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Author Topic: Do I really NEED companion switches?  (Read 25644 times)

jshores

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Do I really NEED companion switches?
« on: January 09, 2007, 08:06:23 AM »

I'm just getting started with X10. I've got a few WS467's installed on outside lights and am using AHP to schedule them. We're taking the next step and automating some inside lights now. I have 4 rooms that have 3 & 4 way switches installed. I'm curious to know whether I need to install more than one companion switch (CS277) in those rooms. If I install a Master switch (WS477), won't that provide me with the X10 control I want for that room? What does installing the CS277's really do for me? Is it electrically necessary because of the WS477?

Thanks for any help on this!
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Walt2

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Re: Do I really NEED companion switches?
« Reply #1 on: January 09, 2007, 08:31:55 AM »

You can't mix X10 wall switches with regular wall switches, on the same lighting circuit.

In a 3-way application, you have two wall switches.  You can replace one regular wall switch with an X10 wall switch, but what about the second wall switch?  You can't just leave it.  It either has to be replaced with an X10 companion wall switch, or eliminated all together (re-wired to bypass).

In a 4-way application, you have three wall switches.  As with the 3-way, you can't leave any of the regular wall switches.  They either have to be replaced with an X10 companion wall switch, or eliminated.
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jshores

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Re: Do I really NEED companion switches?
« Reply #2 on: January 09, 2007, 09:04:58 AM »

Okay. That's all I needed to know. Thanks!
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robster

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What if one switch will be always left on?
« Reply #3 on: January 17, 2007, 01:55:36 PM »

Walt,
I have a 3-way application with just two switches.  One of the switches is in a hard-to-reach spot in the garage, and I can leave it in an always-on condition.  In that event, can I use a single RWS17 to control that light?

Thanks for your help!

Rob
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Walt2

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Re: What if one switch will be always left on?
« Reply #4 on: January 30, 2007, 08:09:33 AM »

I have a 3-way application with just two switches.  One of the switches is in a hard-to-reach spot in the garage, and I can leave it in an always-on condition.  In that event, can I use a single RWS17 to control that light?

I don't think you can use a regular 3-way switch in lieu of an X10 companion switch.  The reason I believe this, is that when you install an X10 3-way switch, you are actually re-wiring the lighting circuit.  Before, there were two load wires (usually one black and the other red).  After, there is only one load wire and the other load wire becomes a very-low-current signaling wire.  The X10 companion switch doesn't actually switch any of the load current, but instead, just signals the X10 3-way switch to change power on/off states.
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dave w

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Re: What if one switch will be always left on?
« Reply #5 on: January 30, 2007, 12:05:40 PM »

Walt,
I have a 3-way application with just two switches.  One of the switches is in a hard-to-reach spot in the garage, and I can leave it in an always-on condition.  In that event, can I use a single RWS17 to control that light?

Thanks for your help!

Rob
Rob
Yes, If you leave the second switch in the same position all the time (effectively putting it out of service). You will just need to determine in the RWS17 box which wires from the other switch is "hot" (connected to the hot line or to the load through the other switch) and which one is to be dead. Put a wire nut on the dead line, so if someone does accidently flip the "hard-to-reach" other switch,  the unused wire will be insulated.
« Last Edit: January 30, 2007, 12:11:50 PM by dave w »
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steven r

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Re: What if one switch will be always left on?
« Reply #6 on: January 30, 2007, 12:47:48 PM »

Walt,
I have a 3-way application with just two switches.  One of the switches is in a hard-to-reach spot in the garage, and I can leave it in an always-on condition.  In that event, can I use a single RWS17 to control that light?

Thanks for your help!

Rob
Rob
Yes, If you leave the second switch in the same position all the time (effectively putting it out of service). You will just need to determine in the RWS17 box which wires from the other switch is "hot" (connected to the hot line or to the load through the other switch) and which one is to be dead. Put a wire nut on the dead line, so if someone does accidentally flip the "hard-to-reach" other switch,  the unused wire will be insulated.

