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Amp Man
Amp Man, Journeyman
Category: Electrical
Satisfied Customers: 82
Experience:  Licensed Master Electrician. 20+ years experience. Journeyman Wireman.
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Triple switch in bathroom for light/fan/heat lamp needs replacing.

Customer Question

Triple switch in bathroom for light/fan/heat lamp needs replacing. Opened box: five wires from wall into old switch.
Top section (left side): two black wires from wall.
Middle section (left side): one black (might be gray) wire from wall.
Bottom section (left side): one black (might be gray) and one red wire from wall.
There are also two short lengths of black wire. One connects from top section (right) to middle section (right). The other connects from middle section (left) to bottom section (right).

Bought a new switch from Leviton. Arrangement is very different: one ground, three leads on left, one common hot on right.

Have I bought the correct new switch? If yes, how do I transfer wires from old to new? If not, what kind of switch do I need to buy? Thanks.
Submitted: 5 years ago.
Category: Electrical
Expert:  Amp Man replied 5 years ago.

Amp Man :

Hello, I would be happy to assist you.

Amp Man :

Please stand by while a read over your situation.

Amp Man :

Is the existing switch all one device or is there three devices?

Expert:  Amp Man replied 5 years ago.
In other words, is there one switch box opening in the wall?
Customer: replied 5 years ago.
Yes, all of this is coming from the same wall box.
Expert:  Amp Man replied 5 years ago.
And the new switch is a triple switch with a odd colored screw on one side and three like colored screws on the other?
Customer: replied 5 years ago.
The new switch has three silver screws on one side and a black screw on the other side. Plus a green screw on the back.
Expert:  Amp Man replied 5 years ago.
The hot wire or "feed" goes to the black screw and the other three wires go to the three silver screws.
Customer: replied 5 years ago.
That helps but I still have a problem. There are actually five wires total. Four are black and one is white. What do I do with the additional wire coming from the wall?
Expert:  Amp Man replied 5 years ago.
Your original question did not ask that. But let's get you squared away.
You will need to turn the power off to the switch and pull it out of the wall. Then tell me exactly how the wires are hooked up inside the wall box.
Customer: replied 5 years ago.
Opened box: five wires from wall into old switch.
Top section (left side): two black wires from wall.
Middle section (left side): one black wire from wall.
Bottom section (left side): one black and one red wire from wall.

For a total of five wires from box to switch.
Expert:  Amp Man replied 5 years ago.
What is middle section, top section, etc. mean? I need to know how the wires are hooked up or come into the wall box, not how they are landed on the switch.
Expert:  Amp Man replied 5 years ago.
Does the old switch have an indicator light or night light on it?
Customer: replied 5 years ago.
There is one black wire coming into the box at the upper left corner.
There is one black wire coming into the box at the upper right corner.
There are two black wires and one red wire coming into the box at the lower right corner.
The switch does not have an indicator or night light on it.
Expert:  Amp Man replied 5 years ago.
Do you know which one of the wires listed is the hot or "feed"? Also, there are no white wires anywhere in the box? Tucked up in maybe?
Customer: replied 5 years ago.
No, I don't know if any wires are listed as hot or feed.

Yes, there are some wires tucked up in the box. Some are white, some are bare. Do you want me to pull all that out, too and let you know where they come from and what they attach to?
Expert:  Amp Man replied 5 years ago.
No, it is not necessary to pull the other wires out of the box. We do need to figure out which wire is the hot. Are they still hooked to the old switch? If so one of the screws on the old switch should be an odd color. That would be your hot and needs to go on the black screw of the new switch.
Customer: replied 5 years ago.
On the old switch the wires have been pushed in, not wound around. Wow, I just noticed I can attach a photo. That should help you a lot. The old switch is on the right. Notice the five wires coming in from the left. Those all come from inside the box. Thanks.graphic
Expert:  Amp Man replied 5 years ago.
That helps a lot, thanks!! The new switch is easy, but now we need to figure out what is going on with the old configuration.
It appears that the top two black wires on the left side of the switch unit are power in and then going out to feed another device or outlet somewhere else. You will need to make a wire nut joint on these two wires with a short (4") jumper coming off the joint. There will be a total of three wires under the wire nut.
The jumper will then attach to the black screw of the new switch.
The other three remaining wires will connect one wire to each screw on the other side of the new switch. I would recommend NOT pushing the wires in to the back of the new switch but rather twist and tighten with screws.
Customer: replied 5 years ago.
This seems easy enough, even for a novice like me. Smile
Only other question: the short jumper wire...is there a correct gauge or size of wire I should use?
Expert:  Amp Man replied 5 years ago.
Yes you should use at least 14 awg wire. If you have any problems or other questions relating to this issue please return to this post for more information.
THANK YOU!!Laughing
Amp Man and 2 other Electrical Specialists are ready to help you
Customer: replied 5 years ago.
I just got a chance to do this wiring and it didn't work, at least not all the way. I followed your instructions to the letter. I conncected the top two wires and a jumper wire together to a wire nut - this I connected to the black screw. I connected the other three wires to the silver screws, one to each.
Now:
- the fan and the heat lamp work perfectly (top switch and bottom switch)
- the vanity lights come on when I flip the breaker but do NOT turn on and off with the middle switch.
What should I do now?
Expert:  Amp Man replied 5 years ago.
So, in other words the vanity lights stay on constantly when power is on?
Do you have a two lead voltage tester? We may need one or a non-contact voltage tester may work.
Customer: replied 5 years ago.
Yes, the vanity lights stay on constantly.

I do have one. It looks a lot like this attached pic (the 110 does not say ac/dc on mine, but I think they're identical).

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Expert:  Amp Man replied 5 years ago.
That tester should work fine. What you need to do is identify the "hot" or "feed" wire in the switch box. Disconnect the switch with the power off and then make sure you disconnect all five wires and leave them hanging out ot the box disconnected.
Next make sure each wire is clear from touching anything and re-energize the circuit. Read between each wire and nfind the hot.
Customer: replied 5 years ago.
This will sound dense: I don't know how to "read between each wire and find the hot".

Which wire do I touch with the red prong? Which wire do I touch with the black prong? Or do I touch each wire with both prongs? Do I keep testing once the voltage tester lights up? When I touch a wire or wires and the tester lights up, what does this teach me?
Expert:  Amp Man replied 5 years ago.
When the tester lights up you have found the feed!!!! That is the one we need to know. Mark it some how so that we can distinguish which one it is.
Basically, you have one wire that is a "hot" or "feed". This wire needs to supply power to the black screw. You then have on wire that goes to the fan, one that goes to the light and one that goes to the heat lamp. The remaining wire ties in with the "feed" to supply power to another outlet or switch.
Customer: replied 5 years ago.
I am traveling for the next week. I will get back to this project when I'm back. I'll let you know what I find out with the wire testing. Thanks.
Expert:  Amp Man replied 5 years ago.
Sounds good. I will check back with you once you get a chance to try things.

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