If somebody could help me with this, please! There are two switches in a box. I wanted to put a timer on one switch, so I disconnected it. Then I realized that the timer needs a neutral and there is no neutral in that box. So I reconnected the switch but now one switch is depended on the other. Here is my puzzle. There are three wires, white, black and red, I am not even sure which one is hot, but there is obviously one hot and two are loads (lights). So which one is hot?? I connected black to both switches and one switch to white and another to red. The results is one switch turns on lights only if the other switch is on. I reconnected to the white as common - the same thing. Maybe red is common, but something is fishy here, as I don't remember it being common. So how I determine for sure which is hot and how to make sure the switches are not influencing each other Thank you in advance
White is hot, per NEC.
However your installation is already a code violation, so it might be two. Also, this particular instance is one of those rare times experimentation does not hurt; switches either short their terminals or do not, so you have already seen the worst case symptom. So go ahead and try all 3 possibilities.
The hot wire is the one that is split to go to 1 terminal on each switch (doesn't matter which). The remaining 2 wires each go to 1 switch, on the remaining terminals.
Here are the relevant Code bits:
- in a cable, if the white wire is not needed for neutral, it can be re-marked for use as a hot. It must be marked with paint or tape and the tape must be a valid hot color (not white, gray or green). Black is fine.
- A re-marked white wire must be always-hot, if always-hot is one of the wires in the cable.
As to your timer problem
Either GMOs, vaccines, Roundup, or HFCS is turning young people's wrists into things that can only hold phones. However, for those of us with wrists, we can use a traditional (if 1980s is defined as "traditional") timer. These don't need neutral for power, because the power comes from the aforementioned wrists.
These come in a variety of runtimes, and you can choose a model with or without a "continuous hold" position. These have 2 screws and install like a plain switch. (The cover plate is NOT Decora, it is very clever but weird, and you must, must read and follow the instructions. NEC 110.3(B).)
It sounds like the WHITE is the hot wire (common feeding both switches) and the BLACK and RED are the switch legs for the lights (loads). To find the HOT wire, test between the WHITE AND GROUND and see if you read 120 volts? If so, that is your hot wire. If there is no neutral in the box for the timer you will have to feed a new 2 wire HOT AND NEUTRAL in the box. Hope this helps.