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Need advice - installing a fan timer in bathroom on a 3-way switch

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  • Aug 14th, 2021 7:22 pm
[OP]
Newbie
Sep 27, 2009
65 posts
14 upvotes
RICHMOND HILL

Need advice - installing a fan timer in bathroom on a 3-way switch

Hi forum

As the title suggests, I want to install a timer for the bathroom fan (2nd floor) which is on a 3-way switch. One switch which is on the main floor (which I want to get rid of) and another switch in the bathroom,

Did some search and found the following but still have some questions:

https://www.hunker.com/13414121/how-to- ... h-to-2-way

1) Can I assume that the power line is fed to the first switch that is on the main floor? If not, how can I test that?

According to the steps, for the switch that is on the main floor, I can hook up one of the traveller wire with the power source and cap the remaining traveller wire.

For the other switch in the bathroom (that will be replaced by the timer), are there supposed to be 3 wires (2 travellers) and another going to the fan?

The timer comes with 4 wires (white, black, red and green). I know white goes to neutral, green is ground but what about the red and black wires - how do I hook them to the existing wires?

Is the black wire of the timer supposed to be hooked up to the traveller that is hot? And wire going to the fan hooked up to the red?

I’ve already replaced 3 timers on single pole switches but this is a bit more tricky.

Thanks for reading and giving your feedback.
27 replies
Penalty Box
Jun 24, 2015
5290 posts
1623 upvotes
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All the Fan Timers I bought have a orange-yellow-ish wire for 3-way which you leave taped up if your not using it. since im using it as a 1 way switch i left it taped up.

thats strange you have a bathroom fan on a 3 way switch and even stranger that a switch in your main floor controls the fan in your upstairs bathroom.
Hi
Deal Addict
Sep 13, 2016
3001 posts
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Mississauga
Remove the traveler wire (usually red) at both ends of 3 way and then use a voltage tester to see which switch is getting current to the line (usually black) wire. This will tell you which switch is 1st and connected to the circuit breaker.
Either switch can be the first/primary switch, so do not assume that the one on main floor would be. The 4 wires on the timer switch is to enable you to use in a 3 way setup if you wanted.
You would leave the red wire capped if you did not want a 3 way switch.

Again you first need to figure out the following before you undertake the task
1> which one of the two switches is primary and is fed directly by circuit breaker.
2> Where does the fixture sit in the configuration, is it tied after the second switch or it sits in the middle of the two switches. This is very important to find out. As this will dictate which wires can be capped off.

P.S. Wire colors are just guidelines. Test everything with a voltage tester. Don't assume that the black wire would necessarily be hot.
[OP]
Newbie
Sep 27, 2009
65 posts
14 upvotes
RICHMOND HILL
IndyBeak wrote: Remove the traveler wire (usually red) at both ends of 3 way and then use a voltage tester to see which switch is getting current to the line (usually black) wire. This will tell you which switch is 1st and connected to the circuit breaker.
Either switch can be the first/primary switch, so do not assume that the one on main floor would be. The 4 wires on the timer switch is to enable you to use in a 3 way setup if you wanted.
You would leave the red wire capped if you did not want a 3 way switch.

Again you first need to figure out the following before you undertake the task
1> which one of the two switches is primary and is fed directly by circuit breaker.
2> Where does the fixture sit in the configuration, is it tied after the second switch or it sits in the middle of the two switches. This is very important to find out. As this will dictate which wires can be capped off.

P.S. Wire colors are just guidelines. Test everything with a voltage tester. Don't assume that the black wire would necessarily be hot.
Thanks Indybeak for your feedback.

#1 is doable but is there an easy way to figure out the configuration for #2?
Deal Addict
Sep 13, 2016
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pchang wrote: Thanks Indybeak for your feedback.

