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Installing 3-way Switches to Control a Ceiling Fan and Light Independently

March 25, 2007

Q: HOW DO I WIRE A CEILING FAN AND LIGHT WITH A 3 WAY CIRCUIT. THAT BOTH THE FAN AND LIGHT ARE INDEPENDENT? I HAVE RAN 14-3 FROM BOX TO BOX AND 14-3 TO THE FAN CONNECTION AND POWER INTO THE OTHER ELECTRICAL BOX. PLEASE TELL ME IF THIS CAN BE DONE AND HOW.

A: You need to install 1 more cable, a 14/2 with ground in between the two switch boxes.

I am going to assume you installed a 2-gang (approximately 4″ square) switch box at each location. Before you get started terminating your wires make sure the power is off.

Let’s start at your ceiling fan. Here, you need to be sure you have a fan rated box. A regular metal or plastic box is not ceiling fan rated and your fan will come down. You can get a fan rated box at you local home improvement store, hardware store or electrical supply. It’s approximately $5.00 for the fan rated box or $15.00 for the kit that includes a bar that spans between the joists, rafters or trusses, the fan rated box and all of the mounting hardware.

After you’ve installed your fan rated box, let’s start terminating the wires.

  • Connect all of the ground (bare and/or green) wires together first.
  • Next connect all of the neutral (white) wires.
  • Now connect the black wire from the 14/3 to the black on the ceiling fan, this will control the fan.
  • Finally, connect the red from the 14/3 to the blue on the ceiling fan, this will control the light.

Now let’s go to the switch box which has the 14/3 that goes to the ceiling fan

  • Start with connecting all of the ground (bare) wires together and leave 2 “pig tails” approximately 6” long and terminate these wires, one to the green ground screw on each 3-way switch.
  • Next connect the neutral (white) wire from each 14/3 cable together and tuck these into the switch box. Do not connect the white wire from the 14/2 to this bundle.
  • Now connect the black wire from the 14/3 cable that comes from the ceiling fan, to the black colored screw on your 3-way switch.
  • Next connect the black wire in the 14/3 cable that comes from the other switch box, to one of the brass colored screws on the 3-way switch.
  • Now connect the red wire in the 14/3 cable that comes from the other switch box, to the other brass colored screw on the 3-way switch.
  • Install the switch. This switch will control the ceiling fan.
  • Next connect the red wire from the 14/3 cable that comes from the ceiling fan, to the black colored screw on the other 3-way switch.
  • Now connect the black wire from the 14/2 cable that comes from the other switch box, to one of the brass colored screws on the 3-way switch.
  • Now connect the white wire in the 14/2 cable that comes from the other switch box, to the other brass colored screw on the 3-way switch.
  • Install the switch. This switch will control the light.

Put the cover plate on and go to the other switch location.

  • Start with connecting all of the ground (bare) wires together and leave 2 “pig tails” approximately 6” long and terminate these wires, one to the green ground screw on each 3-way switch.
  • Next connect the neutral (white) wire from the 14/3 cable to the neutral in the 14/2 power supply cable and tuck these into the switch box. Do not connect the white wire from the 14/2 cable that goes to the other switch box to this bundle.
  • Now cut 2 pieces of black wire approximately 6″ long and splice these to the black wire in the 14/2 power supply cable.
  • Next connect the black wire in the 14/3 cable that comes from the other switch box, to one of the brass colored screws on the 3-way switch.
  • Now connect the red wire in the 14/3 cable that comes from the other switch box, to the other brass colored screw on the 3-way switch
  • Now connect one of the power “pig tails” to the black colored screw on the 3-way switch.
  • Install the switch. This switch will control the ceiling fan
  • Next connect the black wire from the 14/2 cable that comes from the other switch box, to one of the brass colored screws on the 3-way switch
  • Now connect the white wire in the 14/2 cable that comes from the other switch box, to the other brass colored screw on the 3-way switch.
  • Next connect the other power “pig tail” to the black colored screw on the 3-way switch.
  • Install the switch. This switch will control the light

Install the cover plate and go to the power supply location. Before connecting your wires, make sure the power is off. Terminate the ground wire first, then the neutral and finally the hot. Turn on the power and test each switch from both switch locations.

