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We are (attempting) to replace our kitchen light fixtures with LED recessed lights. Let's just say it's been a huge learning curve... which I'm going to summarize here so you know the things we've tried and learned, before asking my questions.

Old Set-Up South fixture on one circuit with one switch. North fixture on separate circuit (and separate connection to breaker box) with one switch.

First Plan We kept the two separate circuits, but added a 3-way dimmer switch to each. We wired two LED lights on one, and three on the other. The circuit with three was noticably dim and we eventually discovered that we had wired them in a series, rather than parallel.

New Plan We decided since we had to try wiring again we'd change our design. What we want now is to have all five lights on the same circuit with a dimmer switch on one side of the kitchen and a toggle switch on the other side.

My search for a diagram to follow led me to these:

https://youtu.be/JOtCH2Nfb9w (do all five need to have the first light as the hub?! Seems tedious, and all those wires won't fit into the little junction box built in to the new LED light)

https://www.easy-do-it-yourself-home-improvements.com/3-way-switch-wiring-diagram.html (ours would be option #4 with more lights in the middle)

Question about wiring multiple lights in parallel as well a multiple lights in a parallel 3 way (this was my most recent find and now I'm thinking my attempt at setting it up like option #4 is totally wrong based on the discussion...)

I am attaching a sketch of how I have currently wired the lights. They do not come on at all. Please help me understand what is wrong, why, and what I need to do instead. Thank you!!

Details

  • 12/2 and 12/3 cable
  • toggle switch on left, dimmer switch on right
  • Utilitech canless LED recessed lights with integrated junction boxes, #1500765

enter image description here

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    Is the orange line supposed to represent the white (neutral) cable on the white paper?
    – FreeMan
    Jan 15 at 12:16
  • Can you post photos of the insides of the two switch boxes as well as the junctions boxes for the upper two lights in your diagram? Jan 15 at 12:34
  • Yes, the orange line is supposed to be white on the white paper. I've also not drawn the ground wire, but those are all joined together in each place, as the youtube video says to do. I will post pictures of the junction boxes shortly! Jan 15 at 15:31
  • Here's the dead giveaway that these drawings you linked are wrong. The layout/routing of the CABLES must be a tree topology, not a loop topology. Jan 15 at 18:24
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It appears that you're taking individual wires out of cables and running them in different directions. Don't do that.

From S1 (see labeled image, below), you've got your red & black travelers running toward S2, but you've got the white (I presume that's what the orange line represents) going to C5. Disconnect the white/neutral from C5 and allow it to pass through the box and on with the travelers to S2 as below.

From C5 to C1, it appears that you're using 12/2 and repurposing the white wire as a traveler. Replace this piece of cable with 12/3 (remove the 12/2 so there's no confusion in the future), carry the neutral from C5's box through to C1's box.

It appears that you've got 12/3 from C1 to S2, but that you've again split the wires from the cable to attempt to use them for different purposes. Don't do that! Use this piece of 12/3 (in its entirety, black, red AND white) to continue to carry your supply power to S2 and wire up the 3-way switch there properly.

Now that you've got your travelers properly set, you've got switched power at S2. Run an additional 12/2 from there to C1, pig-tailing the black/hot to the hot on the bulb (as you've got) and add a pig-tail from the white/neutral to the neutral on the bulb.

You should be good to go at C2, C3 and C4 with exactly what you've got.

Back at C5, make sure you've disconnected the existing white/neutral from the switch and tied it into the new 12/3 running toward S2. Tie the white/neutral coming from C4 to the bulb on C5.

enter image description here
Don't laugh, I drew the lettering with my thumb-operated track ball.

Additionally, I'm presuming that you've got the bare ground wire properly connected. The grounds should be connected from cable to cable, and it should be pig-tailed to each device (switch or light). It should be connected in a daisy chain, following the supply of power. You may be tempted to connect all the grounds in C5 together (both those coming from S1 and from C4). I do not believe you should do that, though I'm not certain that it will cause harm - I'll let the electricians chime in on that. I wouldn't do it, and it would work properly with them separated. I'm pretty sure it would be safe if they're connected there, but I'm not sure that it's code compliant that way.

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  • If I understand correctly -- You're saying to pass the neutral/white wire through C5 and C1, using 12/3. So basically, all the wires in the 12/3 cable would be going directly from s1 to s2. I think I'll avoid splices and just lay a new wire from s1 to s2 to give more space in the boxes and reduce confusion. That should work, right? Jan 15 at 15:37
  • @KyleeMorby Absolutely correct. You can run one 12/3 wire from S1 directly to S2 if you want - no reason to go through the cans or even anywhere near them if it's easier to run the wiring directly. Not knowing your room layout or how much of the walls/ceiling are open, I tried to fit the instructions into the existing profile.
    – FreeMan
    Jan 15 at 15:50
  • @KyleeMorby Yes, yes, now you understand! The cables between switches must bypass the lamp boxes entirely, first to avoid a cable loop, and second because you'd otherwise be cramming too many wires in the lamp splice boxes. Jan 15 at 18:15

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