I have hallway lights controlled by three separate switches; two 3-Pole and one 4-pole. One can turn on the lights with any switch and turn off the lights with any switch.

I have replaced one of the 3-pole switches with a 3-Pole occupancy sensor. My expectation was that the motion activation would substitute for manually flicking the switch and thereby turn on the light when motion was detected (and subsequently turn it off after timing out) while still allowing to turn on/off the same lights with either of the other two switches as needed. This has not turned out to be the case.

The 3-Pole box I tried these units in had one pair of black/white wires coming in and 2 blacks, a red and a white coming in (going out)on the other side. The white wires were connected with a twist on connector. From the examples in the instructions, this is a 3 way line or load set-up (although I cannot tell which).

Despite having played around with several combinations of wires to either sensor switch, the results seem to be about the same.

With power restored and the lights on, I can shut them off with the manual switch or let the timer shut them off. When I do this, neither of the other two switches will turn the lights back on. Alternatively, with the lights on, I can shut them off with either of the two straight switches and can turn them back on again with the same switch or the other simple switch. However, when I turn the lights off using either switch, the motion sensor switch does nothing. In fact it doesn't even appear to have power going to it unless I switch one of the other two back. The end result is I can either run the lights with the motion sensor switch and never touch the other two OR I use only the two mechanical switches and never use the motion sensor - either way defeats the purpose.

Aside from not being able to reason out what is going on here, I am also confused by both installation pamphlets. Although neither one states you need to alter the wiring anywhere but the switch you are replacing, both show an illustration of the sensor switch AND the "3-way switch" side-by-side and accompanying wiring. This somewhat suggests to me that the remaining 3-pole switch originally in this set-up has to also be re-wired. I haven't yet tried this since the instructions do not take into account if you are installing the sensor switch into a 2-switch system (3-pole) or one with 3 wall switches, one of which using a 4-pole switch and the other 2 3-pole.

What am I doing wrong?

Thank you for all the prompts responses. To clarify some of your comments/questions...

  • Despite trying to figure this out myself, I don't understand the difference between "3-way" and "3-Pole". What's more, isn't confusing that if you was to have three switches working one light, you need a 4-Pole. The switch I bought said 3-Pole on it and it has an occupancy sensor and rocker switch (2-way?). The occupancy sensor has programmable sensitivity and time-out settings. Basically, it senses movement, turns the lights on then, after a set time, turns them off. There are 3 switches in the circuit but this is the only one with a sensor. It replaces an existing 3-pole switch (a simple rocker switch with three terminals and a ground). The other 2 switches are another 3-pole and a pole.

  • These are links to the installations pamphlets: https://www.leviton.com/en/docs/IPS06_IPV06_Instruction_Sheet.pdf http://www.lutron.com/TechnicalDocumentLibrary/0301647.pdf I bought two different ones since the sensitivity on the first one didn't seem to trip when movement was off to the sides. I was surprised how different they were in construction and operation even though the description of their functionality on the package was nearly identical.

  • I mentioned that prior to installing, the hallway light could be turned on/off by any of the three switches in any order and that I expected when I replaced the original switch with a motion sensor, that nothing would change except I wouldn't actually have to hit a switch to turn on the lights. What I failed to consider is that if it actually worked like that, that is, the switch is tripped everytime it sensed movement, it would turn on AND off constantly. Obviously, the sensor only turns the lights ON and the built in timer shuts it off. What it DOES NOT do and I hope to rectify is have the sensor turn on the lights as normal BUT if I want to manually turn them off before the timer does, I can, while still having the sensor turn it back on later. Currently, if I use one of the other two switches, it seems to isolate the sensor switch as it behaves as if it has no power. I've tried alternating the traveler wires and there is no different in functionality.

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    Do you mean 3-way and 4-way instead of 3-pole and 4-pole? – ThreePhaseEel Oct 6 '19 at 4:24
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    Also, do you have motion sensors at all three locations, or just one of them, and what make and model are your motion sensor(s)? – ThreePhaseEel Oct 6 '19 at 4:51
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    post photos or links for the pamphlets. – Jasen Oct 6 '19 at 8:00
  • Hello, and welcome to Home Improvement. We'd need more info before we could help you. And, you should probably take our tour so you'll know how best to participate here. – Daniel Griscom Oct 6 '19 at 12:34
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    I'm a little confused. Are we talking about one or multiple motion sensing switches? Is the timer you are referring to part of the motion sensing switch or separate? Could you scan the installation instructions and post them or give us the manufacturer and model number of the sensor(s). So we could go online and take a look? – Retired Master Electrician Oct 6 '19 at 13:46

Hmm, 3-way circuits do not have line and load.

A 3-way circuit is simplicity itself if you pause to a) learn how they work and b) identify your wires before you do anything. Of course, people never do that. They see a bunch of different wire colors, and positions of screws on the switch - and expect that to contain the information they need. In fact, both are so random as to be useless.

So my suggestion is to rollback to the configuration that last worked with the old 3-way switch; sorry if that means a dumpster dive but it is much wiser to use the same switch with familiar screw positions, rather than a new switch with random screw positions.

Once you've got that circuit back the way it was and working 100%, then get some marking tape and mark the wires by what they do, particularly travelers. I am fond of using yellow tape on both travelers, because it matches their brass screws on 3-ways. There is no need to distinguish travelers from each other, and it's an unusual color, so "2 yellows" in a box has a pretty clear meaning.

Here is how 3-way loops work.

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All the 4-way does is exchange travelers, or not.

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Connect the sensor's control wires to the two travellers.

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