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Wire 4 Way Switchs with 14/2

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  • Wire 4 Way Switchs with 14/2

    I have a bunch of extra 14/2 wire, and 14/3 is pretty expensive.

    Is it against code to get "creative" and wire 3-Way/4-Way switches with 14/2?

    Two examples:
    1. Run a pair of 14/2 together. Use the two blacks in place of the red/black of 14/3, use either one of the whites in place of the white of the 14/3, and simply leave the 2nd white disconnected (or perhaps it might be safer to simply tie the two whites together).

    2. Connect the 3-way to the 4-way to the 3-way with 14/2 (mark the white as hot). Run 14/2 from one of the 3-ways to all of the lights on the circuit and back to the other 3-way. At the 3-way that is the power source, connect the neutral of the 2nd 14/2 to the source neutral, leave the black unconnected (capped). At the 3-way at the end of the run, connect the black of the 2nd 14/2 to the end of the 3-way, leave the neutral unconnected (capped). Basically you make a circle with the two sets of 14/2... one leg of the circle is the switches, the other leg of the circle is the neutral and switched hot.

  • #2
    Re: Wire 4 Way Switchs with 14/2

    If you're asking questions here, you must have some reservations about doing this as you propose. Example #1 would work but I'm not going to tell you it meets code. You have box fill limitations when doing work this way. Plus it's just a total hack. 14/3 runs $16 for 25 feet and about $47 for 100 feet. Surely that's not too expensive to do the job correctly - and would meet code. Example #2 is just crazy - way more work and a nightmare for anyone coming in after you to repair or diagnose. Do yourself a favor and do it right.

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    • #3
      Re: Wire 4 Way Switchs with 14/2

      I have a bunch of extra 14/2 wire, and 14/3 is pretty expensive.

      Is it against code to get "creative" and wire 3-Way/4-Way switches with 14/2?
      It may not be against code, but it is just plain STUPID to do so when one doesn't have to

      It's cheaper, simpler, and easier to run 14-3. Especially with it comes to multiple switching like 3-4 ways. Not to mention it keeps troubleshooting down to a minimum.

      I HATE it when people get cheap with the materials. People always get shocked at the labor costs to install cheap CRAP iAND get further enraged why it has taken so long and gotten so expensive to figure out the problem was because someone else decided to get creative with the wiring to save a few pennies! Just because one guy gets an idea at one moment, doesn't mean the next guy will know what that idea was at the next when something goes wrong! Don't forget, you are paying that electrician the entire time that person is forced to run around figuring things out at $70 an hour. That extra $20 to prevent that doesn't seem so expensive anymore does it?
      Last edited by tailgunner; 01-23-2010, 05:42 PM.

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      • #4
        Re: Wire 4 Way Switchs with 14/2

        Originally posted by killavolt View Post
        If you're asking questions here, you must have some reservations about doing this as you propose...
        My only reservation is that the building inspector is going to be looking at my work, and I want to make sure I don't have to do something twice.

        Where I live, I'm allowed to do electrical wiring in my own home. I know enough about electricity and home wiring to do it safely (I studied in electrical engineering and my dad was an electrition ages ago, I learn from example very well, and I've got lots of wiring examples to take note of with an unfinished basement).

        But what I don't always know are some of the nit-picky details of the building codes.


        And since I'm acting as my own electrician, the $70/hr argument doesn't apply.


        Now I won't argue with the opinion that it's "just plain STUPID to do so when one doesn't have to", but then again I've discovered some STUPID stuff in the original wiring of this house that was supposedly done by a certified electrician.


        When I say that 14/3 is expensive, it appears that the ball-park price for 14/3 is about twice that of 14/2. Obviously it's not worth doing two 14/2 in parallel (no savings that way). But the circuit I've got planned, the "loop" idea is extreamly feasable. Basically, you could say that I'm wiring a "path" with a set of 3-way and 4-way switches. In effect, the switches run parallel to the lights. So if I do it "right" or do it "cheap", there is still going to effectively be two runs of wire... one for the 3-way/4-way switches and one for the run of lights. So actually, things are cheaper and faster to install using all 14/2 because there will be a bunch of neutrals you won't have to connect along the path of the 3-way/4-way switches. The only hic-up is the two connections from the 3-way switches to the lights on each end of the run. Because using the loop method, you only need one neutral and no hot from the 1st 3-way to the 1st light, and you only need one hot from the last 3-way to the last light.

        Now granted, such an install isn't standard and would probably throw someone for a loop if they ever had to repair it. But then again, how often does electrical work have to be "repaired", especially if it's being done by a home owner that's taking their time to do it right, compared to an electrician who is in a time crunch to be able to get the job done and still be profitable. Obviously if I install it and something does go wrong (like a switch that fails), I'll know how it's wired and be able to fix it. We have no plans to ever move, so I'm no too concerned about the next person... and even if we did move, so long as I've done a safe job, what do I care what it costs the next person?
        Last edited by HooKooDooKu; 01-25-2010, 01:43 AM. Reason: typos

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        • #5
          Re: Wire 4 Way Switchs with 14/2

          [QUOTE=HooKooDooKu;276834]My only reservation is that the building inspector is going to be looking at my work, and I want to make sure I don't have to do something twice.