#1 is doable but is there an easy way to figure out the configuration for #2?
At both switches, check if there is black wire connected on the load side which does not seem to be going to the other switch. Whichever switch has this wire is the one likely feeding the fixture.
To confirm this , you can then totally disconnect the secondary switch, and then see if you could still turn the fan on/off. If it does, then it means the fan is being fed from the primary switch.

Although to be honest, since it is the second floor fan, my bet would be that it is second switch upstairs where the fan is connected.
Once you have figured out which switch is connected first to circuit breaker and where does the fan connect, it would be easier to figure out which wires can be capped.
Member
Dec 4, 2009
361 posts
233 upvotes
GoodFellaz wrote: All the Fan Timers I bought have a orange-yellow-ish wire for 3-way which you leave taped up if your not using it. since im using it as a 1 way switch i left it taped up.

thats strange you have a bathroom fan on a 3 way switch and even stranger that a switch in your main floor controls the fan in your upstairs bathroom.
I agree that it’s strange, but it’s been part of the Ontario building code for some time now…

https://joneakes.com/jons-fixit-databas ... rs-hallway
Deal Addict
Jun 8, 2004
1654 posts
568 upvotes
Oakville
GoodFellaz wrote: thats strange you have a bathroom fan on a 3 way switch and even stranger that a switch in your main floor controls the fan in your upstairs bathroom.
It is very common for a 3way switch to be found in the dining room that controls the main floor bathroom upstairs that is designated as the principal exhaust, as a part of Ontario Building Code.

https://www.markham.ca/wps/wcm/connect/ ... ntrols.pdf

I would expect three Romex bundles in the bathroom. One will be a 3 wire bundle going to the switch in the dining room. One 2 wire bundle will be to the fan. One 2 wire bundle that feeds power from the breaker panel. In the dining room, there should be just the 3 wire bundle for that switch.

Did you take pictures of the wiring in the main bath switch before disconnecting all the wires?

What brand and model of timer are you trying to install?

Also, why do you want to disable the switch in the dining room? The timer can still work in a 3 way switch setting.
[OP]
Newbie
Sep 27, 2009
65 posts
14 upvotes
RICHMOND HILL
cba123 wrote: It is very common for a 3way switch to be found in the dining room that controls the main floor bathroom upstairs that is designated as the principal exhaust, as a part of Ontario Building Code.

https://www.markham.ca/wps/wcm/connect/ ... ntrols.pdf

I would expect three Romex bundles in the bathroom. One will be a 3 wire bundle going to the switch in the dining room. One 2 wire bundle will be to the fan. One 2 wire bundle that feeds power from the breaker panel. In the dining room, there should be just the 3 wire bundle for that switch.

Did you take pictures of the wiring in the main bath switch before disconnecting all the wires?

What brand and model of timer are you trying to install?

Also, why do you want to disable the switch in the dining room? The timer can still work in a 3 way switch setting.
I will try to take some pictures today.

I have not disconnected any wires yet.

I’m trying to install a levithon decora timer like this one:

https://www.homedepot.ca/product/levito ... 1000141170

Will it be an easier install if I leave the switch on the main floor as it is?

Only reason why I wanted to disable it was that I would hardly or ever use that switch from the main floor.

The timer does come with 5 wires (white, black, red, green and orange which has a sticker stating not to use on single pole switches).

It does state about the switch being able to use as a 3-way with a Vizia + switch remote but not sure what that means.

Thanks
Deal Addict
Jun 8, 2004
1654 posts
568 upvotes
Oakville
According to the installation manual (3rd bullet under warnings at top) for that particular timer, it is not compatible with standard 3 way or 4 way switches, so you will have to wire it up as a two way switch, and disconnect all three wires (red, white, and black) in the 3 wire bundle in the bathroom, that goes down to the dining room switch.

This is they way I expect your wiring to look like, except the light bulb would be your fan. Please confirm if it is this layout. If it is, then the black wire connected to the top of your 3 way switch in the bathroom should identify the 2 wire bundle that goes to your fan.

