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View Full Version : O/T - Any electricians (or electrical engineers) out there? Simple question for you . . .


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01-16-2007, 07:18 PM
Posted By: <b>JK</b><p>I dont know if we have any electricians or collectors with an electrical background, but thought I'd give it a try:<br /><br />Im replacing a light switch that controls a bank of 4 recessed lights. There are 2 other switches that control the same bank of lights (ie three switches in various locations will all turn on/off the same set of lights). Here is my question:<br /><br />Do I need a 3-way switch or a 4-way switch to replace the one currently installed?

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01-16-2007, 07:23 PM
Posted By: <b>barrysloate</b><p>That's about the most off topic question I think we've ever had...and I have trouble changing a light bulb, so sorry but I can't help.

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01-16-2007, 07:27 PM
Posted By: <b>Cobby33</b><p>How many Vintage card geeks does it take to change a light bulb?

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01-16-2007, 07:29 PM
Posted By: <b>jackgoodman</b><p>Cobby you beat me by 4 minutes. D#@$###m.

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01-16-2007, 07:30 PM
Posted By: <b>Tim James</b><p>Four ,three to a determine the cost of the bulb, one to screw it in .

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01-16-2007, 07:30 PM
Posted By: <b>Jeff Lichtman</b><p>Josh, I'll call down to the handyman or super on call in my building; you'll have to tip him though. <img src="/images/happy.gif" height=14 width=14> (NYC humor)

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01-16-2007, 07:32 PM
Posted By: <b>Tim James</b><p>Let me know if you have any problems hanging pictures !

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01-16-2007, 07:33 PM
Posted By: <b>JK</b><p>I knew I'd be getting close to the most off topic question ever, but I figure its my first in 3 years, so Im due. <br /><br />Jeff - if you can reach him that would be great - just tell me where to send the tip. <img src="/images/happy.gif" height=14 width=14>

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01-16-2007, 07:33 PM
Posted By: <b>Cobby33</b><p>Sorry Jack- Been waiting for this opportunity for some time <img src="/images/happy.gif" height=14 width=14><br /><br />Oh and Josh- I'll ask my electrical consultant tomorrow a.m. if you don't have an answer by then. I need a client billing # though...

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01-16-2007, 07:33 PM
Posted By: <b>JK</b><p>Man, what a bunch of comedians.

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01-16-2007, 07:34 PM
Posted By: <b>JK</b><p>Cobby - I'll send you one of our billing #s.

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01-16-2007, 07:35 PM
Posted By: <b>Joann</b><p>I don't know jack about electricity. But I do know that it takes more than four collectors to change a light bulb.<br /><br />You have to add at least two to debate the authenticity of the light bulb, two more to decide whether the light bulb would be more reliable if it were evaluated by a third party, and about 148 more to debate where to have dinner to discuss it.<br /><br />hee. That was fun.<br /><br />Joann

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01-16-2007, 07:41 PM
Posted By: <b>Tim James</b><p>This could easily surpass the " mega thread " !!

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01-16-2007, 07:43 PM
Posted By: <b>Judge Dred (Fred)</b><p>Why don't you just replace the switch with a "like" (similar) switch? <br /><br />Try the following link for a start:<br /><br /><a href="http://www.howstuffworks.com/three-way.htm/printable" target="_new" rel="nofollow">http://www.howstuffworks.com/three-way.htm/printable</a>

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01-16-2007, 07:49 PM
Posted By: <b>barrysloate</b><p>I think there is an episode of the Three Stooges where they get jobs as electricians...if you can get a hold of it you might get some valuable tips.

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01-16-2007, 07:51 PM
Posted By: <b>Joe D.</b><p>First... see what kind of switch you have there now (*if you are comfortable/know how to do this).<br /><br />Then check with an electrician to see if it is the proper type of switch to go there (you wouldn't want to repeat someone elses mistake).<br /><br /><br />googling 4-way switch has a bunch of info, but even so... ultimately ask an electrician.<br /><br /><br /><br />**One tip I can give you... if you have any 'lighting' supply stores near you (chandeliers and such) - they usually have an electrician on staff.<br /><br /><br />

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01-16-2007, 07:53 PM
Posted By: <b>JK</b><p>Thanks - I know how to change out the switch - just never had one until we moved into this house that had three switches controlling the same light.

