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Insteon 3 way advice needed


dansarrosick

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Hi - I spent the day trying to get a 3 way config to work and cant think of any other options. My setup is below. 

Box 1 (Line Box)
- Black wire identified as line by being the only hot one of all - connected to switch black wire
- Two traveler wires (one red and one white) - One of these connected to the hot bundle above, the other capped off (I've tried both)
- White switch wire to bundle of white neutral wires in box
- Red switch wire capped off (since not load box)

Box 2 (Load box)
- Black switch wire connected to one of the traveler wires from Line box and the other capped off (One red and one white, Ive tried both)
- Red switch wire to Load - used process of elimination to determine load as it was the only one that didnt get hot as I tried different traveler wires
- White switch wire to neutral bundle - not sure if this is an issue or not but in this one gang box, I found 1 white and 1 black wire bundled together. I assume this is neutral as they were together and not connected to the original switch. (I never saw a black wire in the neutral bundle before..)

The outcome is that the LEDs in the switch in the line box turn on. The switch doesnt do anything as it shouldnt yet. The LEDs in switch in the load box never turn on - just get nothing. To verify the switch isnt dead, I swapped it with a switch somewhere else in the house and it works fine in the other location

I've tried both traveler wires. The only thing I can think of is the strange black wire neutral bundle but still cant get anything to turn on.

Please help!! Thanks.

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I am afraid that you may have to better describe the wiring in your two boxes.  How many switches in each box?  How many cables coming into each box?  From each cable, how many conductors and what color are they (ignoring bare copper ground wire)?  To what is each conductor connected?

 

For the purposes of an example to demonstrate the level of detail that is helpful (which may or may not match your situation): in one box may be two switches, three cables.  Two cables have two conductors (black and white) and the third has three conductors (black white red).  One of the BW cables is connected to one of the switches, black to one screw and white to the other.  The B from the other BW cable is connected to the black screw of the existing three-way switch.  The R and B of the RBW cable is connected to the two brass screws on the three way switch.  The W from the RBW and the W from the BW cable are connected together.

 

It is likely, in my estimation, that you have no neutral in the load box.  The black and white wire bundle is likely NOT a neutral.  It is also possible that you did not connect the black switch wire to the hot wire from the traveler bundle.  You said you connected it to "one" of the travelers, but it needs to be connected to a specific traveler: the specific one you connected to the hot wire in the line box.

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It the load box has only one 3-wire cable (black, red and white) and only one 2-wire cable (black, white), then there is not a neutral wire in that box at all.

 

Describe all the wires in both boxes, colors and how they are grouped/bundled. You can disregard any ground wires.

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dansarrosick,

I am happy to help you over the phone if you prefer by sending an email to support@universal-devices.com.

 

Here are the basic steps to look at a three way.

 

Box 1  Of the three wires two of them are usually going into one romex cable and the other is you Line ( Hot) or the load.

 

Box 2 may have the same configuration.  the two in the same cable are the travelers and the other is the load or hot.

 

You may have a third option where in one of the boxes all three go into the same cable.  If this is the case it still isn't much different to figure out.

 

 

If once one box has a neutral then you will use one of the travelers to become the neutral at the other box.  If both boxes have neutrals then connect both white wires to the neutral splice in the back of the box.

 

Now if you cap off both Red wires temporally you can then connect the black wire from the switch to the wire we determined is a hot or load.  If the switch light up that is your Hot (Use can also use a voltage meter to do this as well)  If it doesn't power up the switch then that is you load and you should connect the Red wire of the switch to it.  The other switch will keep its Red wire also capped off.  Now go to the other box and the wire you determined isn't a traveler will connect to the black wire of the switch at the location where you didn't connect the Red wire.  You will also put one of the travelers under that splice.  Lets say a black traveler.  Now go to the first box and connect the remaining black wire to that black traveler..

 

Finally connect the grounds to the ground wire.

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If you have/had the white wire from the 2-wire cable connected to the black wire from the 3-wire cable, then the white wire is line, not neutral. And the black wire from the 2-wire cable is load.

