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Thread: Standard 3W and 4W switches co-existing with master/remote dimmers

  1. #1
    DIY Junior Member Ada's Avatar
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    Default Standard 3W and 4W switches co-existing with master/remote dimmers

    A question for the electrical professionals. If there were a master/slave switch (dimmer, pilot-light, timer, motion sensor, photo sensor, etc.) that used conventional wiring for 3W and 4W switches i.e. wired like a standard 3W and 4W switch, and any number of standard 3W and 4W switches could remain/exist in the same circuit with the master switch and any number of slave switches, what would be the best use for this new technology?

    One that comes to my mind is a large room with maybe 4 entrances and only wanting dimmers at 2 of those entrances, maybe keeping standard 4W switches at the other 2.

    But I'm looking for a really compelling use for this technology - the one problem that this is the hands down solution for.

    Any ideas?
    Last edited by Ada; 12-07-2010 at 10:57 PM.

  2. #2
    Plumber jimbo's Avatar
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    So you have a solution in search of a problem? I'm sure you can sell it on craig and the bay.

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    Moderator & Master Plumber hj's Avatar
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    Your requirement for "standard wiring" throws a monkey wrench into your question, since "standard wiring" requires that the current flow in a path through ALL the switches, which means that if you have two dimmers, they would be in series which would make their operation, and the degree of dimming, erratic, since they would be co-dependent rather than independent.

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    Electrical Contractor/Instructor jwelectric's Avatar
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    In today’s technology using the proper terms is essential. Using terms from a different trade of professional field than the one you are talking about sometimes makes the conversation sound sort of like a French man talking to a Latino and for someone who doesn’t understand either it is nothing more than a flock of guineas squawking.

    The only place that the term “master switch” in mentioned in the NEC is found in 520 for Theaters, Audience Areas of Motion Picture and Television Studios, Performance Areas, and Similar Locations and describes a switch that controls fixed stage switchboards and feeders that supply them. The term Slave Switch can not be found anywhere in the NEC therefore in my trade no such item exists.

    As to your post I don’t see a question and can only decipher a statement. Should there be a question hid in there somewhere could you please rephrase it a little different.

    As to the installation of three and four way switches there will only be two three ways and as many four ways as your heart desires. The two three ways will always be on either end of the switching circuit.

    When installing devices such as dimmer, pilot-light, timer, motion sensor, photo sensor, and other such devices the installation instructions that come with the device must be followed to the letter, see 110.3(B) of the NEC.

    Sometimes these devices will require a grounded neutral conductor and depending on how the switching circuit was installed there might not be one available in the circuit.
    Some of these devices can be used in conjunction with other devices and some must be used alone with no other device in series with them.

    This makes your statement a little right and a little wrong.

  5. #5
    DIY Junior Member Ada's Avatar
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    Let me respond to the 3 previous posts:

    jimbo: Well put! I indeed have a solution in search of a problem.

    hj: there are never 2 dimmers in a circuit for the reasons that you mention. there are master dimmers, the device responsible for the actual load limiting function (the dimming) and there are remote dimmers that don't limit the load but communicate with the master to instruct it to dim to the appropriate level. To communicate these master/remote combos use one of the travelers hence the wiring is no longer standard (or conventional) therefore standard 3W and 4W switches don't work. The fact that the technology that I describe CAN use conventional wiring is a plus in that the standard 3W and 4W can co-exist - a consumer isn't forced to replace all switches when replacing more than one. I now want to find the BEST use for this technology.

    jwelectric: With respect, a Google search of "master slave dimmer switch" produces more pages than I can read about this topic. Described in a bit more detail above to hj. My original question is my entire original first paragraph; I describe a technology and ask for uses or as jimbo so eloquently put it, I describe my solution and I ask for a problem that it can potentially solve. I also appreciate the extra information that you've provided. Let me rephrase the question below and I would very much appreciate an opinion on the technology if it is any clearer:

    If there were a dimmer switch (a load limiting switch at either the load-side 3W or the line side 3W - called a "master switch " in all of the Google results and in the Lutron, Leviton, Lightolier literature for their versions of the switch) and another switch in the circuit that communicates with the load limiting switch to instruct it to dim (called a "slave switch" or a "remote switch" in all of the Google results and in the Lutron, Leviton, Lightolier literature for their versions of the switch) that could be used in a circuit using conventional wiring for 3W and 4W switches and could exist in the same circuit with any number standard 3W and 4W switches (in the Lutron, Leviton, Lightolier literature for their versions of the switch they all say that you have to replace all switches in the circuit if you want to replace more than 1 - whereas using this new technology both types - master/remotes and standard 3W and 4W - can remain), what would be the best use for this new technology? Indeed, I have a solution for which I now want some brainstorming to find a problem to solve.
    Last edited by Ada; 12-08-2010 at 09:16 AM.