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01-16-2007, 07:54 PM
Posted By: <b>Tony Andrea</b><p>Hey JK - This might help.<br /><p>A 3 way electrical switch and 4 way electrical switch can be confusing to understand. A 3 way electrical switch installation is done to control a light from two different places. A 4 way switch is used with a 3 way switch for three or more control spots.<br /><br /><p> Tony

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01-16-2007, 07:54 PM
Posted By: <b>JK</b><p>Barry - already rented that episode - unfortunately, it was not detailed enough.

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01-16-2007, 07:54 PM
Posted By: <b>Brad Green</b><p><br />I believe that you need two three-way switches and one four-way switch. I will post a picture in a minute...<br />

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01-16-2007, 07:56 PM
Posted By: <b>JK</b><p>Thanks Tony - I thought it was something like that. So, let me ask you this (if you know). If I will ultimately be replaceing all three switches controlling the bank of lights, do I need 3 four-way switches or two three-way switches and one four-way switch (or should I just pony up for an electrician)?

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01-16-2007, 07:58 PM
Posted By: <b>Mike</b><p>Actually, it just takes two collectors to change it. One to change the bulb and the other to say " It must have been a PSA bulb, because if it was an SGC bulb it would never have gone out".

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01-16-2007, 08:00 PM
Posted By: <b>Brad Green</b><p><br /><img src="http://www.bandkgreen.net/lefty_grove/four_way.jpg">

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01-16-2007, 08:01 PM
Posted By: <b>JK</b><p>Thanks Brad - that's exactly what I needed. <br /><br />

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01-16-2007, 08:02 PM
Posted By: <b>Tony Andrea</b><p>JK -<br />You'll need (2) 3 ways and (1) 4 way switch.<br /><p>Tony

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01-16-2007, 08:02 PM
Posted By: <b>Mark Burke</b><p>most likely, you have two 3-way switches and one 4-way in between. the easiest way to do it is just replace the switch you take out with an exact replica and place the wires in the same place as the ones you remove to take out the old switch. Of course, it will be easy to spot the replica, especially by people on this forum. take the switch you remove to home depot and ask them to give you a match.

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01-16-2007, 08:05 PM
Posted By: <b>Dan Kravitz</b><p>You would use a 4 way switch. A 4 way switch controls 3 switches and the fixture, a 3 way switch would control 2 switches and a fixture. If you have a dimmer on one that would be the master and the only one that could control the dimmer option. You will need to turn off the circuit breaker (unless you know what you are doing) because all switches are live unlike a fixture that is not because it is controled by the switch. It's only 110v so don't worry about the shock, just make sure you are not standing in water. I am a licensed contractor in Chicago. Good luck Dan

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01-16-2007, 08:08 PM
Posted By: <b>Tim James</b><p>You guys just kill me, I knew there was a reason that I kept coming back here !!

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01-16-2007, 08:13 PM
Posted By: <b>barrysloate</b><p>Josh- in the Three Stooges episode I think Moe turns on a light switch and the shower goes on...I'm glad somebody on the board can help you. If you left it up to me I would start a fire! <img src="/images/happy.gif" height=14 width=14>

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01-16-2007, 08:14 PM
Posted By: <b>JK</b><p>Thanks all - I think Ive got what I need now. <br /><br />Dan - great tip about the circuit breaker <img src="/images/happy.gif" height=14 width=14> (fortunately, that's the one thing I do actually know).

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01-16-2007, 08:19 PM
Posted By: <b>Tim James</b><p>Hey ! Just make sure you don't have any vintage cards in you other hand .They might come back as "AUTH" !!<br /><br />Brad ,way to come to the plate !!!<br />

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01-16-2007, 09:25 PM
Posted By: <b>Glen V</b><p>Have a friend help you, then you can do this:<br /><a href="http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=-4982604918871571225&q=shock+electric&hl=en" target="_new" rel="nofollow">http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=-4982604918871571225&q=shock+electric&hl=en</a>

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01-16-2007, 09:29 PM
Posted By: <b>Tim James</b><p>That's what I'm talkin' about !!! <br /><br />Edited to say: My dad had me try a switch as my mom watched,with much the same reaction !!

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01-16-2007, 09:55 PM
Posted By: <b>Alan</b><p>Josh -<br /><br />Ask the question on here<br /><br /><a href="http://www.improvenet.com/homeowner/adviceandresources/messageboard/electrical-lighting.html" target="_new" rel="nofollow">http://www.improvenet.com/homeowner/adviceandresources/messageboard/electrical-lighting.html</a>

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01-16-2007, 10:03 PM
Posted By: <b>Dan Koteles</b><p>B) Did I win the million dollars ?!?!?

