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I have a 3 gang box with 3 single pole light switches. One

I have a 3 gang...
I have a 3 gang box with 3 single pole light switches. One of the fixtures is the feed into the switches as is a 14/3 cable. From the circuit breaker, the first stop is a gfci outlet... then a second outlet... then the first fixture, then the gang into the box. I'm in need of a wiring diagram for the 3 gang box and specifically what to do with the red wire. Black is hot from feed... using 2 prong volt tester - it registers 120v whether black is paired with red or white wire on the feed cable.
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Answered in 3 minutes by:
7/18/2012
Randy
Randy, Electrician
Category: Electrical
Satisfied Customers: 64
Experience: 7 years electrical experience. 5 yr apprenticeship. degreed
Verified

Randy :

Hello,

Randy :

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?

Customer:

correct

Customer:

and the cable delivering power into the 3 gang box is 14/3

Customer:

so has red wire, which is throwing me a bit

Randy :

Alright. In the panel where the 14/3 comes in, can you see what the red wire is attached to?

Customer:

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

Customer:

but I can't see behind/above the recessed light fixture

Customer:

looking into the recessed light, I only see black & white wires

Randy :

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?

Customer:

correct

Randy :

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?

Customer:

let me see if it's visible

Randy :

tell me please, exactly what wires come in and out of the light

Randy :

sorry, i dont mean the light but rather the light switches.

Randy :

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.

Customer:

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

Customer:

and then red from switch... which I've assumed goes back to the neutral/white back to the light

Customer:

which leaves the red/switched hot from the fixture

Randy :

so the black (hot) comes to the switch, then the red goes back to the light?

Customer:

right

Randy :

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.

Customer:

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?

Randy :

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.

Randy :

yes to your question. specifically, the white neutral of the 14-3 should connect to other neutrals into the switch box.

Customer:

k; i'll give it a go

Randy :

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?

Customer:

yeah -- the other switches are more straightforward

Randy :

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.

Randy :

good. Is there any question or concern, any loose ends that you need clarification on before you power this up?

Customer:

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

Randy :

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?

Customer:

i'll give that a try. each switch controls a different set of lights in our basement. they worked fine prior to gfci install

Randy :

great! were on the right track then.

Customer:

unfortunately if switches are on or off, gfci trips

Customer:

downstream from those 3 switches, there are 2 other oulets and 1 more light

Randy :

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.

Randy :

Okay. Disconnect the hot wire from the fixture leading to the 3 switches. Then see if the GFI holds.

Customer:

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

Randy :

So, when all three switches are on, the GFI holds?

Customer:

correct

Randy :

Have you remade the connection back to the switches? The switches are hot right?

Customer:

yes; and the outlets downstream from the switches are hot

Customer:

they're dimmer switches (well, as good as you can for CFL-rated dimmers)...

Randy :

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?

Customer:

i have the white from the feed fixture tied to the whites of the other 2 switches

Randy :

Does your farthest downstream outlet work properly?

Customer:

y

Randy :

what type of volt meter do you have and are you comfortable using it on live circuits?

Customer:

I have a very simple 2 wire tester that just glows 110 or 220 if either condition is met

Customer:

i'm thinking the red & white on the feed fixture are switched perhaps... but will defer to your guidance

Randy :

Are all 3 lights not working or just the one with the red wire?

Customer:

all 3

Randy :

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.

Customer:

can try

Customer:

2 updates there: red from switch (not from feed) to white from feed = no voltage

Customer:

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

Randy :

Now try black from switch (feed) to white from feed.

Customer:

that does check to 110

Randy :

okay. Are these new switches for you. You

Randy :

said they were dimmable cfl's right?

Randy :

Are y

Randy :

ou

Customer:

they r dimmable cfls... they are not new, so worked before

Randy :

Are you certain they are getting turned on properly?

Randy :

same lamps, switches, connections between switches and light fixtures? etc.

Customer:

yeah... I think it is something still off on the neutral path as you suggested; hot works end to end wired as follows:

Customer:

-- black from fixture feed to 3 blacks for switches

Randy :

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

Randy :

the power to the switch leg.

Customer:

right -- i see what you're saying;

Randy :

i'm sorry. is it working now?

Customer:

no -- it's wired as follows:

Customer:

-- black from fixture feed to 3 blacks for switches


Customer:

-- white from fixture to 3 other whites

Customer:

-- and then each switch has red leg... first switch red is connected back to red from feed

Customer:

second & third switches red connects to black to fixtures

Customer:

for the switch leg

Randy :

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.

Customer:

right -- so neutral stays with the other neutral? will do

Randy :

yes

Customer:

light=on

Customer:

looking like I need some new switches

Randy :

I'm wondering, are the switches, light fixtures, or light bulbs different from when they worked before?

Customer:

no

Randy :

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.

Randy :

sorry, I bet you wind up with the same results

Customer:

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.

Customer:

thanks for your help

Randy
Randy, Electrician
Category: Electrical
Satisfied Customers: 64
Experience: 7 years electrical experience. 5 yr apprenticeship. degreed
Verified
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Randy, Electrician
Category: Electrical
Satisfied Customers: 64
64 Satisfied Customers
Experience: 7 years electrical experience. 5 yr apprenticeship. degreed

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