Lights stay on 4-way circuit

short310September 7, 2013

I have a stairwell light and two hallway lights on a circuit consisting of a 3- way switch at front door, a 4- way at the kitchen entrance, a 4-way at the top of the stairs, and a 3-way in the upstairs hall. This arrangement has worked well for over 30 years with all switches updated about 7 or 8 years ago. Today, I went to turn the lights off and none of the switches work. The lights are still on regardless of what position any of the switches are in. Help!

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Wow I would have never thought of that possibility until you mention it, but come to think about it now, all it would take to create that kind of a situation is just one short between the two traveler wires anywhere in the traveler circuit. All your switches are doing now is switching from one energized traveler wire to the other energized traveler wire.

    Bookmark   September 8, 2013 at 12:58AM
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It just got worse. I went to turn off the breaker. None of the breakers shut off the light.

    Bookmark   September 8, 2013 at 1:41AM
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I just tried every breaker in the house. None of them turned off the lights. Is this a major fire hazard?

    Bookmark   September 8, 2013 at 1:43AM
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Did you turn off any 240 breakers, the ones with the tie handle? Last house we had the basement lights were tapped in to one side of the dryer circuit in a junction box. 15 amp wire on a 30 amp circuit.

    Bookmark   September 8, 2013 at 8:51AM
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Do you have any subpanels hidden around the house?

    Bookmark   September 8, 2013 at 11:45AM
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Assuming there is a possibility that another circuit (not related to the 3-way lighting circuit) is shorting into the 3-way lighting circuit thus feeding the lights through another circuit breaker too, I would try switching only one of the 3-way switch (not the 4-way switch) to a different on/off position and try every breaker in the house again.

    Bookmark   September 8, 2013 at 12:12PM
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Turn all of the breakers off one at a time without turning any of them on until they are all off. Chances are there is a short between 2 separate circuits that just happen to be on the same phase (hot leg) in the panel. This would explain why they don't turn off when turning off and on one circuit at a time.

    Bookmark   September 9, 2013 at 9:32PM
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Thanks to everyone that responded. After shutting off all of the breakers 1 at a time and lights stayed on I decided I needed an electrician. Turned out to be a real head scratcher. After many attempts to diagnose the electrician had discovered 2 sources of power but wasn't sure where they were coming from. Long story short. There was a light switch in the loft tied to a ceiling fan and a light. I thought it was a 3-way for the wall sconces which are currently not in use. He flipped the switch and all the lights on the hallway circuit went off. Turns out that when turned on, which was accidentally done this weekend, it ran directly into the 2nd circuit. He retired it to be on its own and everything works great. So, someone was exactly right. If I would have switched off the right 2 breakers at the same time, the would have turned off the lights. Thanks again to everyone who responded.

    Bookmark   September 9, 2013 at 9:53PM
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