You could always twist all 2 or 3 wires in a wire nut and take out the unused switch all together and use a standard X10 switch at the main location. Bottom line you might save yourself a buck or two on the switch but wiring time would be about the same time for putting in an X10 3-way system. Then if you should ever find yourself standing at that "hard-to-reach spot in the garage" when x10 has decided turn off the light or you've just had a brief power interuption leaving you standing in the dark, you would be able to turn the light back on.
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robster

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Re: Do I really NEED companion switches?
« Reply #7 on: January 31, 2007, 12:49:28 PM »

Good points, guys, and thanks for the posts.  I'll pony up the extra bucks and do it right!   ;) ;)

Appreciate the advice,

Rob
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tlemons

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Re: What if one switch will be always left on?
« Reply #8 on: March 03, 2007, 02:34:06 PM »

I don't think you can use a regular 3-way switch in lieu of an X10 companion switch.  The reason I believe this, is that when you install an X10 3-way switch, you are actually re-wiring the lighting circuit.  Before, there were two load wires (usually one black and the other red).  After, there is only one load wire and the other load wire becomes a very-low-current signaling wire.  The X10 companion switch doesn't actually switch any of the load current, but instead, just signals the X10 3-way switch to change power on/off states.

I just wired a PLWO2 3-way switch into my garage.  I replaced one 3-way switch with the PLWO2 and replaced the other 3-way switch with the PCW03 companion.  Here's what I see:

PLWO2 - If I press the button, the light turns on; if I press the button again, the light turns off.  Perfect.
PCW03 - If I press the button and the light is on, it turns off; but if the light is off and I press the button, the light does not go on.

Any thoughts on what causes this behavior?  Does it have to do with the fact that one of the wires has become a signaling wire?

Thanks!
tl
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Brian H

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Re: Do I really NEED companion switches?
« Reply #9 on: March 03, 2007, 04:23:43 PM »

The companion switch line lead is connected to the load side of the master. To control the master the companion sends line voltage back to the master on the control wire. If the companions line terminal is on the load side of the master and not the line side. There is no voltage available to send back to the master when the master is off.
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Charles Sullivan

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Re: Do I really NEED companion switches?
« Reply #10 on: March 04, 2007, 12:44:07 AM »

The companion switch line lead is connected to the load side of the master. To control the master the companion sends line voltage back to the master on the control wire. If the companions line terminal is on the load side of the master and not the line side. There is no voltage available to send back to the master when the master is off.

Interestingly, the older wiring diagram supplied with the X-10 WS4777 3-way switch and companion kit about 5 years ago indicated it can be connected either way, i.e., with the companion switch at either the line or lamp end of the run.  I tried wiring it both ways on the bench at the time and it did work in either direction.  The recent wiring diagram (http://software.x10.com/pub/manuals/ws4777-is.pdf) shows the companion switch at the lamp end of the run.

But when you think about it, what you really have is a series connection of two components.  The first component is a lamp and the second component is a black box containing the master and companion switch wired together per the diagram with the two blue wires at the ends sticking out of the box.  With a series connection it doesn't matter whether the lamp or the black box comes first. 

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tlemons

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Re: Do I really NEED companion switches?
« Reply #11 on: March 04, 2007, 05:54:47 PM »

The companion switch line lead is connected to the load side of the master. To control the master the companion sends line voltage back to the master on the control wire. If the companions line terminal is on the load side of the master and not the line side. There is no voltage available to send back to the master when the master is off.

Thanks, but I'm not an electrician.  I can't tell my looking at the wires in my switch box which one is load or control or line.  I see black, white and red (and the ground wire) in the box where both the master switch is and where the companion switch is.

On the companion switch I connected:

red line to red switch
black line to blue switch
white line to blue switch

I do have a simple bulb voltage tester.  Is there something I can do with that to debug this?

Thanks
tl
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steven r

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Re: What if one switch will be always left on?
« Reply #12 on: March 07, 2007, 01:08:25 AM »

I just wired a PLWO2 3-way switch into my garage.  I replaced one 3-way switch with the PLWO2 and replaced the other 3-way switch with the PCW03 companion.  Here's what I see:

PLWO2 - If I press the button, the light turns on; if I press the button again, the light turns off.  Perfect.
PCW03 - If I press the button and the light is on, it turns off; but if the light is off and I press the button, the light does not go on.

Any thoughts on what causes this behavior?  Does it have to do with the fact that one of the wires has become a signaling wire?

