I am finishing exchanging more than 25 switches in my home with smart Lutron dimmers and Pico remotes (no neutral wiring needed). Some of them have been single pole, some 3-way (controlling both ceilings fans and light fixtures). Up until now all of the work has been fairly simple. Disconnect, identify hot vs load or travelers and reconnect the same way (except for the bundling of travelers together that the Lutron switches require and bundling of all cables that Pico remotes require). Nothing out of the ordinary.

I am in my last switch (3-way) and when I opened the box, I found something I didn’t expect: Two black wires connected to the two hot terminals in the switch (one screw and one push terminal) along with the two travelers (red and black) and the ground cable connected to the ground screw. Why would there be two hot wires connected to the two hot terminals in the switch like that?

The house was built in 2007. So, there are also neutrals bundled in the back of the box. I attached some pictures that might help visualize the situation better.

As you can see from the pictures one of the hot wires is coming from a Romex cable (along with neutral and a ground) and the other is coming from a different Romex (along with the travelers, neutral and ground).

I was thinking of placing the Pico remote here which calls for just bundling travelers and hot into a nut and capping the ground wire. Can I just bundle all these cables like that? I can also place the actual Lutron dimmer here which calls for attaching ground to ground, hot to one terminal and all other cables to the other terminal. Any ideas or help would be appreciated.

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  • We can't tell what anything is connected to in that close up. – JPhi1618 Jul 9 '19 at 17:27
  • For some reason the other picture didn’t load up. Instead a message (link) saying enter picture description here takes you to the picture of the connection itself. I will try to correct it. – Dake Jul 9 '19 at 17:29
  • OK. I added back the picture that didn’t upload. Hopefully this helps. If not I can add others. – Dake Jul 9 '19 at 17:31
  • I fixed the broken image. – JPhi1618 Jul 9 '19 at 17:31
  • You either have travelers, or one or more outbound always hot tap. A multi-meter will help you know exactly what's happening. Always be careful and turn off breaker when moving wires around. – John Peters Jul 9 '19 at 17:48

It's simply a splice. They are using the screw and the backstab to accomplish what they could do with a pigtail. In particular, they are grabbing "always-hot" because this is the first switch. Presumably they are also grabbing neutral.

An ideal 3-way circuit:

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What they are doing: (shown translucent)

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  • Hi Harper. Thanks for the help. No I hadn’t seen it. In all other boxes that were spliced they used pigtails. Since I’m a newbie, I thought of asking more experienced people before I made a terrible and possibly dangerous mistake! ;) – Dake Jul 9 '19 at 17:36
  • @Dake definitely a good plan. I'm glad that elsewhere in the house they were avoiding the unreliable backstab. Maybe this branch was added later by someone else. – Harper - Reinstate Monica Jul 9 '19 at 17:37
  • The box with the other 3-way switch looks like all other 3-way switches in the rest of my home. That is 1 hot were coming into switch the along with two traveler wires and a ground. Not two hot and two travelers like this one. – Dake Jul 9 '19 at 17:39
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    Yup, just treat it as a splice. In fact I would convert it to a pigtail just out of a general loathing for backstabs. @Dake ... But then, I pigtail lots of stuff, because it's much easier to install pigtails at my workbench than try to put 4 (stranded in my case) wires on 4 screws while lying on my back or up a ladder. – Harper - Reinstate Monica Jul 9 '19 at 18:12
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    That makes perfect sense! @Harper I will just pigtail it. It will be just like all other boxes in the house and less confusing to anyone else that lives here in the future. Thanks for your helps! – Dake Jul 9 '19 at 18:17

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