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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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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.

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Unscrew cover plate.
Unscrew both screws holding switch into wall box.
Pull switch outward to stretch wires.
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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.
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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.

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