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    Electrical Contractor/Instructor jwelectric's Avatar
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    I copied and pasted “master slave dimmer switch” to the Google search bar and came up with a bunch of Do-It-Yourself web sites so I search each Lutron, Leviton, Lightolier sites individually and could not find master or slave switches.

    I did find some information about master controllers that dimmed lights and found some information about X10 switches.

    To try and list places where these could be used would be a long and lengthy process. It would revolve around design issues.
    It would be like me making a statement that I have a needle and some thread, what different types of use can I find for this.

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    DIY Junior Member Ada's Avatar
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    jwelectric: I'm not sure if I'm I'm allowed to post links in here but if I am and you're interested, I will post the links to the manufacturer's sites describing their offerings.

    Your needle and thread analogy suggests that there are too many uses of the technology to list. I'm not asking for as many uses of the technology as there are uses for needle and thread - just ONE or TWO.

    Which one or two uses of this technology come to mind.

    Thank you in advance.

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    Plumber jimbo's Avatar
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    I assume you stand to be the financial beneficiary of this device if only you can prove it to be the latter day equivalent of the word processor/spreadsheet apps that launced the PC revolution.

    You can post a link, and "the boss" gets to decide if it is OK

  9. #9
    Electrical Contractor/Instructor jwelectric's Avatar
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    Many years ago there was a system that my worn out memory is unable to recall the name of that I installed on our outside lights. This included the front and back door lights as well as flood lights on all corners of the house and I think there was a pole light about half way to the creek in the back of the house. I changed out all the switches and installed the new switch and installed the master control in our bedroom.

    Should I hear someone or something outside the house I could turn on all those lights at the same time and go running out the back door with shotgun in hand pretending that I was John Wayne or something like that.

    The main problem with the lights was that sometimes when the phone rang the lights would come on and I had to reset the control panel and it was not the roaming or wireless type of phone. If memory serves me right I think we still had a hard wired wall mounted rotary phone.

    Sometimes when someone came by the house and had one of them CB radios in their car it would either turn the lights on or turn them off. Now if we was out there skinning out a deer or something it could be quite aggravating to run in the house to turn them back on.

    I didnít leave it installed long just cause of the aggravation of the lights coming on and going off at times I just plain just wanted them to be doing something different. I supposed it was for the best cause if I had went charging out that back door like I was sure to do and there was a big old bear standing out there the only thing I could have done was holler to the wife to throw me a roll of Charmin and that is just so the bear wont have a smelly dinner.

    I have also seen the use of X10 technology used in the wiring of old houses where access to the interior of walls is just not possible.

    If you wanted to see something strange just click on this link

    http://www.terrylove.com/forums/show...l=1#post280539

  10. #10
    DIY Junior Member Ada's Avatar
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    jimbo: Thanks for the info on the link. I'll wait to see if jwelectric wants them.

    I will indeed be the benefactee (if that's a word) if I can prove that there's a market for the technology, but I don't think of it as equivalent to what WordStar or VisiCalc were to the PC revolution. The Lighting Controls Industry is a $1.1 billion industry (in the US) in 2010, projected to triple in the next 5 years fueled by energy efficiency awareness (not to mention legislation mandating reduced office building energy consumption). LED lights will play a big role in the Lighting Industry, but in the Lighting Controls Industry dimmers, motion sensors, and daylight sensors will lead the pack. I just want a small sliver of the pie, using this new technology. My best argument to date is that the devices wire just like standard 3W and 4W which is attractive to consumers (and some electricians) who would rather swap out a switch changing the wire one-for-one with the new switch rather than the re-wiring that is necessary for current digital switches. But I still want some killer uses to add to the pitch.
    Last edited by Ada; 12-08-2010 at 05:13 PM.

  11. #11
    Electrical Contractor/Instructor jwelectric's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Ada View Post
    jimbo: Thanks for the info on the link. I'll wait to see if jwelectric wants them.
    Yes please do .

  12. #12
    Plumber jimbo's Avatar
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    You are correct that the current "state of the industry" in commercial buildings is to use occupancy sensors and vacancy sensor. I recently stayed in a Staybridge suite for a week. In addition to every single lamp and bulb being flourescent, every wall switch ( 5) was a vacancy sensor. The heat/cool unit had a programmable wall t-stat, and I suspect was also linked to a front desk controller.

    As for dimmers.....the biggest drawback is that most fluorescent bulbs are not dimmable. Those that are, the dimmers which will handle fluorescents are very expensive. And looking forward to LED's, they also are not dimmer-friendly. What will evolve for dimming applications is bulb/fixture/dimmer module combos which will turn groups of individual pixels on and off.

    What I am also seeing in commercial buildings, with respect to general purpose ( 4'T8 fixtures) is three and four bulb fixtures, where 1, 2, or 3 bulbs can be separately switched on and off as the needs of the occupants vary.

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