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01-16-2007, 11:55 PM
Posted By: <b>Dave</b><p>I'm a little late to this post, so I won't actually give much of an answer. I actually am an electrical engineer, but that doesn't mean I've ever been taught in any school about things like house wires.<br /><br />Having said that, I can always figure out what each switch is doing in house walls. Single, two-way, N-way, each has its details, but they're not hard.<br /><br />Follow advice given here. If it ever worked right, the right switches were there. Try to find the bad switch (that's not always easy), and replace it with one just like it. <br /><br />You have to beware of the insulation colors on these switches; often they are different from the wires in your house where they get connected. So, beware realy doesn't help, but before you take out the old one, write down the house wire colors and the switch colors, and match that.<br /><br />

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01-17-2007, 12:20 AM
Posted By: <b>anthony</b><p>sorry, you're all wrong on this...<br /><br />step 1. open bottle of beer<br />step 2. sit on couch and stare at switch for 45 mins<br />step 3. open another bottle of beer.<br />step 4. call an electrician.

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01-17-2007, 12:23 AM
Posted By: <b>ramram</b><p>Ok, civil engineer here, so not much help, but....I have to throw out my gear-head joke now. If easily offended, don't read on.<br /><br />(Edited to say - it was a joke appropriate only for the late night crowd. Figured I better remove it now).<br /><br />Rob M.

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01-17-2007, 12:25 AM
Posted By: <b>Al C.risafulli</b><p>Six.<br /><br />One to take the new bulb out of the box.<br /><br />One to yell at him because the bulb is no longer "mint in box".<br /><br />One to say it couldn't possibly be an authentic bulb if it hasn't been graded.<br /><br />One to say that only a nitwit needs a grading company to tell him that his bulb is authentic; simply smelling it should do the trick if he had any knowledge of electricity to begin with. Plus we all know that high-grade light bulbs have all been altered.<br /><br />One to buy the old bulb, which is a better bulb anyway because it's been loved and has stories to tell.<br /><br />And one to bitch at the other five because it's not a prewar light bulb and shouldn't be discussed here anyway.<br /><br />-Al

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01-17-2007, 01:15 AM
Posted By: <b>JK</b><p>Since everyone is waiting anxiously to find out the results, I have replaced all the switches (no bad ones - just going with a different style than came with the house) without an electrician and more importantly, without electrocuting myself. <br /><br />Thanks to all that helped . . . and, I guess, those who provided the humor.

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01-17-2007, 06:15 AM
Posted By: <b>Joann</b><p>Hahahaha. Al - that one is priceless. Good laugh to start out my day.<br /><br />J

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01-17-2007, 06:22 AM
Posted By: <b>barrysloate</b><p>Josh- just out of curiosity: you are an attorney and I assume as such have a pretty heavy workload. How do you have the time and energy to rewire your house until 2:15 AM (time of your last post). Do you ever sleep?

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01-17-2007, 08:51 AM
Posted By: <b>JK</b><p>Barry,<br /><br />1:00 to 1:30 am is about the norm for me. Last night was a bit later than normal, but not too bad.<br /><br />Im also amazed that this thread generated 42 posts - I wish all the card threads could get this type of response.

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01-17-2007, 03:16 PM
Posted By: <b>S Gross</b><p>True story:<br /><br />My two way switch blew in my old kitchen. I bought a new one, but the old one was old, old (no ground, different color wires etc.). So the new instructions weren't relavent, and I had already taken the old one apart when I realized I should have remembered the set up. Anyway I rewire the new set to the old wires the best I could figure. I turned the electricity back on, and no explosions or fire, so I figure I'm set ....<br /><br />Then I go to turn on the switch which was for the lights, and, no kidding, the blender turned on !!!!!!!!!!<br /><br />I told my brother, and he said "I could live with that."

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01-17-2007, 03:41 PM
Posted By: <b>JK</b><p>That is pretty damn funny.

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01-17-2007, 03:46 PM
Posted By: <b>barrysloate</b><p>I'm going to guess that somehow the blender was left on and that outlet wasn't working until you repaired it; otherwise, it is like that Three Stooges bit- turn on the light switch and the shower goes on!