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Thread: 3 way switch circuit --> Lutron dimmer replacement issues

  1. #1
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    3 way switch circuit --> Lutron dimmer replacement issues

    Hello -

    Pretty much at my wit's end with this problem. My entire house is Lutron Maestro MA-600 and MA-1000 dimmers, so I'm familiar. I have a 3 way circuit controlling a 120v rope lighting feature, as well as a halogen MR16 uplight on a fireplace mantel. The rope lighting plugs into a hidden outlet which is switched by the circuit. I replaced the LED rope light with a new strand (old one had burnt out sections). Circuit works fine with original rocker switches.

    Both rocker switches were wired exactly the same: each had a black wire connected to the black screw; white to the same-side brass screw, and a red wire connected to the opposite side screw.

    I have two different Lutron switch options: the MA-153M dimmer, which I intended to use with one of the existing rockers, or a MA-600 with a MA-R slave.

    Neither option worked. I'm aware that the wiring is different for each option (using the 153M requires two wires be joined at the original switch location), and I've tried variations, all with no effect. No green LED has ever lit up on either the MA-153M or MA-600 master; the LED rope lighting lights up dimly, however - and if I pull the FASS switch on either side of the MA-600 master/slave option (which I tried only to eliminate the possibility that I was dealing with a defective MA-153M), the LED rope light turns off.

    Holding down the main button on the MA-R results in slight brightening of the LED rope; that's the only effect either switch has on the rope other than using the FASS. I've tried swapping the white and red wire locations, first only on one, and then both: no effect; behavior is the same.

    Testing the wires into each gang box results in finding that only one of the gang boxes has a hot black; as I would have expected. Continuity testing between switch locations verifies both the white and the red as traveler wires; red to red and white to white.

    I'm stumped. Something must be wired oddly at the MR16/outlet which powers the LED rope which is preventing these dimmers from being wired in place of the rockers - but I don't know what. I would expect that the wiring of the circuit looks like this:

    https://i.pinimg.com/originals/5f/cb...fc711220c3.gif

    ...other than the fact that there are two lighting sources, rather than one bulb as the diagram pictures. I cannot get to the wiring to actually see how it is wired, however.

    Ideas?

  2. #2
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    I should also point out that using a multimeter @ the plug for the rope lighting nets ~78V with the circuit activated; 120V @ the black screw on the master, but then: odd voltage numbers between the traveler screws (brass and blue: ~19V) and between the black screw and brass screw (~90V) at the master, and - to me the most odd - ~60V between the black screw and ground and nearly 100V between the BLUE screw and ground at the MA-R.

    It's almost as though the wire that is supposed to be connected to the black screw @ the MA-R is the wire that is presently connected to the BLUE screw, as it reads the highest voltage when the circuit is activated: 40V higher than what is read at the black screw.

    I wish I knew what was going on.

  3. #3
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    The MACL-153 and MA-600 connections are exactly the same. 3-way switches are basically A/B switches. If both switches are in the A (or both B) position, the light will be on. If one is A and one is B, the light will be off. Power comes in on one end (black screw) and goes up to the light (switch leg) at the other end (black screw). You stated that there is a white wire connected to the mechanical switch. This implies that both the switch leg and power are in the same box/end. The electrician has used the black wire of the 14/3 to relay either the switch leg or the power to the other end. You will need to determine which end is which.

    With the light off (or switches removed) check for power on the black wire. The one without power is the switch leg. At the power end, connect the black wire to the black screw (power in), white to brass (out to next device), red to blue (communication). At the switch leg end connect the white wire to the black screw (power from other end), black to brass (switch leg to light), red to blue (communication). You can put the dimmer at either end.

    In my experience, LED rope light does not play well with electronic dimmers (like Maestro). It doesn't even like electronic switches. In the off position you still get a faint glow. However, you have an MR16 in the circuit. That may provide enough load to work.
    LED, Incorporated
    Raleigh, NC 27614

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  5. #4
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    Hi Randy - thanks.

    After spending extensive time on the phone with CSR Julia, I think we concluded that the MR16 appears to be wired in series to the rope lighting.

    I had what I thought was a similar situation in a remodeled powder room in which I used the same rope lighting. It is powered by a single pole Lutron dimmer (w/integrated bathroom fan timer) which controls a switched outlet in the attic space above that room. I had to plug in a small incandescent lamp in that outlet to provide enough load to the dimmer for it to operate properly.

    I assumed that the MR-16 would provide the exact same purpose, but due to how it is wired, apparently, it doesn't. I confirmed this by unplugging the LED rope from the switched outlet, and plugging in an 80 watt lamp instead.

    Bam. Circuit instantly worked as it should. Obviously, the LED is wired such that the dimmers see it - and not the puck lights - first (which is stupid), and the capacitive nature of the LED rope both doesn't present enough of a load to the dimmers AND doesn't forward enough power to the puck lights for them to light up and provide load. So now, I'll either have to figure out if it is possible to rewire the MR-16s in parallel (there are two of them, actually; one upfiring and one down within a fireplace recess above the mantel; I had removed the bulb from the one above because the light was annoying) with the switched outlet which powers the LED rope, or I'll have to keep a 25W lamp in that outlet with the LED rope to provide enough initial load, which I've confirmed works.

    I have another problem, however. Because a MA-600/1000 isn't really the proper dimmer to use on this circuit (due to the presence of LEDs on the circuit), I had initially wired in a MACL-153M dimmer, without a MA-R.

    Because that didn't work, I switched to the MA-1000, which - eventually, per above - I got to work. Once the circuit was confirmed, I went back to rewire the MACL-153M in place, though this time with the MA-R still in place. Simple plug and play.

    Doesn't work. I have two of them. Tried them both; neither one is working. I'm going to test both of them in a single pole location with a single incandescent bulb where at present a rocker switch resides to determine if the switches themselves are defective.

  6. #5
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    Is the rope lighting dimmable?

    You would probably have better luck with a neutral based dimmer. Unfortunately the only one available in the Maestro line is for ELV loads. There is a Caseta neutral dimmer for forward phase/mlv loads. It is a pro model and uses a different wiring method. There is a Maestro RF neutral dimmer but they get a little pricey.
    LED, Incorporated
    Raleigh, NC 27614

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