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3 way switch does not work

I installed a dimmer switch on one 3 way switch but not the other one, the switch works but the dimmer doesn't

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  • rcorley98 May 02, 2009

    I installed a 3 way dimmer switch and the light turns on and off from both locations but the dimmer does'nt dimm the lights



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I have found that 3-way switches must be of the same brand. Replacing the switch with a like 3-way dimmer should solve your problem. I know, they're pricey. If this solves your problem, please rate me.

Posted on Apr 27, 2009


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I have a dimmer switch with 2 red wires 1 black wire and 1 green wire

that is a 3 way switch. In order for that to work it has to be installed to a light with more than one switch. For example in a hall way and there is a switch at both ends of the hall then both switches need to be 3 way switches

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How to fit dimmer switch

The dimmer switch you select will depend on the type of bulbs you will be using. The 'original type ' of dimmer works with regular incandescent bulbs and halogen bulbs only. They cost around $15.00. Then there are dimmers for compact florescent (cfl) bulbs and LED lights that are dimmable, as well for regular light bulbs. These types of dimmers are more expensive, ranging in price form around $40.00 upwards.
Light Switches Dimmers

If you are replacing a single pole switch ( just one switch that operates lights) you'll need a single pole dimmer. If you are replacing a 3-way switch ( two switches that operate the same light) you'll need a 3-way dimmer.
Installing the dimmer is pretty straight forward. All dimmers come with installation instructions. Make sure you turn off the circuit breaker for the particular switch you are replacing.

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I have a dimmer switch installed and it wont work with the celing fan

Your question has two switches and 1 dimmer.
The fan switch works.
The light switch works.
The dimmer does not. What is the dimmer connected to?
Dimmers typically will not control fan speed unless they are rated to do that.
Do you have a 3-way switching where two switches control same light, and you installed the dimmer in place of 3-way switch?

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1 Answer

Using 3 way dimmer, lights don't appear to go to full light

Hi Gene,

When two 3-way switches are used to control a light - and you wish to install a dimmer, you replace only ONE of the switches. If you replace both switches with dimmers, and one dimmer is set to 50%, the light will only be able to get to 50% bright; regardless even if the other switch is set to 100%. The light can only get as bright as the current lowest dimmer position of either switch.

Most modern dimmers are solid state, and should be able to get full power to the lamps. Older dimmers aren't very efficient and work a little differently - but should still do a good job as far as brightness of the lamp. You can run into trouble trying to dim CFL (compact fluorescent lamps) if they are not labeled specifically for use with a dimmer. Even those that are labeled for use with a dimmer have a noticeably short range of dimming when compared to standard tungsten lamps, and tend to have an audible buzzing sound.

If this doesn't answer your question, please provide the wattage, type and number of lamps in the fixture. Your dimmer is rated for up to 600 watts, but may be less if it is in a switchbox with other dimmers or you have broken off portions of the heat shield as directed by the instructions.

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1 Answer

How to replace dimmer switch

Hi Karen,

There are two types of dimmer switches - single pole (or S1) and three way (or S3). You can determine which type you have without even removing a screw. Here's how: How many switches can control the light fixture now? One or more than one? If you answered one, you need a single pole dimmer switch. If you answered 2 or more (it doesn't matter how many at this point), you need a three way dimmer. Ok, we're done with step one almost.. make sure that the one switch that controls the light has ON and OFF on the toggle handle. Likewise, none of the multi-switch arrangements that control a light should have ON or OFF on the toggle handle. None of the wide rocker or Decora style switches have ON or OFF on them.

Next, do the light switches that control the fixture only control an incandescent light? If the switch operates a light AND a fan - like a paddle fan fixture - you can't simply replace the switch with a dimmer. Dimmers are for use with a 120 volt incandescent lamps (tungsten, quartz, halogen, etc.). They are not designed to work on motors circuits - such as fans - nor are they designed to work for lights that have a "ballast" like neon or fluorescent types or a "transformer" like low voltage track lights, etc.. Check the bulb's voltage rating if unsure if a low voltage type or not. The only exception to the above that I am aware of would be for lamps that SPECIFICALLY state on the package that they can be used with a dimmer. You can find dimmable compact fluorescent lamps that will work, but as far as I know, there are no other types of lamps or motors for that matter that will work WITHOUT OVERHEATING or DANGER OF FIRE.
A retail package of dimmable CFLs.

