How to Install a 3 Way Dimmer Switch
February 7, 2008
This tutorial is on how to install a 3-way dimmer switch. Now I’ve learned that a lot of people call these two way switches, but this is incorrect. They are three way switches. A 3-way switch is used when you want to switch an electrical device (lights, lamps, receptacles, etc…) from 2 or more locations.
Now this circuit is already using 3-way switches, but the homeowner wants to be able to dim their lighting. So I am going to install a Lutron Ariadni AY-603P, 600 watt, preset, incandescent dimmer switch.
The first thing that you need to do is determine what size dimmer switch you need. To do this add up the maximum fixture wattage(s) this switch will control. So let’s say that you have 6 recessed cans all using 65 watt lamps (bulbs) that this switch will control. However, the maximum wattage lamp that you may use in most recessed cans is 75 watts. You need to size your dimmer switch according to the fixture’s maximum wattage rating and not the existing lamp inside of the fixture. So, you need a dimmer switch with a minimum wattage rating of 450 watts (6 x 75 = 450 watts).
There is a label on the fixture that states the maximum wattage lamp allowed for that fixture. If you have a 100 watt lamp in a fixture that is rated for 60 watts maximum, then now is the perfect time to correct this. The extra 40 watts puts off just enough extra heat to make this a fire hazard. This is one of the most common mistakes that I see.
If you want to be able to dim the circuit from either light switch, then you need a master and slave combination similar to a Lutron Maestro. However, in this application the homeowner would prefer the dimmer switch installed in one location. Depending upon your location, this is approximately $50.00 (labor + materials) cheaper than buying and installing the master and slave combination.
Step # 1 - Locate your breaker box and turn off the power to this circuit.
Step # 8 - Turn on the power and test. When testing 3-way switching, I like to turn on the light from one switch. Go to the other switch and turn off the light. Then go back to the first switch and turn on the light again. If everything works, then you wired it correct. If it does not work, the you probably did not place the common wire on the common terminal.
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