Odd 3-way switch wiring

shw001June 3, 2010

Is this installation safe? I have two 3-way switches that work OK, but wiring doesn't seem logical. They are for two recessed lights in ceiling.

Switch #1: one hot wire (light green) connected to common terminal of switch. Other 2 wires (pink and black) connected to other two terminals.

Switch #2: One pink (neutral) connected to common of switch. Another pink (neutral) connnected to one other terminal. One black (hot) connected to third terminal of swich.

The house is 60 years old, but this room is only 16 years old.

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pharkus

Uhh...

hot--3way--two_travelers--3way--light. Okay that's normal, the pink "neutral" isn't exactly neutral. it goes to the light.

the colors, however, are whacked. Pink is probably red, so black/red that's okay. You can't have a green hot wire, that's one of those code things. Green (or green with a yellow stripe) can only be ground. Somebody did a no-no.

So... as far as the circuit layout itself... that's correct, and normal. The color code is wrong though, and as much as it sucks, that should be corrected.

    Bookmark   June 3, 2010 at 5:23AM
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joed

The only problem I see is the green wire being used as hot. Green is only allowed to be used as ground. It can not be recoloured to be used as anything else.

    Bookmark   June 3, 2010 at 8:08AM
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shw001

Thanks folks,

The wires really are pink. Not the typical fire-engine red I usually see in house wiring.

If the neutral is not really neutral, why does the circuit tester not light up between it and the ground?

The green hot wire is also not the typical green you see in wiring. It is more of a pastel green, AND the conductor in the green wire is not solid coper, but stranded copper and a bit thicker than the other wires. which are the typical solid copper. (??)

    Bookmark   June 3, 2010 at 10:25AM
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hendricus

Switch #1: one hot wire (light green) connected to common terminal of switch. Other 2 wires (pink and black) connected to other two terminals.

Hot comes in on the common and leaves the first switch on either of the two travelers depending on which way the switch is thrown.

Switch #2: One pink (neutral) connected to common of switch. Another pink (neutral) connnected to one other terminal. One black (hot) connected to third terminal of swich.

There are no neutrals on a switch. The hot is coming from the first switch on one of the travelers and leaves on the wire on the common to the lights. Throw the switch to see if tester lights up and/or check if you have a good ground.

    Bookmark   June 3, 2010 at 10:43AM
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pharkus

your tester lights up when it is completing a circuit from hot to neutral (or ground). You put your tester on this wire you keep calling "neutral" and the other end ON ground. This isn't completing a circuit, because there is no 'hot' involved.

In other words, your tester isn't lighting up because there's "no power", not because it's "neutral".

It doesn't matter what shade of green the wire is - green can't be used for anything other than ground. ANY green.

Pink is okay, albeit weird.

    Bookmark   June 3, 2010 at 12:13PM
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samneric

Switch #1: one hot wire (light green) connected to common terminal of switch. Other 2 wires (pink and black) connected to other two terminals.
Switch #2: One pink (neutral) connected to common of switch. Another pink (neutral) connected to one other terminal. One black (hot) connected to third terminal of switch.

If the common terminals on both switches are connected to the load (lights in this case), then the pinks may actually be neutrals. In that case, the installation is highly illegal and dangerous as both of the 3-ways are switching either hot or neutral (on their traveler terminals) to the load causing it to be "on" when one switch common is connected to hot and the other switch common is connected to neutral. The load is then "off" when common terminals are BOTH connected to hot or neutral. Note that when both are hot, the load will appear to be off but is still energized.

If this is actually the case, get a real electrician out to fix the problem.

    Bookmark   June 3, 2010 at 7:25PM
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shadow700

Given the specific colors mentioned, it is possible that the red dye in the insulation has faded over the years? That would mean the "pink" started as "red" and the "green" started as "brown".

    Bookmark   June 4, 2010 at 7:03AM
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pharkus

samneric, the configuration you speak of does not result in neutral being on a common screw on either switch. The OP states that one is.

    Bookmark   June 4, 2010 at 1:26PM
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hendricus

pharkus, I believe the OP is going by wire colors where black is hot and not-black is neutral. This does not hold up in 3 way switching and switch loops.

    Bookmark   June 4, 2010 at 2:01PM
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pharkus

Nah. OP indicated that (s)he believes the pink wire on the second common to be neutral because it does not light up his/her tester.

    Bookmark   June 5, 2010 at 12:29AM
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matt-kuhar

just out of curiosity how do you get green from brown???

    Bookmark   June 5, 2010 at 1:07PM
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