That means, yes; if you install a dimmer on a motor, it will adjust the motor speed BUT, the motor WILL over heat and can easily start a fire. The same holds true for lamps that have a ballast. If it doesn't specifically state it is for use with a dimmer, don't try to use a dimmer to control it.

Check the wattage rating of the fixture. There is a sticker affixed to every fixture that indicates the maximum wattage of each lamp socket. Add these values together. Most fixtures are well under 600 watts. This 600 value is significant, as this is the base rating for dimmer switches. Nearly all unmarked dimmers are rated for 600W - but if you look closely, you should find this wattage rating along with the voltage rating on it somewhere. If your fixture is capable of more than 600W, you should select a dimmer that is rated to at least handle this wattage. The next higher wattage rating for most dimmers is 1000W, and costs about twice as much as the 600W dimmer. It only gets more expensive from here. Fortunately, not many residential applications need 1000W+ dimmers for the loads they will control. The need for 100W+ dimmers comes into play when there is a dimmer switch in the same box as the old switch. When converting a dimmer & switch to a dimmer and dimmer in the same box, the wattage rating is derated to disapate the heat created by the dimmers. Please, consult the chart below to see how to properly derate:

Ok, the preliminary work is complete. Shut off the power to the circuit. Remove the wall plate and remove the mounting screws that secure the switch from the switch box. Gently pull the switch out of the box. If it is a single pole switch, it will have two (2) terminals. If it has 3 or more terminals, (not counting the green ground screw) skip ahead to the three way section. If there are more than 2 wires connected to the switch (again, not counting the green ground screw), mark the wires so that you know which wire(s) go to which terminals. Use masking tape and a pen to write or colored tape to identify all wires that connect to the same terminal. Turn power back on. Test the all the wires for the presence of 120 volts. Once this is learned, shut the power off again. Test to make sure power is indeed off. Remove the wires from the switch terminal screws. Remove any bare or green ground wire from the green screw. The new dimmer should be connected so that the the "power" or "line" wire or terminal is connected to the wire(s) that you found to be powered in the previous step. If there was 2 or more powered wires that had the same identification or mark on them when testing - make sure all those wires get connected to this terminal of the dimmer. Connect the remaining wire(s) (that should also ALL have the same marking) to the remaining "load" or "light" wire or terminal of the dimmer. Make sure the wires that connect with a supplied wirenut have no exposed metal to short out. Check your work. Make sure none of the marked wires have been mixed with the other marked wires. Connect any bare or green ground wire to the green or bare wire of the dimmer or green screw on the dimmer. Gently fold the wires to the rear of the box or sides and insert the dimmer. Secure to the box with screws and install the wall plate. Turn on power and test.

If you have a multi-switch or three way installation, it's a little more complicated. Firstly, only ONE dimmer is used in the circuit. Installing more than one dimmer will prevent the light from being made brighter than the current brightness setting of lowest switch. If there are 3 or more switches that control the light, two are three way types; and are the only ones that can be changed to a dimmer. The third, and subsequent switches in multi-switch installations are "four way switches". Dimmers are not made to replace them. Three way switches have 3 terminal screws and four way switches have four screws (not counting the green ground terminal screw). This is the only way to determine one from the other. Start by shutting off the power. Go to the switch that you would like to replace with the dimmer. Remove the wall plate and switch mounting screws. Gently pull the switch out of the switch box. Count the number screws on the switch body (do not count any green ground screw). If it has 3 screws, it's a 3 way. If it has four, its a four way and can not be changed to a dimmer. If it has 4 screws, resecure the switch into the switch box and reinstall the wall plate. You will need to find a three way switch that controls this light. If none of the other locations is not desirable, you can not install the dimmer. Otherwise, remove any bare or green wire from the green ground screw. Next, locate the dark colored screw. This is called the "common" or "shunt" screw. Sometimes it is painted black; and other times it is gold when all the non-ground screws are silver colored. In any case, it will be the "odd colored" screw. Mark the wire(s) that connect to this screw with a number "1". Mark the wire under one of the other screws (it doesn't matter which) with a "2"; and mark the wire under the remaining screw with a "3". The wires that are connected to these terminals and marked as number 2 & 3 are called "traveler wires". Traveler wires run between switches and common (or shunt) wires that connected to the terminal with the same name and marked as number 1 does one of two things: it either comes from the power source or it supplies power to the light fixture. Make sure each wire that was connected to the 3 way switch has a number on it, then remove all the wires from the switch terminals. You will connect your traveler wires numbered 2 & 3 to the dimmer's traveler wires or terminals (it does not matter which wire is connected to which terminal; and the common or shunt wire numbered 1 to the dimmer's common or shunt wire or terminal. Many dimmers use black as the common or shunt and red & white for travelers. You'll need to consult the wiring information that comes with the dimmer to find out the colors used for common or shunt and the traveler wires on your switch. Check your work. Make sure no exposed wire can short when it is powered up, later. Carefully fold the wires into the switch box. Insert the dimmer into and secure to the switch box. Reinstall the wall plate and turn power on & test.