Note, the same 2 wire Romex from the breaker (power source) will likely be feeding power to the bathroom lights as well, and not shown in the picture.
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Deal Addict
Sep 13, 2016
3001 posts
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Mississauga
cba123 wrote: It is very common for a 3way switch to be found in the dining room that controls the main floor bathroom upstairs that is designated as the principal exhaust, as a part of Ontario Building Code.

https://www.markham.ca/wps/wcm/connect/ ... ntrols.pdf

I would expect three Romex bundles in the bathroom. One will be a 3 wire bundle going to the switch in the dining room. One 2 wire bundle will be to the fan. One 2 wire bundle that feeds power from the breaker panel. In the dining room, there should be just the 3 wire bundle for that switch.

Did you take pictures of the wiring in the main bath switch before disconnecting all the wires?

What brand and model of timer are you trying to install?

Also, why do you want to disable the switch in the dining room? The timer can still work in a 3 way switch setting.
This is exactly how mine was wired.
This is why I suggested OP to double check and confirm that the switch on Main floor is indeed the primary one. In my case, the switch on 1st floor was the primary one, which was connected to mains, and was also feeding the fan. The switch on main floor was secondary.
If this turns out to be the case with OP's wiring as well. Then it will be as simple as disconnecting and capping off the 3 wires going from upstairs to main floor.
Deal Addict
Sep 13, 2016
3001 posts
1750 upvotes
Mississauga
pchang wrote: I will try to take some pictures today.

I have not disconnected any wires yet.

I’m trying to install a levithon decora timer like this one:

https://www.homedepot.ca/product/levito ... 1000141170

Will it be an easier install if I leave the switch on the main floor as it is?

Only reason why I wanted to disable it was that I would hardly or ever use that switch from the main floor.

The timer does come with 5 wires (white, black, red, green and orange which has a sticker stating not to use on single pole switches).

It does state about the switch being able to use as a 3-way with a Vizia + switch remote but not sure what that means.

Thanks
You can have this one as an alternate option as well.
https://www.amazon.ca/gp/product/B01LXRNFGG/

Cheaper than Leviton and 6 timer settings as well as a manual switch.
The wiring is also more conventional with only 4 of them. You would normally 3, and 4th only if you want 3 way setup.
I have replaced fan switches in all bathrooms in my home with this.
[OP]
Newbie
Sep 27, 2009
65 posts
14 upvotes
RICHMOND HILL
Thanks guys for all of your help.

Hopefully this will be helpful for someone in the same situation as me in the future.

I’m posting 2 pictures of the switches.

The one picture with the red wire is the switch on the main floor (looks like 3 wires connected + 1 ground).

Second picture is the bathroom switch with 4 wires + 1 ground.

Based on the pictures, can you explain how my wiring is setup and how I go about wiring the timer?

Thanks
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Penalty Box
Jun 24, 2015
5290 posts
1623 upvotes
0 downvotes
show us more of the one with 4 wires, we need to see which screws the wires are connected to
Hi
Deal Addict
Sep 13, 2016
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pchang wrote: Thanks guys for all of your help.

Hopefully this will be helpful for someone in the same situation as me in the future.

I’m posting 2 pictures of the switches.

The one picture with the red wire is the switch on the main floor (looks like 3 wires connected + 1 ground).

Second picture is the bathroom switch with 4 wires + 1 ground.

Based on the pictures, can you explain how my wiring is setup and how I go about wiring the timer?