 

If that is the case, you'll need to make some wiring changes at the fixture.

 

If that is the case, then it's not in compliance with the code to simply pick up the neutral at the other box. It is also unsafe.

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Thanks for all the great feedback. So as suspected, that bundle of black and white was not the neutral. I used the suggested trick to use the second traveler wire to carry the neutral from the line box into the load box and it worked fine. Still interested in why this would be the case. The wires in the 1 gang load box were as follows: 1 wire with red (traveler), white (traveler) and black (bundled together with white from wire 2) and a second wire with black (load) and white (bundled together with black from wire 1).

 

So two questions - 

 

1. What were those two bundled wires and is it normal to not have a neutral in the load box of a 3 way?

2. Is it safe to continue to leave the traveler this way as per Stu's post?

 

Thanks again.

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Cannot tell you about the bundled wires, but I've come across no neutral in the load box of 3-way pairs (and x-way chains of 3 or more switches) many, many times. Even on 2015 constructed houses.

 

Is it safe to use a traveler in this way? I believe so. I take the step of labeling though, so a future electrician knows what is going on.

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Yes,it is absolutely normal for a box not to have a neutral. Your description makes me suspect a switchloop, where the white wire from cable 2 is actually a hot wire, and the black wire from cable 2 is switched return.

 

Unfortunately, I suspect what you have done has resulted in the fixture now being powered from a different breaker as before, and that you have the fixture neutral from a different supply from fixture hot. I suspect you have a code violation and can be unsafe under certain circumstances.

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Is it safe to use a traveler in this way?

 

My post indicated, as echoed by oberkc, that it is not OK to pick up a neutral from another circuit. Not only is it not in compliance with the National Electrical Code (NEC), doing so can create an unsafe condition including the possibility of a fire.

 

There is a correct and safe method to accomplish what you want. BTW, if the neutral in the other box IS on the same circuit, then you're OK. But when it comes to electricity, guessing is definitely a bad idea.

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No that does not sound right.  The question is not whether the two switches are on the same circuit...the question is whether the hot supply you tapped for the switches is on the same circuit as that originally powering the fixture.

 

What did you do with the white wire from the 2-conductor cable in the single box?  Is it capped off?  If you measure voltage between that wire and your neutral, I expect you will find it to have 120V.  Turn off the circuit breaker powering the switches.  Is there still 120V at the white wire?  If so, they are on different circuits.

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I think they're both on the same circuit as each switch turned on only when I turned on the single circuit I turned off to do the installs. Does that sound right?

 

All switches in a multi-way configuration must be on the same circuit. That's not the concern. What matters is the source of the neutral wire. So, I'll ask again:

 

Describe all the wires in both boxes, colors and how they are cabled (e.g., a 3-wire cable, a 2-wire cable, etc.). You can disregard any ground wires.

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Ok - I see. I think the neutral is from a different circuit. Description of all the wires in the line box below:

 

3 gang box, 3 switches all on different circuits, 1 Insteon switch I am trying to install and 2 regular switches, 4 wires coming into the box connected as follows:

 

Wire 1: Black, red and white wires - all going into a single switch (regular switch 1). This is a 3 way switch - but is not the one I am trying to convert to Insteon.

Wire 2: Black, red and white wires - white going to the neutral bundle (I believe this is the one I re-purposed which used to be a traveler), black is the line connected to the Insteon switch, red was the traveler and is now bundled with the black line and the line wire into the Insteon switch (Red insteon load wire capped off, white Insteon wire into the neutral bundle)

Wire 3: Black and white wires - White into the neutral bundle, black into a single switch (regular switch 2)

Wire 4: Black and white wires - White into the neutral bundle, black into a single switch (regular switch 2)

 

Hopefully that is the right info. A bit dark for a picture but can try again if that would help. So regular switch 2 is on a different circuit than the Insteon switch and it appears that the only neutral wires in the box came from wires that were connected to regular switch 2. Is my config ok (sounds like probably not)? Is there a way to properly do this with Insteon or do I need to go back to boring old switches??

 

Thanks for your patience with a novice :wink:

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There is a correct way to achieve what you want.

