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I am wiring 2 3 way switches with 2 separate receptacle in the middle of the switches. Everything is working correctly but my receptacle tester says open neutral. Does a receptacle tester get thrown off by 3 way switches somehow? I've attached a diagram that I'm following (I'm using receptacles not lights)

The diagram I'm using


Update:

In this image, I have made some editing highlighted by the yellow circles, can anyone tell me if this would be correct following @Harper 's suggestions??

In this image, I have made some editing highlighted by the yellow circles, can anyone tell me if this would be correct following @Harper 's suggestions??

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  • What a horrible diagram. They bother to tape the neutrals black to indicate they're hots, but they don't bother to tape any wire to indicate its actual function. – Harper - Reinstate Monica Sep 6 '17 at 5:38
  • @Harper Thank you for taking the time to help me. I am still a little bit confused though. On the second diagram I don't understand which color wires the orange wires actually are. . Would you be willing to provide a complete diagram of the proper setup? Once again, I cannot thank you enough, I want to learn to do it the right way and couldn't do it without the generosity and help from awesome people like you guys! – Josiahsday Sep 6 '17 at 12:49
  • Well neutral must be white, and you are not allowed to tape a colored wire white. So if you need neutral in a segment, you have to leave the white wire white. That forces your choice in C1 and C4. Other than that, you choose, one wire at a time. Make sure to tape both ends of the wire at the same time lest you forget. The tape color overides the old wire color. – Harper - Reinstate Monica Sep 6 '17 at 15:01
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Your receptacle tester definitely should work normally. Nothing about a 3-way makes it weird, unless you mess up, which is very easy to do with 3-ways.

Why don't your receptacles work? Red black and white spaghetti - who can tell anything in all that schtuff?

They did the minimum legally required: they taped the white wires to indicate not neutral. Why on earth stop there? Let's get some blue and orange tape, and tape-wrap those wires for what they actually do. And let's see if it doesn't make a lot more sense.

enter image description here

  • Pretty straightforward. Any wires still black are definitely always-hot.
  • Any wire still white is neutral.
  • Blues are messengers - they both do exactly the same thing, and you're free to swap them anywhere along here, so, no need to distinguish one from the other.
  • Orange is switched hot intended for the bulbs (or you say receptacles? hmm.)

My guess is, you got the black red white spaghetti all mixed up and grabbed the wrong wire. Label the wires properly and I bet it falls into place.


By the way, using two cables like that, C3 and C4, is illegal because you have imbalanced currents on the wires. The power goes out on C3, but comes back on C4. This will induce eddy current heating on any part, box entry, staple or nail between them. The right thing is to use /4 or /2/2 cable, which gives you 4 in one cable. ----- Or run /3 and /2: the /2 would connect the two lamps to each other, connecting switched-hot and neutral. C3 would be both messengers and switched hot - out on the messengers, back on the switched-hot, balanced. C4 would be simply a "spur line" to the other lamp, out on orange back on white, again balanced. C4 could even be a "tee" to another location.

enter image description here

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  • Even with your nicely re-colored diagram there is still the problem of there being no neutral at the right hand switch location. That was a problem with the original diagram for sure but this issue should be pointed out for new wiring installations. Someday someone will complain that they cannot get a smart switch to work in that location because of lack of a neutral. – Michael Karas Sep 6 '17 at 9:31
  • @MichaelKaras -- my understanding of the NEC requirements for neutrals at switch boxes is that you only need neutral at 1 location in a multi-way setup, which is also consistent with how multi-way smart switches are implemented (as a master and set of communicating remotes). – ThreePhaseEel Sep 6 '17 at 11:34
  • @Harper Thank you for taking the time to help me. I am still a little bit confused though. On the second diagram I don't understand which color wires the orange wires actually are. . Would you be willing to provide a complete diagram of the proper setup? Once again, I cannot thank you enough, I want to learn to do it the right way and couldn't do it without the generosity and help from awesome people like you guys! – Josiahsday Sep 6 '17 at 12:42
  • Here's the key: actual neutrals must be white, and you can't tape a colored wire white. So if you need a neutral, the white wire must be it. That leaves you little choice in the case of C4. Generally it doesn't matter which color they start, the whole point is that you are taping to redefine wire colors. Always tape both ends of the wire the same and at the same time. If you are clever (unlike the original drafters), you can use native wire colors a lot more. For instance switched-hot is commonly red. You don't need to tape the whole exposed wire, just enough to see what you mean. – Harper - Reinstate Monica Sep 6 '17 at 14:35
  • @MichaelKaras It's worse than that. There's also no "hot". Ergo, you will not be putting a smart switch there today. Realistically though: you make a smart choice of smart switches and re-task all the existing wires, e.g. Black/white become always-hot/neutral and red becomes commo. Lack of wires is certainly not a problem!! – Harper - Reinstate Monica Sep 6 '17 at 14:45

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