Kitchen Master and THEN turn off the AEON Switch, they go off.
  4. So long as the AEON Switch is OFF I can then use the Kitchen Master to turn it on/off at will.

This confuses me* After I turn off the Kitchen Master and the AEON
Switch, I cannot turn the AEON Switch Back on with ST’s… at least I
don’t believe it’s on because the light stays off and it keeps saying
"turning on" via the app.

I am not an electrician (clearly) and am hopeful that I’m close
enough that someone could offer a small tweak here or there and point
out my error. Any help would be super appreciated!!! Thanks in advance.

-Josh


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