 

At the fixture:

Reconnect the two wires going to the switch so that black is line and white is neutral. Install a Micro Module with the load connected to the fixture.

 

At switch box 2:

Connect the (new) line and neutral to the SwitchLinc and to the black and white wires from the 3-wire cable going to switch box 1. Cap all red wires.

 

At switch box 1 (3-gang box):

Connect black and white from the 3-wire cable to the SwitchLinc. Cap all red wires.

 

Create a scene with both SwitchLincs as controllers and the Micro Module as a responder.

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One could, theoretically, accomplish this without a micro module.  It is possible to abandon the feed into the fixture completely and drive the fixture from the circuit feeding the 3-box.  Before I would do that, however, I would be checking what is already on that circuit to ensure you do not risk overloading it. 

 

Thoughts, stu?

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Wow that's clever! Let me play back what I think you are saying to verify I understand properly. I verified that the circuit that I'm moving on to has only 2 ceiling light fixtures so load should be ok. 

 

Instead of using the line that is temporarily being used for the Insteon switch, I would use the line that is going into "regular switch 2" as per above. Then the line and the neutral will be on the same circuit. So I would rewire the line connection on the Insteon switch in the 3 gang to be bundled with the line currently in regular switch 2 and the red traveler as well as something to connect back to the regular switch 2. What do I do with the old line that's no longer necessary? Can I just cap it? Do I need to change anything else?

 

Thanks again guys. 

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Yes. At the 3-gang box connect line and neutral to the 3-wire black and white wires, respectively and to the SwitchLinc line and neutral. The red traveler is not used at all and is capped. The red SwitchLinc load wire is also capped separately.

 

At the other switch box, cap the red wire from the 3-wire cable. Connect the white wire from the 3-wire cable to both the SwitchLinc white wire and the white wire from the 2-wire cable that goes to the fixture. Connect the black wire from the 3-wire cable to the black SwitchLinc wire. Connect the red load wire from the SwitchLinc to the black wire that goes to the fixture.

 

At the fixture, cap separately both the black line and white neutral wires. Connect the black and white wires from the switch box to the fixture.

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Hi - I diagramed this out and think I understand most (some) of it. 

 

3 Gang:

Wire 2 Black + Wire 3 Black + Wire 4 Black + SL Black 

Wire 2 White + Wire 3 White + Wire 4 White + SL White 

Wire 2 red = capped

SL Red = capped

 

Single:

Wire 2 Red = capped

Wire 2 White + Wire 1 White + SL White

Wire 2 Black + SL Black

Wire 1 Black + SL Red

 

So if I have the above correct, I have two questions. 1 - How do I connect back to switch 2 now that those blacks are bundled together? 2 - When you say "Connect the black and white wires from the switch box to the fixture" - Does that mean rerunning wires or are those wires already there?

 

Thanks.

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Not quite right.

 

Regular three-way switch 1 will remain connected as is now.  Don't touch it or wire 1.

 

Regular switch 2 is currently connected to the blacks from two cables (wires 2 and 3).  One is supply (or line, if you prefer), one is load.  You must identify which is which.  Use a volt meter, I suggest.

 

Once identified, that supply would be connected to the black wire from the traveler cable going to the other switch box (aka wire 4).  It will also be connected to switch 2 as it is now.  You may need to add a pigtail under the wire nut to connect to the switch.  The other (load) black cable would be connected to the other terminal of switch 2, just as it was when starting.

 

White from the supply cable will be joined with the white from the load cable, as well as white from the traveler cable (wire 4).  This will be a neutral.  Cap the red traveler, and cap the red wire from the insteon switch.

 

In the single box, you now have hot (black) and neutral (white) from the traveler cable.  Cap the red wire.  The BW cable goes to your fixture, right?  Have you made the suggested changes in the fixture box?  Assuming you have, connect the hot to switch black, neutral to switch white and load white, and switch red to load black. 

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I have no idea what you mean by wire 1, wire 2, wire 3 and wire 4. Disregarding the ground wire, each cable has 2-wires (black and white) or 3-wires (black, red and white).

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