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Old 11.01.2021, 12:09
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Unclear about electrical wiring in apartment

I have two electrical ceiling boxes that can be controlled from 3 different light switches, of which one I would like to replace by a dimmer.

The existing switch has three cables going into it: a brown and orange one at the top, and a red one at the bottom.

I understand the cable colors are different in Switzerland than where I am from. For example, to me a black cable is the switch / light cable whereas here it seems to be the "hot" lead (similar to a brown cable).

Anyone who could tell me what these cables represent?

Google seems to suggest the red cable is something from the past, while I live in a brand new apartment...

Last edited by Harrie Nak; 11.01.2021 at 12:34.
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Old 11.01.2021, 13:07
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Re: Unclear about electrical wiring in apartment

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I have two electrical ceiling boxes that can be controlled from 3 different light switches, of which one I would like to replace by a dimmer.

The existing switch has three cables going into it: a brown and orange one at the top, and a red one at the bottom.

I understand the cable colors are different in Switzerland than where I am from. For example, to me a black cable is the switch / light cable whereas here it seems to be the "hot" lead (similar to a brown cable).

Anyone who could tell me what these cables represent?

Google seems to suggest the red cable is something from the past, while I live in a brand new apartment...
Current standard (for normal one phase):

Green & Yellow is earth
Blue is neutral
Brown is live

Any other colour is a switched live - so maybe those lights are switchable separately?

The switches will be in a chain - "first" one will be a switch-over with a live feed in, and two wires out to the next switch.

Second switch will be a cross-over, with two wires out to the final switch.

Last switch will be another switch-over, with the final wire out to the light fitting.

You can replace one of the switches with a dimmer, but you need to make sure the dimmer's switching function matches what is already there (i.e. one-to-two switch over or two-to-two cross over).

ps. the Wikipedia page for multiway switching is pretty clear on how the chain works: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Multiway_switching
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  #3  
Old 11.01.2021, 13:22
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Re: Unclear about electrical wiring in apartment

most likely the red is live (old colouring) and brown and orange are the changeover wires between this switch and another. or it could be brown is supply. or could be neither. one might go to the light and the other two are change overs.

3 wires usually means 2 switches for that light. or more than 2 switches and this is one of the switches in the middle of the chain.

if you can't figure this out yourself pretty easily with a multimeter maybe best get an electrician to fit the dimmer.
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Old 11.01.2021, 13:40
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Re: Unclear about electrical wiring in apartment

Thank you both! It's one like these where one button is used to control one ceiling box, and the second button the other ceiling box.

I do not need the other light controlled by the second switch (i.e. no need to dim both lights with a single dimmer), so will probably only have to work with 2 cables?
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Old 11.01.2021, 13:46
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Re: Unclear about electrical wiring in apartment

that's two switches. are the three wires you talk about the total wires for both switches? if so one is supply and two are each of the lights. neither light has another switch. those switches have a crossover plug on the back to save wiring and supply the same live to both switches.

show us the switch you have bought to replace this.

i think you should call in someone who know how to do this. either a friend or an electrician...
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Old 11.01.2021, 13:48
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Re: Unclear about electrical wiring in apartment

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if you can't figure this out yourself pretty easily with a multimeter maybe best get an electrician to fit the dimmer.
This.

In my experience here red wires are often used for the bridge between a socket and switched live, as well as live to the lighting circuit, with the return being black. Red and black were, of course, the traditional old colours for live and neutral in many countries.

But yes, to repeat DL21's point, if you need to ask the question then you probably shouldn't be messing with it. Maybe you could just fit the dimmer switch on the lamp's connection lead to the socket?

Last edited by Guest; 11.01.2021 at 14:03. Reason: added detail
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Old 11.01.2021, 14:11
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Re: Unclear about electrical wiring in apartment

I have installed dimmers before, but never in such a setup. Having an electrician install this within 10 mins will probably cost me CHF 200, so I figured I will first give it a go myself.

Here are some pictures for clarity:

Cross-over (I assume)
  • Black / orange > top-left
  • Red > bottom
  • Black 2x > bottom right
Switch-over 1
  • Brown > top-left
  • Red > top
  • Orange > bottom
Switch-over 2 (where I want the dimmer installed)
  • Brown > top-left
  • Orange > top
  • Red > bottom right
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Old 11.01.2021, 14:22
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Re: Unclear about electrical wiring in apartment

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I have installed dimmers before, but never in such a setup. Having an electrician install this within 10 mins will probably cost me CHF 200, so I figured I will first give it a go myself.
Do you possess, and know the function of, a multi-meter? If you do then you should be able to work it out for yourself. These multi-switched lighting circuits aren't rocket science, but asking here for advice based on pictures and colours is not the way to go, when anyone with any vague competence would simply put a meter on it to check, regardless of the colours of wire used.

Another way to put this is: Don't trust the colours to mean what you or anyone else might think they should mean.

Always test, then isolate, then test again, make changes, test again, reconnect, test again, only then try the light switch for real. Doing this job without a tester would be a terrible idea.
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Old 11.01.2021, 14:33
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Re: Unclear about electrical wiring in apartment

completely agree with Ace1.

that's not 3 switches. its 6 switches. the fact that two are combined in one unit is completely irrelevant (aside from the possibility of shared supplies as in the case of your 3rd picture).

it's also clear how all those switches are wired. the black button is the supply live and the two oranges are the two switched outputs. its not a crossover switch unless there is a wire coming out of both orange terminals on one of the switches.
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Old 11.01.2021, 14:35
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Re: Unclear about electrical wiring in apartment

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Do you possess, and know the function of, a multi-meter?
Not sufficient, so I'd better get an electrician to work this out.


