Electrical Repair Questions? Ask an Electrician for Answers ASAP
Hello, my name is Randy. I'm happy to help you with your question tonight. Am I to understand you correctly when you say that the feed for all 3 switches comes from the panel to a GFI outlet and then through a light fixture into the 3 gang box?
and the cable delivering power into the 3 gang box is 14/3
so has red wire, which is throwing me a bit
Alright. In the panel where the 14/3 comes in, can you see what the red wire is attached to?
that's a constraint -- i know the 14/3 is only coming from the fixture; I've access to the outlet immediately preceding the fixture and it is only 14/2
but I can't see behind/above the recessed light fixture
looking into the recessed light, I only see black & white wires
So there are only 2 wires (white and black) that feed from the GFI outlet, through the other outlets, and to the light fixture? ...and the 14/3 picks up from the light fixture to the 3-gang switch box?
Okay. It sounds like the red may be a "switch leg" or a "switched hot" coming from the switch back to the light fixture. Can you tell if your light fixture has the black that just passes through the fixture but the red and white are attached to the light fixture itself?
let me see if it's visible
tell me please, exactly what wires come in and out of the light
sorry, i dont mean the light but rather the light switches.
we may only need to be concerned with the one switch that controls the light in question. All else may fall into place pretty clearly after that.
makes sense on the first switch (that controls the light w/ the inbound feed), there are 3 wires on the switch... ground... then black connected to feed black
and then red from switch... which I've assumed goes back to the neutral/white back to the light
which leaves the red/switched hot from the fixture
so the black (hot) comes to the switch, then the red goes back to the light?
the neutral connection (whites) should be made in the fixture itself and the red attached to the lead probably a little black wire in the light.
to make sure I follow: whites connect in fixture; black / hot from fixture goes to black on switch... red from switch goes back to red to fixture (likely connects to black on fixture); so neutral that comes from feed into switch -- would it just connect to other neutrals from other switches?
To be clear, and please let's be a bit careful at this point to make sure I am understanding you correctly. If the 14-2 that comes to the light fixture are a hot and a ground, which that should be the case if its coming from some outlets, then the 14-3 goes to the switch box. It is a reasonable conclusion the the black carries the "constant hot back to the switch box and the red comes from the switch as a switched hot to power up the light fixture.
yes to your question. specifically, the white neutral of the 14-3 should connect to other neutrals into the switch box.
k; i'll give it a go
but be cautious. Some white in switch boxes are used as switch legs and not always as neutrals. Each switch that goes to each load in this 3-gang box will switch the hot for each load, but all loads need a neutral path back to the panel. Are the other switches pretty clear to you the way they connect?
yeah -- the other switches are more straightforward
so each switch has the hot feeding it, the switch leg going out to it, and somewhere, the neutral from the load must have a path back to the panel.
good. Is there any question or concern, any loose ends that you need clarification on before you power this up?
no -- this part is logical to me. the catch is that the result isn't what i'd hoped... if I flip circuit on... and then reset gfci to activate the whole circuit.. gfci is stuck tripped. I can reset but it'll always trip. now if I don't have those 3 light switches plugged in... it's fine. gfci works, resets, outlet before the fixture works
if you turn all three switches off, will the GFI hold? If so, turn on one switch at a time. What do these other switches control?
i'll give that a try. each switch controls a different set of lights in our basement. they worked fine prior to gfci install
great! were on the right track then.
unfortunately if switches are on or off, gfci trips
downstream from those 3 switches, there are 2 other oulets and 1 more light
I should also ask... there are two ways to hook up a GFI when it is "in-line" with other loads downstream: further loads protected by the GFI ... or not protected. The lights don't need to be protected, but the other outlets after the GFI connection, you probably do want protected. Typically, protecting loads with a GFI that don't need protecting isn't a terrible idea but may cause nuisance tripping depending on the load. GFI's are very sensitive.
Okay. Disconnect the hot wire from the fixture leading to the 3 switches. Then see if the GFI holds.
I found the reason for gfci fault... was a downstream (past the 3 switches) ground that jostled loose and caused trip. good news is now gfci holds with lights on or off; bad news is lights don't actually come on w/ switches... baby steps
So, when all three switches are on, the GFI holds?
Have you remade the connection back to the switches? The switches are hot right?
yes; and the outlets downstream from the switches are hot
they're dimmer switches (well, as good as you can for CFL-rated dimmers)...
Please check your neutral connections. It sounds like the loads are getting power but are getting the necessary path back to ground (the panel). What do the neutrals look like?
i have the white from the feed fixture tied to the whites of the other 2 switches
Does your farthest downstream outlet work properly?
what type of volt meter do you have and are you comfortable using it on live circuits?
I have a very simple 2 wire tester that just glows 110 or 220 if either condition is met
i'm thinking the red & white on the feed fixture are switched perhaps... but will defer to your guidance
Are all 3 lights not working or just the one with the red wire?
Can you safely test the voltage between the red wire on the switch and the neutral? Please be cautious and if you're not comfortable, don't do it.
2 updates there: red from switch (not from feed) to white from feed = no voltage
i also made 1 change... so black/hot from feed is same as before to black/hot of switch; red from switch goes to white/feed and red/feed goes to other neutrals... this makes the light always-on
Now try black from switch (feed) to white from feed.
that does check to 110
okay. Are these new switches for you. You
said they were dimmable cfl's right?
they r dimmable cfls... they are not new, so worked before
Are you certain they are getting turned on properly?
same lamps, switches, connections between switches and light fixtures? etc.
yeah... I think it is something still off on the neutral path as you suggested; hot works end to end wired as follows:
-- black from fixture feed to 3 blacks for switches
I'm just trying to figure out what changed? If one side of the switch is hot and the other side is not, it doesn't sound like the switch is passing through
the power to the switch leg.
right -- i see what you're saying;
i'm sorry. is it working now?
no -- it's wired as follows:
-- white from fixture to 3 other whites
-- and then each switch has red leg... first switch red is connected back to red from feed
second & third switches red connects to black to fixtures
for the switch leg
Good. That sounds right! Try this. Kill the power and wire the black from the 14/3 feed directly to the red of the 14/3, bypassing the switch altogether. Turn the power back on.
right -- so neutral stays with the other neutral? will do
looking like I need some new switches
I'm wondering, are the switches, light fixtures, or light bulbs different from when they worked before?
curious? Well it seems that our problems rests with the switches. You do the same test with the other 2 switches but I but you wind up with the same results.
sorry, I bet you wind up with the same results
i follow; alright, I'm wrapping up for tonight... going to turn off the circuit and look for some replacement switches tomorrow as the next option.
thanks for your help