Fix your S3

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 If you are trying to fix a 3way circuit that is already wired but not working properly, you will need to determine which wiring method was used in your circuit by first gathering key ✥ information about your circuit and then comparing it with the methods in this article.

  In order to figure out which method was used on your circuit, you will first need to;
  • Understand the 6 important terms;  feed, traveler, switch leg, common, 2 wire and 3 wire. Explained below.
  • Find the   ✥ location of your feed (Is it at the switch near you? or the 2nd one? or up in the light's box)
  •  ✥ Identify your traveler wires at both switches.
  • Find the     location of your circuit's switch leg (is it at the switch near you? or the 2nd one?)
  • Find the method in this article that best matches the way your circuit is wired and make the correct connections as explained and shown.

6 Important Terms

When learning how to wire an S3 or 3way or 3 way (there's even 3 ways of saying it), beginners often make the mistake of focusing too much on wire colors instead of the 3 different wire functions;
1) Feed or Power a hot wire that is "incoming" to provide electricity to a switch or receptacle. It is not controlled by a switch. It can refer to only the hot wire or both the hot and neutral wire.
2) Traveler a pair of wires that connects 3way and 4way switches together at their traveler terminals. 1 traveler on 1 switch is wired to one traveler on the 2nd switch but the 2 traveler terminals on the same switch never connect together, if they did it would function like a single pole.
3) Switch leg the wire that connects a switch to the light and becomes energized when the switch is closed or flipped on.
4) Common the only terminal screw on a 3 way that internally connects to either of the 2 traveler screws, one at a time.

You must be able to identify these 4 wire functions in order to assemble a 3way or 4way wiring circuit.  Keep in mind that;
  • Electrons do not obey color codes, they follow conductors (insulated metal wires)
  • Wires used for the feed, traveler and switch leg are supposed to be certain colors but with the circuit you are working on the electrician may have used any color in any combination.
In the wiring examples, we could paint all the wiring purple and it would still work properly. Wire colors are there to help us identify their function not define their functionWe might be wiring a set of 3ways and decide to use the red and white wires as travelers. We have just identified their function. Does this mean that red and white wires are defined as always being used as travelers in every house in America? Absolutely not. Learn the differences between feed, traveler and switch leg without any reference to their color.  
   It is also important to know the difference between 14/2 and 14/3;
This 3 wire or "14/3 with ground
NM-B romex sheathed cable"
actually has 4 wires each size 14;
1 black, 1 red, 1 white and 1 bare.

Photos http://www.homedepot.com
Southwire 12-2 NM-B Romex SIMpull 250 ft. (117-pack) 28828255
 Yellow sheathing on 12/2
This 2 wire actually has 3 wires
each size 12; 1 black, 1 white
and 1 bare copper ground.
5) 2 wire 14/2 or 12/2 technically defined as;
"14/2 with ground Non Metallic Sheathed Cable" It is a cable containing 3 wires. 2 insulated conductors and one bare ground. A black conductor, a white conductor and a bare ground.
The number 14 in 14/2 defines the size of the conductors.
The number 2 in 14/2 defines the number of current carrying conductors. This does not include the ground.
63 wire 14/3 or 12/3 technically defined as;
"14/3 with ground, Non Metallic Sheathed Cable" It is a cable containing 4 wires. 3 conductors and one ground. A black conductor, a red conductor, a white conductor and one bare ground.

The number 14 in 14/3 defines the size of the conductors as American Wire Gauge Size 14.

The number 3 in 14/3 defines the number of conductors. The 4th wire, the ground, is not counted because it is not suppose to conduct a current unless there is a fault.

Also;
- Some wire manufactures wrap size 14 wires in white sheathing and size 12 wires in  yellow sheathing.
- Size 10 wire is rated at 30 amps and is not used on switch wiring. Standard switches are rated for 15 amps with heavy duty or commercial switches rated at 20 amps, not enough for 30 amp 10 gauge wire.



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