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Thread: Dimmers on 3-way

  1. #1
    DIY Member JMingrone's Avatar
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    Default Dimmers on 3-way

    Question:

    I just wired my kitchen for two new 3 way circuits. Definitely want both to be on dimmers. I know they make 3-way dimmer switches, but what I don't know is if you can put the dimmer on both ends of the 3-way, or must one end have just a regular 3-way switch?

    Thanks,

    Jay

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    Plumber jimbo's Avatar
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    Get the diagram for any unit you are thinking about. But YES....there are dimmers which can be used on both ends of a three-way. Remember that MOST dimmers can NOT be used for fluorescents or LED's. If the dimmer switch does not cost >$100, just assume it is not compatible with fluorescents.

  3. #3
    DIY Member JMingrone's Avatar
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    No flourescents. Using Xenon under cabinet lights for ease of dimming and warm light. 4" Recessed cans in ceiling use CREE LEDs which I tested with an el-cheapo dimmer and they work fine. BTW, the CREES have a negligible turn-on delay compared to HALO's (which have a 1/4 to 1/2 sec delay) and are only $30 compared to $50 for the HALOs.

    I know they have fancy master/slave/remote setups nowadays, but I ran standard 3-conductor cable for the new 3-ways and was hoping to get a plain-vanilla type switch that cam be dimmed from either end. Do they make simple ones?

    Also, if you do have dimmers on each end does the dimming "add", i.e., if each was set for 50%, do you get 25% light?

    Thanks,

    Jay

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    Plumber jimbo's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by JMingrone View Post
    .


    Also, if you do have dimmers on each end does the dimming "add", i.e., if each was set for 50%, do you get 25% light?

    Thanks,

    Jay
    No, just as with a conventional switch, on end or the other will be placing the light on and dimming it

  5. #5
    DIYer, not in the trades LLigetfa's Avatar
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    One problem with 3-way dimmers is that if you dim one side all the way down but don't click it to off, it cannot be controlled from the other side.

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    DIY Member JMingrone's Avatar
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    Hmmmm... Didn't realize that 3-way dimmers had an "off" as well. So i guess I'm still unclear how two 3-way dimmers interact. Guess I'll have to pick a few up and try them.

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    DIYer, not in the trades LLigetfa's Avatar
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    Every 3-way dimmer I've installed has 3 states; On, Off, and dimmed. When one side is dimmed, the other side can only control On and Off. Maybe there are other types out there but I have not come across any that can vary the brightness while the other end is.

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    DIY Senior Member Chad Schloss's Avatar
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    the leviton vizia 3 ways dim at either end. i installed 3 pairs of them in my rental house.

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    DIYer, not in the trades LLigetfa's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Chad Schloss View Post
    the leviton vizia 3 ways dim at either end.
    I have no experience with that model but the dimmers I have experience with can dim at either end provided the far end is in the full Off position.

    Do you have a link to the model that allows dimming from both ends at the same time?

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    Plumber jimbo's Avatar
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    At this link, see spec sheet and instructions: http://www.leviton.com/OA_HTML/Produ...minisite=10251

    also see lutron.com

  11. #11
    Retired Defense Industry Engineer jadnashua's Avatar
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    The Leviton Maestro series can have as many as 8 dimmer switches controlling the same circuit...there's one 'master' that has LED's that show the level of dimming, but you can control both on/off and dimming at any of the other (slave) switches in the circuit. It only needs a 3-wire cable between all of them. I have three of them to control my counter lights, overhead lights in the kitchen, and another in the dining room. You can (or at least could) buy them at HD. HD sells them in a two pack with a master/slave, but you can buy additional slave units. They take a Decora switchplate.
    Last edited by Terry; 03-18-2014 at 10:44 AM.
    Jim DeBruycker
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    Retired Defense Industry Engineer; Schluter 2.5-day Workshop Completed 2013, 2014

  12. #12
    DIYer, not in the trades LLigetfa's Avatar
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    Sounds expensive. I stand corrected.

  13. #13
    DIY Member JMingrone's Avatar
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    So, sounds like 3-way dimming works a little differently than I first thought. Initially I assumed both ends of the 3-way were identical parts in the same way that non-dimming 3-ways are: buy 2 of the same parts and install them at each end. My understanding now (correct me if i'm wrong) is that to do dimming from multiple locations, only ONE of the switches actually does the dimming, the other(s) communicate dimming level (input at the alternate locate) to the actual dimmer. Either end can turn the lights ON or OFF, and either end can dim, exactly what you want. Do I have that right?

    Regardless of how it actually works, does it still use a 3 conductor cable running between the 2 locations? Hope so, because that's the way I wired it.

    An alternate mode i'm considering if dimming from both ends isn't possible (with my current wiring) is dimming from only one end, and having on/off control from the other end.

    Thanks,

    Jay

  14. #14
    Retired Defense Industry Engineer jadnashua's Avatar
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    Basically, as I understand it, one of the three wires is a signalling wire that talks from one of the slaves to the master. So, yes, all you need is a 3-wire cable connecting them all with a two-wire cable to the light fixture(s). It gets a little more messy if the power is at the lights, then needs to go to the switches, but it's all shown in the installation instructions.

    If you're using this to control a low-voltage system, you need a special version of the dimmer. It makes a difference whether that low-voltage system uses a magnetic or electronic circuit to make the low-voltage and those dimmers do cost more than for just incandescent lights (I needed one of those for my situation). From what I remember, one master/slave pair was around $50 at HD, but I bought mine about 5-years ago.
    Jim DeBruycker
    Important note - I'm not a pro
    Retired Defense Industry Engineer; Schluter 2.5-day Workshop Completed 2013, 2014

  15. #15
    DIYer, not in the trades LLigetfa's Avatar
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    You can buy 3-way dimmers that work the way I describe. You can also use a 3-way dimmer on one side and a 3-way switch on the other. As Jim said, you can also get the system with master and remotes (slaves is not PC).

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