Thanks
Can you also post a photo of how things look inside the gang box. I am guessing the red wire is connected to something outside the switch.
So far, what I can ascertain is that the 3 black wires that you see on the bottom terminal on the second switch, that is the line supply. The wire that wraps around the nut, takes the power onward to next switches.
From these photos, it is more or less confirmed that the power first comes to your switch upstairs, which will actually make the job easier.
[OP]
Newbie
Sep 27, 2009
65 posts
14 upvotes
RICHMOND HILL
IndyBeak wrote: Can you also post a photo of how things look inside the gang box. I am guessing the red wire is connected to something outside the switch.
So far, what I can ascertain is that the 3 black wires that you see on the bottom terminal on the second switch, that is the line supply. The wire that wraps around the nut, takes the power onward to next switches.
From these photos, it is more or less confirmed that the power first comes to your switch upstairs, which will actually make the job easier.
Sorry what do you mean by taking a picture of the gang box?

Do you mean take a picture of the inside of the box of the switch on the main floor?
Deal Addict
Jun 8, 2004
1654 posts
568 upvotes
Oakville
Pull the bathroom light switch out of the way and take a better picture of the wiring inside the box so that we can see all the wire bundles and how they are connected to each switch (fan and light)

Also, confirm there is only one 3 wire bundle inside the box in the dining room.
[OP]
Newbie
Sep 27, 2009
65 posts
14 upvotes
RICHMOND HILL
3 wire bundle confirmed on the switch on the main floor.

I took lots of pictures of the inside box of the bathroom switch and light so hopefully that will help.

The switch with the red wire is for the light and it’s on the right.

The switch for the fan is the one on the left.

Thanks
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Deal Addict
Jun 8, 2004
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Oakville
Pictures were helpful, but it is still not clear where each wire is coming/going to in the back of the box since some of the wires block the view of what's behind it.

It looks like there are 4 bundles of wires going into the box. 3 in the top and one in the bottom center. Is this correct?

For the 3 wire bundle in the top right, the white is tied in with other whites under the yellow cap, the red is going into the back of the top of the right switch, and the black is going into the back of the bottom right of the left switch. Is this correct?

Other than the top right bundle, which other bundle is also a 3 wire bundle? Top center, or bottom center? And what is that red wire connected to? Is it connected to the black wires under the yellow cap?

How many black wires are connected under the yellow cap at the back of the box, and which bundle does each black wire go to?

It looks like there are three white wires under the yellow cap, with one going to the 3-wire bundle in the top right. Do the other two white wires connect to the top left and the top center wire bundles?

For the black wire that is wrapped around the bottom right screw of the left switch that goes into the back of the bottom of the right switch, which bundle is that black wire a part of at the back of the box?

Which bundle does the white wire going into the back of the top right of the left switch go to? Is it bottom center?

Which bundle does the black wire going into the back of the top left of the left switch go to? Is it bottom center?
Deal Addict
Apr 18, 2005
2786 posts
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Mississauga
I have the exact same switch as well as the Vizia remote switch.. This is a digital timer so a regular remote switch will not work.

Since there was already wiring there more than likely power is coming into your bathroom and then a 3wire going to the dining room.

My contractor just did the wiring but there were instructions with the switch cus I saw him reading them.. I'll have to go see if I can find them.. but I'm sure they should be on leviton website.

20210806_182504.jpg
20210806_182517.jpg

Oh and I use mine almost daily now in the summer.. run the fan to pull the cool air from lower level upstairs... really makes a difference.
Deal Addict
Sep 13, 2016
3001 posts
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Mississauga
pchang wrote: 3 wire bundle confirmed on the switch on the main floor.

I took lots of pictures of the inside box of the bathroom switch and light so hopefully that will help.

The switch with the red wire is for the light and it’s on the right.

The switch for the fan is the one on the left.

Thanks
The red and white wires on the right switch confused me for a moment. Poor selection of colors by the electrician.
Anyway, it is difficult getting everything in focus when taking photos in tight places like these. So thanks for that.

Now, I see another red wire in the back, likely tied to a a black wire connected under the yellow cap. Can you confirm if I got this right? And if so, would you be able to pull those wires out of the box for better look. We are close to solving the puzzle.

As of now, I am pretty confident that this is the primary switch. Once again, make sure you turn off breakers when doing all this.

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