          Where I live, I'm allowed to do electrical wiring in my own home. I know enough about electricity and home wiring to do it safely (I studied in electrical engineering and my dad was an electrition ages ago, I learn from example very well, and I've got lots of wiring examples to take note of with an unfinished basement).

          But what I don't always know are some of the nit-picky details of the building codes.


          And since I'm acting as my own electrician, the $70/hr argument doesn't apply.


          Now I won't argue with the opinion that it's "just plain STUPID to do so when one doesn't have to", but then again I've discovered some STUPID stuff in the original wiring of this house that was supposedly done by a certified electrician.


          When I say that 14/3 is expensive, it appears that the ball-park price for 14/3 is about twice that of 14/2. Obviously it's not worth doing two 14/2 in parallel (no savings that way). But the circuit I've got planned, the "loop" idea is extreamly feasable. Basically, you could say that I'm wiring a "path" with a set of 3-way and 4-way switches. In effect, the switches run parallel to the lights. So if I do it "right" or do it "cheap", there is still going to effectively be two runs of wire... one for the 3-way/4-way switches and one for the run of lights. So actually, things are cheaper and faster to install using all 14/2 because there will be a bunch of neutrals you won't have to connect along the path of the 3-way/4-way switches. The only hic-up is the two connections from the 3-way switches to the lights on each end of the run. Because using the loop method, you only need one neutral and no hot from the 1st 3-way to the 1st light, and you only need one hot from the last 3-way to the last light.

          Now granted, such an install isn't standard and would probably throw someone for a loop if they ever had to repair it.
          Then why do it?

          But then again, how often does electrical work have to be "repaired", especially if it's being done by a home owner that's taking their time to do it right,
          NOT

          compared to an electrician who is in a time crunch to be able to get the job done and still be profitable. Obviously if I install it and something does go wrong (like a switch that fails), I'll know how it's wired and be able to fix it.

          We have no plans to ever move, so I'm no too concerned about the next person... and even if we did move, so long as I've done a safe job, what do I care what it costs the next person? [/QUOTE]
          Typical "I don't care about the next guy."

          If I was the AHJ (electrical inspector) I would make you tear it out and do it to code. And that's what he'll do if you have it inspected.
          Last edited by killavolt; 01-25-2010, 05:25 PM.

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          • #6
            Re: Wire 4 Way Switchs with 14/2

            HooKooDooKu, it seems you are on quite a few message boards with this question looking for someone somewhere to tell you it is OK. It is NOT.

            PLEASE, just bite the bullet and buy some 14/3. Yeah, maybe it is more expensive than 14/2, and you already have the 14/2, but how much of it do you really need? It's not like we are talking hundreds of dollars here.

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            • #7
              Re: Wire 4 Way Switchs with 14/2

              Just to wrap things up here and not keep things dangling...

              Originally posted by Speedy Petey View Post
              HooKooDooKu, it seems you are on quite a few message boards with this question looking for someone somewhere to tell you it is OK. It is NOT...
              I asked if it was against code. I was getting too many answers like this... someone basically saying it wasn't ok, but wouldn't back it up with code requirements.

              Now I really wasn't interested in implementing #1, and from the discussions I've seen, it sounds like it is debatable whether it is or is not a code violation.

              I was really interested in option #2, so I tried to state the question a little more clear, and included a diagram to show how simple a solution it was in that other forum.

              Finally, some in one of the other forums explained WHY it was against code... basically that code requires the hot and neutral to run together.

              Once the code violation was pointed out, for me, it was "END OF DISCUSSION". 14/3 will be used.

              BTW, after that point, the discussion turned academic and continued to be debated. I enjoyed the fact that out of that debate, I learned that code generally wants hot and neutral to be run together so that their magnetic fields will tend to cancel each other out. It was also pointed out that code does allow for switch loops (hot wire by-it-self going to a switch and back). But again, the discussion on magnetic fields explains that too... because the two hot would also tend to cancel each other out.

              So if I had let it be with just a couple of nay-sayers, I really wouldn't have learned much at all.

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              • #8
                Re: Wire 4 Way Switchs with 14/2

                Originally posted by HooKooDooKu View Post


                I asked if it was against code. I was getting too many answers like this... someone basically saying it wasn't ok, but wouldn't back it up with code requirements.
                Excuse me. I DID back up what I said on other forums with code quotes. If others have a different interpretation that's fine. I stand by mine.

                It is not only about magnetic fields. It is also about the fact that someone may come in and alter the circuit. If the neutral is altered in one place and the hot is running in another this is a recipe for disaster.

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