If you need further clarification please submit your electrical question in the comment section of this post.

Answers to Your Electrical Questions from a Master Electrician

March 24, 2007

I’ve created this post because I receive numerous emails from everyone trying to figure out how to ask their electrical wiring questions on this blog. I’ve tried instructions in the side bar in text and audio and this did not work. I downloaded an awesome plugin that creates a very simple form, but Yahoo! does not allow PHP mail from any email address that is not on my domain. In my opinion this is useless. Why would I want a contact form for other people on my domain to contact me only. The other people on my domain are employees. They already know how to contact me. Oh well, enough with my rants; there is no negotiating with Yahoo!.

Where can I get help with electrical questions?

You may submit any residential electrical wiring question in the comments section of this post. You may also submit your question in the comment section of any related post on this blog. I will answer the first residential electrical wiring or troubleshooting question posted to this blog daily. I will answer your electrical question within 24 hours. If you need immediate assistance, please visit DIY Electrical Help.

What kind of electrical wiring projects can you help me with?

At this time I will only offer help for residential electrical wiring projects. I will not offer help for commercial or industrial wiring projects as you are required to be a qualified electrician to do this type of work. However, in most areas, homeowners are permitted to complete electrical wiring projects on their own homes. Please check with your local building codes department before beginning your wiring project to ensure you are legally permitted to do this type of work in your area.

What kind of experience do you have?  

I have over 21 years experience in the electrical trade. Where I have worked on a wide variety of projects from small jobs like adding receptacles to large industrial projects like a co-gen power project and most everything in between. In my opinion the co-gen power project was the coolest job I had the opportunity to wire. I was a working foreman on this project and managed as many as 20 other electricians and apprentices. This project was at a landfill where we used the methane gas the degrading trash creates as the fuel supply to power two – 1 megawatt generators and feed the utility company 35,000 volts.

I will answer your DIY electrical wiring question either in a separate post by itself or in a “Q&A” post with others.

Amprobe Recalls Clamp Meters Due to Shock Hazard

March 15, 2007

Amprobe Test Tools, of Everett, Washington announced a voluntary recall of about 70,000 Amprobe Digital Clamp Meters used for electrical testing today. The meters can fail to give an appropriate voltage reading, resulting in the operator believing the electrical power is off, which can pose a risk of shock, electrocution, or thermal burn hazard.

Amprobe is aware of one report of a clamp meter displaying an incorrect voltage reading. No injuries have been reported.

Only Amprobe brand digital clamp meter models ACD-10PRO, ACD-10 TRMS-PRO, ACD-14 and ACD-14TRMS, except those model numbers followed by “FX” or “PLUS,” are included in the recall. “Amprobe” and the model numbers are printed on the front of the units. These clamp meters measure 0 to 600 volts alternating current (VAC), and 0 to 600 volts direct current (VDC). In addition, they measure 0 to 400 amps alternating current. The tester body is red and grey and measures 7-1/2 inches in length by 2-1/2 inches in width by 1-1/4 inches thick.

Amprode digital clamp meter

These digital clamp meter were manufactured in Taiwan and sold at industrial distributors, electrical wholesalers and hardware stores nationwide from January 2002 through December 2006 for about $100.

Consumers should stop using these recalled clamp meters immediately and contact Amprobe for a free replacement clamp meter. For additional information, contact Amprobe at (800) 350-8661 between 7 a.m. and 4 p.m. PT Monday through Friday or visit the firm’s Web site at www.amprobe.com/recall.

Wiring Your New House Part 4 – Installing Your Electrical Service

March 8, 2007

In part 2 of this series, I showed you how to calculate what size electrical service you need. The calculation for this hypothetical house came up to be the 100 amps minimum. However, I highly recommend installing 200 amps. Two Hundred amps is going to allow for future growth and add resale value to your house.

