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I’m replacing an existing incandescent light fixture in my garage with two LED fixtures. The light is on a set of 3-way switches. I expected to remove the existing fixture and find a hot and neutral. However, the light is fed by a switched hot and tees into neutral. It was a bizarre enough setup that I pulled all the faceplates and did some investigating. If you look at the sketch, L2 is the light fixture that I plan on replacing.

O1 (outlet) and L3 are always hot, and control the garage opener and exterior spotlight, respectively. S1 has a backstab going to S2 and two wires wrapped around the gold screw. The part that concerns me is the combination of switched and always-on branches. Is this type of setup ok? I imagine it was back in the 70’s when the house was constructed, but now it seems like a ball of yarn. Thanks

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  • What in particular concerns you? I see nothing alarming at first glance. Also, there are no tees in wiring. :P – isherwood Nov 6 '18 at 20:22
  • Forgot to mention, the fixtures, switches, and receptacles are grounded, I just didn't bother to sketch them in. – 8sh0t Nov 6 '18 at 20:27
  • I suspect "tees" == "pigtail" – manassehkatz Nov 6 '18 at 20:35
  • And you want more pigtails and fewer backstabs. – Harper Nov 6 '18 at 20:39
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Every wire is there for a purpose and there are no extra wires.

It seems like a ball of yarn because wiring is like that. What helps a great deal is color-coding the wires by function. As an example, I prefer

  • white for neutral (well, that's mandatory)
  • black for always-hot, circuit 1 (usually the only circuit)
  • red for switched-hot (between switch and lamp)
  • blue for alt-switched-hot (second lamp)
  • yellow for the two 3-way switch travelers (the ones on the brass screws) - there is no need to distinguish them from each other

Get a 5-pack of colored tape and apply that by wrapping the appropriate wires. Yarn no more.

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