one light, two switches

lucky1_gardenerJune 28, 2012

We've lived in our house for 13 years (a 40 year old house) and this has been a strange thing that happens every few months or so. In our laundry room we have a light, it is controlled by a switch in the garage and one switch in our house in the hall. On occasion when the light switch is flipped in the hall to turn that light on, the light doesn't go on. If I then flip the switch in the garage it does go on and then there won't be any issues with it again for months. It's always the same switch that will not turn it on, but once the garage one is flipped it works. The switch in the garage is closest to the main panel, not sure if that makes a difference.


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Is the problem something you can test? If you put the hall switch in one position, will the garage switch always work (or not work). Try the other position with the hall switch. If the problem is repeatable, then I'd be inclined to think that someone used an ordinary switch when they should have used a three-way switch. One way to tell, without opening the box, is that three-way switches are NOT labeled "on" or "off".

If you can repeat the problem, it might just be a bad switch or something off in the wiring. "Back stabbing" devices can cause weird problems too.

    Bookmark   June 28, 2012 at 1:01AM
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Sounds like a 3-way switch setup. If connected improperly at one or both switches, the light will be ON only when the switches are in a particular position.

    Bookmark   June 28, 2012 at 6:22AM
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Thanks for your replies! The switches both are not labeled. I'm guessing it has to do with how one is wired. But, it's not something that can be repeated. It's very random and will be months between happening.

    Bookmark   June 28, 2012 at 3:13PM
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"The switches both are not labeled."

Three way and four way switches are not normally labeled with off-on positions since the operation of each depends on the position of the other(s).

You may have the more commonly used of the two switches simply starting to wear out.

    Bookmark   June 28, 2012 at 3:38PM
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