I am going to assume this house is in a new subdivision where the utility company’s power is underground. I am also going to assume that you have an electrical permit and local code requires a disconnecting means on the outside of your house.

So, let’s get started. The first step is to mount the 200 amp meter main to the outside of the house. This needs to be mounted 3′ away from any window and between 5′ to 6′ above grade to the center of the meter. It is best to coordinate the location with your local utility company. They will typically connect to it wherever you mount it. However, if the utility company’s transformer is nearest to the left front of your house and you decide to mount your meter main to the right rear, it will probably cost you more money.

Now before you mount the meter main, there is a little prep work involved. There are concentric knockouts on the bottom, sides and back of the meter main. On the meter or utility side, you need to remove the knockouts up to 2″ on the bottom. On the main breaker side, you need to remove the knockouts up to 2″ on the back.

Next you need to drill a 3″ hole through the siding of your house. This hole is for the cable that will come out of the back of your meter main and feed the breaker box or load center. Next you install a 2″ SER connector and plastic bushing in the 2″ hole you knocked out of the main breaker side.

The easiest way that I have found to mount this meter main by yourself is to temporarily fasten a 12″ piece of 2×4 where the bottom of the meter main will be. Then just set the meter main on top of this 2×4 and screw it to the wall. Then remove the temporary 2×4.

Now let’s mount your 200 amp main lug breaker box. We typically mount these in the basement, in a utility room, in a mechanical room or in the garage.

Now you may install the 4/0 SER cable between the meter main and breaker box. Install another 2″ SER connector and plastic bushing in the top center of your breaker box. When terminating the wires in your breaker box, be sure the grounds and neutrals are separated. Sometimes there is a green screw that bonds the neutral bar to the breaker box’s frame and sometimes there is a bonding strap. Do not install these in your breaker box.

Aluminum wire will oxidize very quickly. So, you need to place a little de-ox on the ends of the aluminum wires before terminating them. When terminating the wires outside in the meter main, the grounds and neutrals connect to the same neutral/ground bar.

Finally, you need to ground the system. For this you need to run a # 4 copper ground wire either to within 5′ of the water meter or to a concrete encased electrode. If you connect to your water line, this must be a metallic pipe extending atleast 10′ outside of your house.

When connecting to your water line, I recommend connecting to the street side of the meter and with a continuous loop connect to the other side of the meter as well. The reason for this is most water meters have either rubber or neoprene bushings that break the continuity of the water line on each side of the water meter.

You also need to install an 8′ ground rod right near the electrical service and run a # 6 copper ground wire to it.

Now call the electrical inspector and get this inspected and call the utility company and get your power turned on.

 

Wiring Your New House Part 3 – Tools Needed

March 7, 2007

For part three of this discussion I would like to address the tools needed to wire your new house. Before we get started I need to preface this with a safety warning. Always read, follow and understand all instructions and safety warnings included with your tools. Even the most benign tool can cause serious injury or death if not used properly.

For wiring your new house, you will need some basic hand tools, a heavy-duty drill and some auger bits.

The basic hand tools needed are:

  • Tape measure – I recommend one with a 1″ wide blade.
  • Carpenters pencil or permanent marker
  • Flat blade screwdriver
  • #2 Phillips screwdriver
  • Robertson tip screwdriver – square tip
  • Long-nose pliers
  • Side-cutting pliers
  • Diagonal pliers
  • Claw hammer
  • Wire strippers – I prefer the Ideal T stripper
  • NM cable stripper – Ideal also makes a nice NM cable stripper
  • Utility knife

For your heavy-duty drill, I recommend the Milwaukee Hole Hawg or Super Hawg. Either one of these drills will do the job well.

For the auger bits, I recommend the 1″ Greenlee Nail Eater Auger Bit. These will work the best for drilling through top plates with nails that you can’t see.

If you need further clarification or have questions, please submit them in the comment section of this post.

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