Thanks!
tl

Well... As you probably have guessed by now you connected the wires wrong. While you can usually match the wire colors per the instructions, it doesn't always work that way. I had a heck of a time the last time I installed one for my hall light.

Here the most common way a 3-way light is wired.


...Below is a print showing 2 ways to power up a 3-way.  The top print is used generally when someone is trying to save money on wire. In my area it is no longer acceptable code to wire it this way for safety reasons.




If the colors are wrong, as it was in my house, you'll need to identify the wires.
I think the "power to switch first" option is the most common.
You'll need to disconnect all the switch wires. Once you find the live wire, use it to identify each of the pair of wires between the switches.
This involves selectively twisting the live wire to the other wires and testing at the other switch on the other end. Lable your wires and then use that info to correctly wire the switches.

Needless to say:
Turn off the power when connecting wires and be very careful when testing live wires.
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tlemons

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Re: What if one switch will be always left on?
« Reply #13 on: September 30, 2007, 10:43:58 PM »

If the colors are wrong, as it was in my house, you'll need to identify the wires.
I think the "power to switch first" option is the most common.
You'll need to disconnect all the switch wires. Once you find the live wire, use it to identify each of the pair of wires between the switches.
This involves selectively twisting the live wire to the other wires and testing at the other switch on the other end. Lable your wires and then use that info to correctly wire the switches.

Thank you very much for taking the time to write this suggestion.  I'm almost on the same page as you, but I don't know much about electrical wiring.

How do I find the live wire?  I have a simple bulb tester. 
What to I test for at the other end of the switch?

Many thanks!
tl
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steven r

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Re: What if one switch will be always left on?
« Reply #14 on: October 01, 2007, 04:22:20 PM »

...How do I find the live wire?  I have a simple bulb tester....
This is truly a case where a picture would be worth at least 1000 words but I'll do my best.

This first step is to get a clear understanding of how the mechanical switches work. If how it works isn't crystal clear in your mind, study the drawing or make a mock up on paper and play with it till it is second nature. Trust me. You'll feel a lot more comfortable when you're looking a 6 different wire ends.

Let's start buy assuming you have the "power to switch first" option. Keep in mind that unlike the drawing implies, a neutral wire will not be connected to the mechanical switch and in the case of an older home may not even be present in the box.

In addition to your tester, you'll need a wire nut or two, some masking tape and a pen to mark the wires. Again it's better not to trust this to memory. You'll be making a half dozen or so trips to the breaker box to turn power on and off so pick a time when you're least likely to lower the WAF or otherwise alarm the SOAP.

Keep in mind at times you'll be working with live current. Ok here we go...

  • TURN OFF THE POWER.
  • CHECK ALL WIRES AND MAKE SURE THERE IS NO POWER. I learned the hard way that there can be more than one circuit in the box.
  • Physically remove the wires from both switches and position the wires so you can access them with your tester without physically touching them.
  • Make sure no exposed wires are touching anything and turn on the power.
  • Use your tester to figure out which of the 6 wires is live. i.e. Ground one lead of the tester and touch each wire till you find the live one. For peace of mind, check them all. Only one wire should be live.
  • TURN OFF THE POWER.
  • Use your tape and label that wire Hot.
  • Pick one of the remaining 2 wires at the switch and label it A
  • Wire nut the Hot wire to the A wire.
  • Label the remaining wire B.
  • Make sure no exposed wires are touching anything and turn on the power.
  • Go to the 2nd switch location and find the wire that is live. Again only 1 wire should be live.
  • TURN OFF THE POWER.
  • Label the wire you just found A.
  • Go back to the 1st switch location and connect the Hot wire to the B wire.
  • Make sure no exposed wires are touching anything and turn on the power.
  • Return to the 2nd switch location and find the wire that is live. Again only 1 of the 2 remaining wires should be live.
  • TURN OFF THE POWER.
  • Label the wire you just found B.
  • Label the remaining wire Load.

It's been awhile since I had my install adventure but I'm sure if you have the "power to switch first" option and follow the above to the letter, remembering to be careful around the wires when they are live, you'll have your wiring figured out.

« Last Edit: October 07, 2007, 07:16:59 PM by steven r »
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