I hope this helps & good luck! Please rate my replay.

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1 Answer

I am replacing a Lightolier 3-way Dimmer switch with a Leviton IPI06-1LX Dimmer switch. When I install the dimmer switch it works fine. But the on/off regular wall switch won't turn the light on or...

It depends. Some dimmers are considered "smart dimmers," where the control on the other end of the 3-way has to be intelligent enough to send a signal back to the dimmer. If the Lightolier dimmer was a smart dimmer, then chances are that the 3-way control was designed to talk only to that specific dimmer. The Leviton product you replaced it with is a simple, basic dimmer - it should work in conjunction with a simple, basic 3-way switch.

If the 3-way control already IS a simple, basic 3-way switch - then I would simply re-check the wiring of the dimmer you replaced.

Sep 11, 2011 | Electrical Supplies

1 Answer

I bought a MAW-603 with an accessory dimmer to be placed in a 4 way circuit. I followed the instruction on how to connect the accessory dimmer in the 4 way switch location but doesn't work. When I leave...

You are saying that you have a "4-way circuit". That means that you originally had two 3-way switches and at least one 4-way switch. ALL existing mechanical switches _must_ to be replaced with electronic dimmers in order for things to work correctly. You must have only _one_ master dimmer (MA-600) located wherever you desire. All of the other switch locations must be companion dimmers (MA-R)., NOT mechanical switches.

The MAW-603-RH comes with a master dimmer and one companion dimmer, so I suspect that you need to install one more companion dimmer.

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1 Answer

Regular 3 way switch does not seem compatible with the Dimmer

you have the circuit mis-wired, the wire on the identified terminal( black screw or black wire on dimmer switch) is incorrect. Turn off power and swap one wire at a time to find the correct combination. The mistake could be at either switch so if the first does not help try the other.

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1 Answer

I'm attempting to wire a 3 way switch with a dimmer

Hello Chris,

What has happened, is that you've got th two "traavelers" reversed on the plain toggle switch. These are the RED and BLACK wires. turn off the power and reverse the position of these wires and the switch should work correctly from either the Dimmer switch or the plain switch.

Here's a link with a diagram, which might not exactly match your circuit configuration, but you can also watch a short video that explains how 3-way switches work.

It is just a matter of getting the travelers on the correct screws in order for the circuit to operate properly from either switch. Also, depending on the type of dimmer you've installed, the other switch will only turn the lights on at the dimmer setting that you've left the dimmer switch in. So be sure that you're not turning the dimmer all the way down before you shut it off (at the dimmer) otherwise, the other 3-way switch won't be able to turn the lights on, regardless of whether you've got the travelers in the correct locations.

Remember to turn the power off to the circuit you're working on while you rewire it and flip the breaker back on when you're done.

Hope you find this Very Helpful and best regards!

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1 Answer

3 pole dimmer not completely working

there is not way to know how the wires are run by the description.
it is possible to connct true 3-way switch, it will required additonal pair of wires to all 3 switches (meaning 3-14/3 wire).
so call 3-way switches is only two way. I have not seems a real 3-way switches.
go to the following site. they a connection diag. for the switches.

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