Thanks!
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Old 11.01.2021, 14:38
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Re: Unclear about electrical wiring in apartment

Good plan.
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Old 11.01.2021, 14:47
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Re: Unclear about electrical wiring in apartment

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I have two electrical ceiling boxes that can be controlled from 3 different light switches, of which one I would like to replace by a dimmer.
Considering you showed us a modern light switch I suspect that this setup is controlled by latching switch https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Latching_switch in your fuse box. If this is the case you cannot easily install a dimmer.
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Old 11.01.2021, 14:52
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Re: Unclear about electrical wiring in apartment

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  • Black / orange > top-left
  • Red > bottom
  • Black 2x > bottom right

  • Brown > top-left
  • Red > top
  • Orange > bottom
  • Brown > top-left
  • Orange > top
  • Red > bottom right
O.k. definitely a latching switch. The classic three switches one light https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Multiw..._two_locations needs more wires than you have.
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Old 11.01.2021, 14:57
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Re: Unclear about electrical wiring in apartment

We had a similar setup, dining room ceiling fixture controlled by two switches. We wanted to be able to dim that light. Electrician was doing some other work in our house and asked if it could be done.

Of course he said, and went downstairs to the circuit breaker and replaced something in the box. Now when we hold down either switch it dims. Resets itself every time it is turned off.

He charged us f30 or so for the piece and included it in the hourly charge of the work he was already doing.

Donít ask me what this piece is, but it is magic!
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Old 11.01.2021, 15:05
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Re: Unclear about electrical wiring in apartment

The electrician located at the end of our street whom I just had on the phone was talking about schema 3 and schema 6.

I just hope it's not schema 6 that we have as my lamp requires a leading edge (RL) dimmer and the Feller one I have only supports schema 3. That's about the only "Phasenanschnitt" dimmer they still sell.

Edit: from what I read online, we most likely have schema 6.

Last edited by Harrie Nak; 11.01.2021 at 15:16.
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Old 11.01.2021, 15:11
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Re: Unclear about electrical wiring in apartment

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We had a similar setup, dining room ceiling fixture controlled by two switches. We wanted to be able to dim that light. Electrician was doing some other work in our house and asked if it could be done.

Of course he said, and went downstairs to the circuit breaker and replaced something in the box. Now when we hold down either switch it dims. Resets itself every time it is turned off.

He charged us f30 or so for the piece and included it in the hourly charge of the work he was already doing.

Don’t ask me what this piece is, but it is magic!
That's easy - it's a DIN mounted dimmer switch.

OP may have a DIN mounted relay switch:

https://www.hornbach.ch/shop/Stromst...0/artikel.html

You would replace that with a DIN mounted dimmer (which unfortunately Hornbach don't sell, and my DIY-sourcing knowledge is pretty much limited to there or Conrad).

ps. Conrad do seem to have something like this: https://www.conrad.ch/de/p/eltako-eu...fl-621069.html

Last edited by newtoswitz; 11.01.2021 at 15:14. Reason: forgot quote
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Old 11.01.2021, 15:13
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Re: Unclear about electrical wiring in apartment

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The electrician located at the end of our street whom I just had on the phone was talking about schema 3 and schema 6. I have no clue what that is so happy I called him.
You have neither. You have "schema Hutschiene". You will need a piece like this which will be installed at the place where the latching switch is.

https://www.hager.ch/produktkatalog/...m_source=print

Maybe bowlie can send us a picture of the fuse box and wee see what device is installed there.
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Old 11.01.2021, 15:19
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Re: Unclear about electrical wiring in apartment

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You have neither. You have "schema Hutschiene". You will need a piece like this which will be installed at the place where the latching switch is.

https://www.hager.ch/produktkatalog/...m_source=print

Maybe bowlie can send us a picture of the fuse box and wee see what device is installed there.
Exactly. That reminds me, last time I had an electrician over to pull network cables from the fuse box to a wall plug, I asked him about the dimmer. He said a dimmer should be installed in the fuse box and the actual switch can then be replaced by a touch dimmer that is always on?
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Old 11.01.2021, 15:20
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Re: Unclear about electrical wiring in apartment

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I have two electrical ceiling boxes that can be controlled from 3 different light switches . . .
I'm guessing, the wiring will look like this:



from: http://lightwiring.co.uk/wp-content/...re-control.jpg

The middle type switch (of which there can be any number wired in a similar configuration) is a cross over switch.
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Old 11.01.2021, 15:30
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Re: Unclear about electrical wiring in apartment

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O.k. definitely a latching switch. The classic three switches one light https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Multiw..._two_locations needs more wires than you have.
The intermediate cross over switch needs 4 wires. The outer (change over) switches need 3 wires. If I understand the OP's post correctly, his circuit corresponds with that traditional circuit.

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I have installed dimmers before, but never in such a setup. Having an electrician install this within 10 mins will probably cost me CHF 200, so I figured I will first give it a go myself.

Here are some pictures for clarity:

Cross-over (I assume)
  • Black / orange > top-left
  • Red > bottom
  • Black 2x > bottom right
Switch-over 1
  • Brown > top-left
  • Red > top
  • Orange > bottom
Switch-over 2 (where I want the dimmer installed)
  • Brown > top-left
  • Orange > top
  • Red > bottom right
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