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Dimmer switches I have a basic wall slide dimmer switch with 3 places to put 2 wires. 2 screws on the bottom & 1 on top next to the ground wire. I hooked up the 2 on the bottom- nothin. I reversed the wires, still nothin. would the one on top be a + or --. which of the bottom 2 would I use for the other wire.

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  • ptmcgrath9 Jun 29, 2008

    alittle confused


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The switch you have is a "3-way" switch. It is used when you want to controll the light from two locations. What you want is called a "single pole" switch. However, you can make the 3 way work. You will notice that of the 3 screws on the switch two of them are the same color and one is a different color from the other two. This different colored one is called the "common" terminal.

Of the two wires that you have one is a "hot" and has power on it all the time, the other is a "switched leg" it goes directly to the light fixture.

To make the 3 way switch work like a single pole, attach the "hot" wire to the "common" terminal, and the "switched leg" to one of the two screws that are the same color. If the first one doesn't work then the other will. (or change the position of the switch)

A 3 way switch switches or "throws" from the common terminal to one of the other two screws normally called "travelers", when you change the position of the switch it throws from the common terminal to the other traveler.

Hope that helps and good luck. Make sure to turn the power off before attaching the switch to the wires. Never install a dimmer on a hot circuit, it's a great way to ruin them.

Posted on Jul 09, 2008

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I need a wiring diagram to wire two way dimmer switched in place of normal switches

Take off the 2 wires from the old switch... put on the 2 wires from the dimmer. the 3rd wire is a ground it is green put it on a ground screw at the back. If your switch has more wires it is likely a 3 way system and needs a 3 way switch instead.

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Hi Sara,

Please read this entirely before attempting.

I am an electrician and would like to help you with this problem. You have provided great detail of your situation, yet I am confused about the statement describing how you wired it:

"-Red Wire (used in 3-way installation-tagged) from switch to the red wire in wall."

Before checking wiring, be sure to shut off the power to the circuit.

The "tagged" wire should be the one you identified with tape (when you removed the original) that was connected to the dark colored (called a "shunt" or "common terminal") screw of the switch.

In a 3 way installation, both red wires from the dimmer switch are used. In a single pole installation, only the UNinsulated red wire is used and the insulated wire is not.

To which wire do you affix the "tag"? If it was a short wire that ran between the the bundled black wires and the shunt terminal screw of the old switch, then the dimmer switch's black wire should be combined with these bundled black wires. One of the dimmer switch's red wires would be connected to the red wire in the box and the dimmer switch's last red wire would be connected to the remaining black wire in the box. I understand that this is the way you have it currently wired - but without being able to dim.

If this is all correct, did you check / change the Minimum Brightness Adjustment setting for the switch as detailed in Step 7 of the directions?

"This Dimmer incorporates a
minimum brightness adjustment
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I hope this helps and good luck!

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1 Answer

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Turn off power.
Unscrew cover plate.
Unscrew both screws holding switch into wall box.
Pull switch outward to stretch wires.
Take photos so you can reconstruct wiring if necessary.
Note color of each screw.
Green is for ground wire.
There are many different kinds of switches.
Single pole switch has two wires plus ground, and both screws will be same brass color, plus green ground screw.
3-way switch has 3 wires plus ground, and one screw will be different color than other two screws, plus green ground screw.
Remove wires from switch.
If wires are attached into holes on back of switch, notice there is small slot next to each hole.
Insert small screwdriver or metal nail file into slot while pulling on wire. This takes 3 hands, and then wire will come out of hole.
Replace each wire onto new switch, matching the old switch, tighten screws very tight, and then put switch back into box.
When pushing wires back into box, you want to keep the wires folded behind the switch as much as possible.
Wires are not harmed when scrunched back into box.
Put switch cover over switch so no possible spark can exit box.
Turn power ON, and try the switch.

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I would like to install a Lutron 3 way dimmer switch. The switch has a red, black, green, and white/red striped wires. The previous switch has 2 red and 2 black wires connected to it. The other 2 light...

The circuit you are working on is a 3-location circuit - where two of the devices were 3-way switches, and the remaining device (the one you are trying to replace with a dimmer) is a 4-way switch. Standard dimmers like the one you're using CAN NOT be used to replace a 4-way location. If you wanted to use it to replace either of the 3-way switches, that's no problem - but what you're doing right now will not work.

If you absolutely want to dim the lights from that specific electrical box, my suggestion is to upgrade to a "smart dimmer" where instead of a basic dimmer and two light switches, you have three devices that talk to one another and all dim the lights together.

In terms of your ground wire questions - ground wires certainly aren't necessary to make the whole thing work - rather they're there for safety. Sometimes installers will ground the device by connecting the ground wire to the backbox (assuming its metal) and then rely on the mounting screws on the dimmer or switch to perform the grounding. There are some code rules/exceptions for allowing the device to not be grounded (usually when its in a plastic, non-combustible backbox). If you want to make sure everything is completely up to code (which are usually goverened by local municipalities), you should consult a licensed electrician - but above all else, just use good judgement. Long story short, if the devices weren't grounded before, you can't make it any worse.

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You mention a dimmer and a 2nd on-off switch.
You purchased a 'double pole' switch which I believe is a 3-way switch.

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You can guess. There are only 3 wires and you can keep trying different combination until both switches work. Do not change wiring on 2nd switch and sooner or later the right combination will appear.

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If you want to test, it takes 3 ez steps.

Here's what I would do.
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2nd switch is moved to down position.
We are NOT going to test wires on 2nd switch.
We are just testing wires at old dimmer.
Turn on power.

Power is on.
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Test each wire to bare ground wire.
One and only one wire will light up the tester.
Mark this wire.

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Test each wire again to bare ground wire.
Again only one wire will light up tester.
Mark this wire.
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If a different wire lights up each time, then these two wires are 'travellers' and they connect to each brass colored screw. And the last wire connects to dark colored screw.

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Your old switch has two wires.
One of these wires is the Hot (I suspect 100% that the wire that comes from the other wires that are twisted together is the Hot)
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Separate the old switch wires and turn on power.
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As long as the power is running from the breaker panel to the switches rather than the fixtures then it should be pretty simple.

1. Run a new 2 conductor wire from the existing box to the new box at the top of the stair.

2. Install a switch at the top of the stairs.

3. Disconnect the hot wire that is running to the two existing switches and connect it to one of the two conductors running to the top of the stairs.

4. Connect the remaining conductor on the wire going to the top of the stairs to the two existing switches.

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That should fixya!

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