06:15AM | 08/09/02
Member Since: 08/08/02
4 lifetime posts
I have been scratching my head over this problem for a week and decided to check the net - I hope someone out there can help. I will try to be as detailed as I can.

Most of the wiring in the house is daisy chained, meaning one switch has the wires to go to the next. One failure and everything down the line dies. I say this for information in case it is relevant.

Anyway, I am trying to install some X10 switches (not those nasty cameras, the remote controlled light/electrical/etc devices) in the place of my standard toggle switches. The problem is, that each time I do this, I lose something. On a downstairs light switch, I lost the outlet below the switch. On the upstairs light switch, I lost the bathroom light.

The wiring on the existing toggle switches is as follows - 3 wires:

* One wire going into the push hole in the top rear
* One wire going into the push hole in the bottom rear
* At least one wire being wrapped around the screw on the left of the switch.

This last wire is different in place to place. Downstairs (where I lost the electrical socket), there was just 1 wire going to the screw. Upstairs (where I lost the bathroom light), there were 2 wires going to the screw.

The X10 switch is different. It has 3 wires. The instructions say that the red wire is for 3 way switches and should be capped off if this is not a 3 way switch (it is not). Then there are a black and a blue wire. When I hook that switch up, it works just fine - but I lose those other connections. Right now I have replaced the original switches and all is working again.

That's the story. I really want to install the X10 switches, but something is going on. Switching the black and blue wires does not change anything, so it is that darn wire (or wires) going to the screw on the side of the light switch.

So I have 3 questions which I hope can be answered:

1) What does this screw do?
2) Why would other things would stop working, even when only 1 wire goes to the screw?
3) Is there any way for me to get the X10 in there given this wiring?

PLEASE HELP - I am going nuts.


10:11AM | 08/09/02
Member Since: 03/13/00
1678 lifetime posts
It would help a lot if you include the wire colors in the descriptions. But, this is the likely scenario.

The screws on the sides of the switch are connected to the push-in connectors on the inside of the switch. That is, they are electrically the same point. This is usual.

That means when you connect the X-10, you have to connect the wire(s) from the side of the switch to the hot wire going into the X-10 switch. Those were "electrically" connected before, but you couldn't see it because one was a push-in and one was under the screw.

With your existing switches, the wires on the screws are in a sense "just passing through". The electric socket downstairs was getting it's power from this "extra" wire. Since you left one end of it disconnected when you installed the X-10, it no longer had a source of power to carry to the other socket.

Make sense?


10:36AM | 08/09/02
Member Since: 08/08/02
4 lifetime posts
That is what I began to suspect based on another 4 hours of internet research (with not one single site ever explaining the inner workings of those switches).

I assume that the top screw connects to the top push hole, and the bottom screw connects to the bottom push hole. As such, it sounds like, using upstairs for the example, that I need to connect the x10 wire, the bottom push wire, and the 2 wires going to the screw, all together inside one cap.

Is there any way for me to test which is really the hot wire, given that almost all the wires used are all black?


04:27AM | 08/12/02
Member Since: 03/13/00
1678 lifetime posts
Without seeing it, that's difficult. I suppose you don't have an ohm-meter to check continuity.
You might find on the back of the switch some letters like "C", "n/o", and "n/c" - or "common", "on" and "off".
If you find something like this, the "C" stands for "common". The common position is usually where the hot wire enters the switch. Other wires that are also connected to the common position(s) are "just passing through" and are not "switched" by the switch.


04:49AM | 08/12/02
Member Since: 08/08/02
4 lifetime posts
I did the project over the weekend, thanks to your information.

Since I did it before your response was posted, I went a different way: Since one terminal was connected to one wire, and one terminal was connected to three wires, I have assumed that the three wire terminal is the hot one, and the one wire terminal is the lamp one.

I have installed and everything is working fine. Thanks for everything!



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