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I have a 4 way circuit with 6 total switches light switches. One is a dimmer switch. The other 5 switches only work properly when the dimmer switch is on. If the dimmer switch is off the other toggle switches do nothing. Can't turn light on or off.

Also the toggle switches must all be in the on position in order to be able to turn the light on from the dimmer switch. What I mean by this is that if the lights are turned off using one of the toggle switches, and then I try to turn the light on from the dimmer switch, I will need to elk over to one of the toggle switches to turn the light back on.

Hope you can help! I realize that if the dimmer is dimmed, the toggle switches will turn the lights on dimmed, but it would be nice to be able to use all the switches for on/off.

dimmer switch wiring

dimmer switch box closeup

toggle switch wiring

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    Can you post photos of the insides of the boxes, and the model number of the dimmer? – ThreePhaseEel Jun 23 '16 at 3:44
  • The dimmer is model Lutron illumatech IPI06. I will post photos of the inside of the boxes as soon as possible. Thanks! – Vijay Shah Jun 23 '16 at 12:49
  • How did you wire the dimmer? How was the old switch wired? – Tester101 Jun 23 '16 at 15:54
  • Can you get a close-up of the insides of the dimmer-box for us? – ThreePhaseEel Jun 23 '16 at 22:18
  • It will only let me upload 2 images. here is a link to the image of the inside of the dimmer box dimmer box close up. @ThreePhaseEel – Vijay Shah Jun 23 '16 at 23:20
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Looking at the Installation Instructions, if you bought the 3-way version then you either miswired it, or tried to install it in place of one of the 4-way switches previously in the circuit. The 3-way dimmer must be at one end or the other of the circuit. (if you bought a single pole aka 2-way, then it'll never work).

This little pic shows the layout. The solid red bars are for one position of each 4-way; the dashed bars are for the other. So long as this particular 3-way dimmer is in one of the 3-way locations, it always passes the "dimmed" voltage to its live leg. enter image description here

  • Something like this got me started in an electrical apprentice back in the 70's I don't know how many switches the contractor blew up from mis-wiring, this looks great Carl +. – Ed Beal Jun 23 '16 at 19:16
  • thanks for your help. I'm a complete novice. Would you take a look at the photos I added? Let me know if you can tell the wiring problem? In the toggle switch box, all 4 wires are gray. I can see in the box there is a yellow wiring going somewhere in there. – Vijay Shah Jun 23 '16 at 22:08
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Your dimmer is miswired in two ways.

First, your house is wired using metal conduit instead of NM cable. This has a few upsides:

  • You can add more wires to the conduits if you need to
  • Everything is wrapped in nice, grounded metal -- no need to worry about nailing through an electrical wire!
  • You can use whatever colors you want for "hot" wires save for grey, white, or green -- and as you see here, it's a good idea to use multiple colors systematically to tell wires apart

It also means that what you did with the dimmer's green wire is not correct. In a conduit installation -- instead of nutting off the green pigtail as would be done in an install where there is no ground, you connect it to a 10-32 ground screw driven into a matching hole in the box.

Second, the dimmer's common terminal has been wired to a traveler, and one of the dimmer's travelers to the common wire. Simply take the black wire from the dimmer and the red wire from the dimmer that's connected to the orange wire and interchange those two connections -- black from the wall should go to red on the dimmer and orange from the wall should go to black on the dimmer.

(Finally, the IPI-06 is made by Leviton, not Lutron -- they both make decent dimmers, though.)

  • I just bought this house and imagine that the previous owners installed the dimmers around the house themselves. I have a few areas that have this same problem where the dimmers are. I can't thank you enough! – Vijay Shah Jun 24 '16 at 1:31
  • I have to admit I left the ground wire capped as it was. I'm not sure exactly what I'm supposed to do with it. – Vijay Shah Jun 24 '16 at 1:32
  • @VijayShah -- you put a 10-32 screw into a matching hole in the back of the box and then terminate the green pigtail from the dimmer under the screw, just like screwing a wire to a switch terminal. (Also, don't forget to upvote/accept the answer since it helped you!) – ThreePhaseEel Jun 24 '16 at 1:48
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From the symptoms you describe, it sounds like the switches are all wired in series, since all switches (including the dimmer) need to be on for the light to be on.

If the switches are not so-called "3-way" switches (you can tell because 3-way switches have 3 terminal screws), then there is no way you can wire them up to do what you want. The good news is that is indeed possible to do what you want, and that the switches required to do the job are standard (but not "garden-variety") products, and they'll be more expensive.

If you want to have 3 switches all be able to turn a light on/off independently, you need to buy 2x 3-way switches and 1x 4-way switch. If you want to have 4 switches all be able to turn a light on/off independently, you need to buy 2x 3-way switches and 2x 4-way switches. If you want to have 5 switches all be able to turn a light on/off independently, you need to buy 2x 3-way switches and 3x 4-way switches. I'm sure you can detect the trend here…

In the case of 3 switches, you would wire them as shown here: http://www.buildmyowncabin.com/electrical/how-to-wire-4-way-switch.html As you add more switches, you effectively extend the switch chain by duplicating the 4-way switches like the middle switch in the diagram. The dimmer would be wired in series at the very end of the chain of switches.

It's a complicated switch wiring job. Good luck!

  • I may have explained incorrectly! The dimmer switch seems to be the only issue. As long as the dimmer is on, I can turn on or off from any of the other switches. – Vijay Shah Jun 23 '16 at 12:47
  • What I mean by this is that if the lights are turned off using one of the toggle switches, and then I try to turn the light on from the dimmer switch, I will need to elk over to one of the toggle switches to turn the light back on. – Vijay Shah Jun 23 '16 at 13:19
  • Since the other switches function as desired, clearly they are all 4-way (or possible 3-way at each end of the run, of course) – Carl Witthoft Jun 23 '16 at 15:26
  • Thanks for the clarification, Vijay. I was taking your description "the toggle switches must all be in the on position in order to be able to turn the light on" literally. Just another clarification question: is the "off" position of every toggle switch the same no matter what position any other toggle switch is in? That is, if "down" is "off" for switch 1, is "down" still "off" even if the other toggle switches are toggled? If so then you have some arrangement other than 3 or 4-way switching. – AndyW Jun 23 '16 at 17:55

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