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3-Way Switch Voltage Leak?

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  • 3-Way Switch Voltage Leak?

    Hey, just got through wiring a new house for relative and was hanging lights and ceiling fans and noticed something strange with the 3-way switches. I noticed there were several other post about voltage still being detected when the switches were in the off position. I just wanted to make sure this was normal and it would be ok. I am testing the voltage by touching the nuetral (red) lead of my multimeter to the neutral (white) or groundwires in the light switch box, and touching the hot (black) lead of the multimeter to either of the traveler terminals of the three way switch. When checking either of the traveler terminals they both read a perfect 115 to 120 volts when in their respective on position. However in their off position they still read approximatly 34 Volts. I will admit the 3 way switches were the cheapest ones at Lowes. So I wanted to check and see if it was a faulty switch bleeding or leaking electricity to the terminal in the off position. So with the multimeter in place and reading 34 V in the off position I started to flip the switch in the on position and noticed that after flipping the switch a fraction of an inch down, still basically poing in the up position, the multimeter read 0 V. This leads me to believe my problem is the switch. Does this sound correct? Could there be another problem? I know it's not a transformer. Doorbell is on another circuit and we already learned the hard way about it causing a false shortage reading. Do I need to replace the switches? Will it hurt or use electricty to leave the switches as they are? By the way the lights and fans work fine on these circuits.

  • #2
    Re: 3-Way Switch Voltage Leak?

    You are reading ghost voltage with the meter. If you hold the meter leads in your hand you can sometime read voltage. You have no problem.

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    • #3
      Re: 3-Way Switch Voltage Leak?

      Might just be that the "dead" wire coming out of the switch is proxying the corona of the live wire over the switch gap. Or possibly from another wire that may not even be in the same circuit. Not exactly dangerous, we get that often with 230V. Digital meters are sensitive enough to read the voltage, but an analogue one usually loads the wre enough to "kill the ghost".

      Sometimes the ghosts make it really hard to get secure readings... especially with the glowstick style contact pen with the tiny orange light in it.

      Another problem is if you can make it go away by forcing the switch "more off"... that might mean that the switch isn't of very reliable construction.

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