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I just installed some recessed lighting in my basement and I can’t get the circuit to work properly.

The installation was: feed to multiple lights to dimmer switch. I used 14/2 for everything except from the last light to the dimmer switch, which I used 14/3. Only the last light dims and the other lights only stay on

Is my issue that I should’ve used 14/3 for everything or something wrong with the wiring?

  • It sounds like maybe you need neutral - and therefore 14/3 - at the dimmer, in which case it maybe should have been 14/3 the whole way. But not very clear. Please provided, if you can: model # of dimmer switch, picture of wiring at last light (14/2 & 14/3), picture of wiring at dimmer switch. – manassehkatz Feb 10 at 0:50
  • The switch is Halo LED SAL06P. I have the neutral unconnected since the switch says it doesn’t need a neutral with the black wire on top and red wire on bottom of the right hand side. From the switch, it’s to the last light in the chain where I have the neutrals together, the grounding together, the red to the light and the black from the incoming 14/2 and 14/3 together like I’ve seen in some diagrams online. All the other lights are setup so that all the whites are together, blacks are together, and grounding together. – prchick1984 Feb 10 at 1:03
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According to the manual, for a single switch (as opposed to a a 3-way switch, which would require another wire and another (ordinary, non-dimmable) 3-way switch), the configuration is very simple (ignoring grounds, which should all be connected together everywhere):

  • Top right screw = Black = Hot - this should go directly back to the panel
  • Bottom right screw = Yellow = Switched Hot - this should go to the light(s)
  • The "far side" of the lights goes to Neutral

With a single fixture this is straightforward:

14/2 from panel to light at the light:

  • Connect white (neutral) to one side of the light.
  • Pass black through to the next cable - it does not connect to the light.

14/2 from light to switch at the light:

  • Connect black hot to the first cable's black hot
  • Connect white (="yellow") switched hot to the other side of the light.

14/2 from light to switch at the switch:

  • Connect black hot to top right (= black according to the instructions)
  • Connect white switched hot to lower right (= yellow according to the instructions)

Note that yellow is a typical "switched hot" color (could be red or blue or anything else except black, which is traditionally hot, white & gray, which are only neutral, or green, which is only ground). However, 14/2 cable only comes in black/white, so if you have the hot function in the cable then that gets black and switched hot or neutral gets white. Alternatively, if you have neutral function in the cable then that gets white and hot or switched hot gets black. So in this case, you use white as switched hot and then mark it with yellow tape to indicate that it is actually the switched hot.

This conveniently ignores that current code requires a neutral in the switch box, just in case you need it later. But hang on...

That gets one light working. But you have more than one. Now you need another wire. == 14/3.

The problem is you need to have two wires going between all the lights: switched hot and neutral. And you need another wire, not connected to any lights, for hot to get to the switch. With only one light, we cheat a little (except that neutral should be in the switch box) because there is no "carry neutral along to the next light" since there is only one light. But with multiple lights that doesn't work. So now you replace the 14/2 from the first light through all the other lights to the switch with 14/3. That 14/3 will be black/white/red. As described above, whenever possible black = hot and white = neutral. So that leaves red = switched hot. Here we go:

14/2 from panel to light at the light:

  • Connect white (neutral) to one side of the light.
  • Pass black through to the next cable - it does not connect to the light.

14/3 from first light to second light, at the first light:

  • Connect black hot to the previous cable's black hot
  • Connect white neutral to the previous cable's white neutral and to one side of the light. This actually means use a wire nut to connect the whites from the two cables plus a pigtail to the light.
  • Connect red switched hot to the other side of the light.

14/3 from first light to second light, at the second light:

  • Connect black hot to the previous cable's black hot
  • Connect white neutral to the previous cable's white neutral and to one side of the light. This actually means use a wire nut to connect the whites from the two cables plus a pigtail to the light.
  • Connect red switched hot to the previous cable's red switched hot and to the other side of the light. This actually means use a wire nut to connect the reds from the two cables plus a pigtail to the light.

All the later lights use that same setup: blacks together, whites together + light, reds together + light.

14/3 from last light to switch at the switch:

  • Connect black hot to top right (= black according to the instructions)
  • Connect red switched hot to lower right (= yellow according to the instructions)
  • Cap the white neutral with a wire nut

Now you have all the lights working and you have neutral in the box in case you need it in the future.

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    Thanks for the answer. Looks like I’ll be fine tuning my electrical skills rewiring tomorrow – prchick1984 Feb 10 at 3:10
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So here are the wires you need.

  • ground from supply to every lamp and switch. Ground must be green, green/yellow, or bare.
  • neutral from supply to every lamp and switch. Neutral must be white.
  • always-hot from the power supply to the switch. Always-hot is preferably black.
  • switched-hot from the switch to every lamp. Switched-hot is ideally red, but can be black if the black wire is available.

As you can see, since power enters the opposite end from the switch, you need to carry "always-hot" all the way. You also need to carry "neutral" all the way. Then, if you want the lights to be switched, you need to carry switched-hot all the way back from the switch to the first lamp.

The lamp's hot wire is black. You can hook it to always-hot if you want it always-on, but if you want it switched, I suggest hooking it to switched hot.

So yeah, you need /3 cable starting at the first lamp.

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You need 14/3 between the lights

The reason why the lights are stuck ON is because they were wired directly between always-hot and neutral. Since you need to bring switched-hot back to all the lights in order for the switch to control them, you'll need to replace the 14/2 between the lights with 14/3.

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