Monday, January 11, 2010

Let There Be Light (Part 2)

I noticed that when I get to the house at night, I'm always smacking the wall to find the light switch. Why can't there be something that just turns on when I open the door? Zing! Rewind to last Friday's trip to Lowe's to price check tiles and shower head sets. We're walking down the electrical aisle, and I see light switches. I know I have to change a few of them (they dim on their own when you hit the wall), but could I replace the entryway switch with a motion detector switch?

As usual, things aren't easy. They have motion detector switches that have On, Off, and Auto settings, switches with no settings, switches with auto and off, switches that cover 180 degrees and some that cover 150 degrees. Then, they all come in white and "neutral." I'm walking down the aisle to see what else there is in this style, and I see some three-way switches. "These two way switches are monogamous, I thought, and these three way swiches, 'Get down!' What's the difference? How can a switch go three ways? On and off, right?" Without asking, I get the two way switch (single pole). The one shown below is a three way switch.

We get to the house, eat, unload everything, and I start pulling off the old switch. The breaker's off for the front, and as I unscrew it all off, I realize how dark it is! I couldn't read the back of the switch to tell what was positive, negative, or ground. Oh well, I'll come back on Sunday to finish.

Sunday, we arrive, and Serge, P, and Natalie are over to help, too. P's checking out the back of the switch, and it doesn't specify what's positive, negative, or ground. It just has a common label on one side. And, all the wires are a solid black!

Apparently, this is how three way switches are:

We tried connecting the ground to the common, then the other two black ones randomly, hit the breaker - nothing. Swapped the black ones - nothing. Swapped them again - nothing. Great. This time, I disconnected everything and hit the breaker. Holding the two black wires, I tapped the black wires coming from the wall. Top two - nothing. Left top, bottom - zzzzzzzzzzzzttt!! Light turned on! Right top, bottom - zzzzzzzzttt!! Light turned on! Wtf? They both do it. So I connected the ground to the top left, then the black, one to the top right and the bottom. Everything worked fine (on this switch!). I put all the wires back into the wall, screwed it shut, tested it out, and it worked! Sweeeeeet! The instructions say to connect the ground to the mounting plate - why?

I got back home and googled the instalation of a motion sensor. Let's just say It's wrong, even though it works, and I now know what a three way switch is for! We'll be revisiting this once I exchange the switch for a three way!

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