Latest Discussions : Electrical & Lighting


11:53AM | 02/19/07
Member Since: 02/18/07
3 lifetime posts
Dear Sir,

I have electical books but am confused.

Please may I beg your advice regarding the following difficulties:

I am wondering the simplest way to wire a 3 way switch when the circuit may need to continue on to other lights or fixtures or perhaps a better way to plan this circuit.

ex: My electrician currently has it planned in my NEW SHOP CONSTRUCTION

- to go 12/2wg from the MAIN PANEL BOX to a JUNCTION BOX

- then splice and continue 12/2wg to the 1st-3Wswitch

- then continue with 12/3wg to the 1st light -

- then continue with 12/3wg to the 2nd light

- then continue with 12/3wg to the 2nd-3Wswitch

- and terminate.

At the JUNCTION BOX, he has brought in another 12/2wg going to a single pole light switch that then continues to a bathroom light and then terminates.

At the JUNCTION BOX, he has also brought in another 12/2wg going to a attic pull chain light and then terminates.

What I gather is that somehow he intends to use the 12/2wg that is coming from the MAIN PANEL BOX to splice into all of the above connections to make them hot in the one JUNCTION BOX. That seems like way to many cables being spliced together for one thing and way to many wires overall in the box also.

I have been assured that the JUNCTION BOX is perfectly fine within code and that it is sitting on top of a 2x4 in the attic floor and will be reasonably accessible from the shop side of the attic if needed in the future.

I am not sure if the 3W switch configuration will work in its present plan.

No part of this makes me feel comfortable but I am at a brick wall with trying to explain why I don't believe that this is the best or most correct way to do things even if code will allow it.

Nor am I experienced enough to know exactly how or if the JUNCTION BOX is:

- simply another point of failure opportunity or

- if it poses a significant fire hazard risk or

- troubleshooting risk in the event of something not working in the future

- who is going to know or remember it is there?.

The rationale I've been given is that I saved wire and I saved having multiple connections within the easily crowded smaller switch or light boxes and its done and its not going to be changed..... Is a junction box in new construction a standard business practice or a standard no-no. He also has 2 other JUNCTION BOXES planned in my family room again to save wire runs from switches to lights & fan. As best I can see it, I have a brick wall short of tearing it out myself and redoing it or calling another electrician which I can't really manage at this time. I easily have several extra rolls 12/2wg sheathed electrical cable available.

Surely there is a better way to connect the two 3W switches and the associated two lights. And perhaps have other things also on the circuit past this complexity or before this. Surely having several JUNCTION BOXES sitting around my attic is not appropriate business practice. Am I just overly biased against JUNCTION BOXES or is this a valid concern?

I thank you for any consideration you can give this matter in giving a reply.



03:07PM | 02/19/07
Member Since: 04/25/05
1915 lifetime posts
Junction boxes are very common in houses. Probably a typical house might have a 100.

However, most of them have ALSO contain switches, receptacle, or where light fixtures are connected.

But they are junction boxes just the same.

It is common to have "standalone" junction boxes in remodels and repairs. Typically not done as often on new construction, but sometimes it is done. All depends on the location and layout of the circuits.

But you might want to check on the box fill. It probably will take a 2 large gang box, but I have not calculated it out.

This shows the 5 ways that 3-way switches can be wired.

If he is wanted to run it S-L-L-S you need 4 wire cable (3-1 nor 2-2) between the two lights. And while 3-1 cable is available it is not very common.

It should be wired up like it would be with just one light. Then a 2 wire cable is run between the 2 lights.


11:58AM | 02/23/07
Member Since: 02/22/07
5 lifetime posts
I was reading your concerns with the way your electrician has planned your shop and I have a suggestion. (even though the suggested route seems to be a safe way to go)

There is a product out there that would allow you to go from the main panel box to the first light and skip all the light switches and junction boxes all together. It is made by a German company called EnOcean and has been used in Europe for several years now with great results.

Assuming your lights in the shop total less than 1000 watts you could go directly from the main panel box to the first light fixture, from here you would attach the wireless receiver and also the separate run for the attic pull string light. You would then connect the switched side or the output of the receiver to the first light fixture, then run to the next light and the next. You would not be required to use 12/3 anywhere and you would not need wire to any of the switches. All the switches are wireless and all the switches generate their own energy so they do not require batteries. They also reduce the amount of Electromagnetic frequencies floating around in the shop. Your electrician should be finished in a much shorter time than traditional wiring.

For your project you would need the following:

2 EnOcean wireless light switches

1 EnOcean Receiver Module

the best prices are at and they can also be found at

You could easily add more switches at any time if you needed to.

Your electrician may not be familiar with these as they are new to the US, he is welcome to email me anytime, I have installed a ton of these with great results.

Good Luck




01:57AM | 02/27/07
Member Since: 01/09/07
199 lifetime posts
First, to reassure you, everything you describe your electrician as doing is pretty typical wiring, done this way in thousands of houses, and should all work fine.

For the 3-way switches, you need 3 wires between the 2 switches, but only 2 wires from the panel, and only 2 wires to the light(s). So you could run 2 wires from the panel to the first switch, then 3 wires to the second switch, and then 2 wires from there to the light(s). But most commonly the lights are physically located between the 2 switches, so you would have to run 3 wires between the 2 switches, and then 2 wires BACK to where the lights are located. It's often cheaper to just have one run of 3 wires between the switches and lights, so it's pretty common to wire it that way. He's probably saving you money doing it this way.

About the junction box: what he's doing is having one 12/2 wire from the power panel, then splicing 3 circuits (the attic pull chain light, the switched bathroom light, and the 3-way switched lights) into that power run. The other way to do it would be to not have a junction box, but to have all 3 of those circuits have their own 12/2 cable running back to the power panel. But that would cost you a lot more money -- you'd need 3 cables instead of one, plus the extra labor to install them all. And even if you had all these lights on at the same time, one 12/2 power cable can safely handle up to 32 75-watt lights, so this should be no problem.

I suppose you could say that the junction box is a possible point of failure, but not much more so than any point along the wires themselves -- once the splices are made and sealed inside the junction box, they should just work for decades. (Unless you have squirrels or such running around in your attic.) I suppose you could avoid this by having every single light or outlet run a direct cable back to your main panel, but that would be an outrageously expensive way to wire a house (and completely unnecessary).

A properly wired junction box will NOT be any fire hazard, it will NOT be a troubleshooting problem (easy access in a junction box often makes this easier), and frankly, nobody needs to remember that it's there -- the wires work fine even if you don't remember where they are. Any future electrician doing work in the future will soon note this box; just the fact that only 1 cable comes out from the main panel will tell him that there is a junction box at the end of that cable run.

So YES, you are absurdly, amateurishly biased against junction boxes, and NO, there are surely NOT better ways to do this wiring.


Look, you hired a qualified, licensed professional electrician who does this for a living every day; and it sounds like he knows what he is doing. So stop worrying, stop second-guessing him, and let the professional get on with the job you hired him to do. You are upsetting yourself needlessly.

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