I've got a lot of double and triple gang boxes in my house, and i've found that just getting one x10-style switch into that box, along with the other 2 switches, is pretty tough, because of how bulky the backside of the x10 switch is.
There's no way i can get a 2nd or 3rd one into the same box, because there is just no room for all the wires at that point.
Has anyone else had this problem? is there a reasonable solution? is there a line of x10 switches that aren't so bulky?
Yes, either rearrange the wires or replace the box with a deeper one. Neither proposition is easy.
If there's a lot of 'extra' wire in the back of the box it's possible you could trim it a bit. But most likely there's not enough to make it worthwhile.
Putting in a replacement box isn't all that impossible but it's tedious. The hardest part is getting the old box out. A sawzall works best at cutting the bracket where the old box attaches to the stud. Then it's a matter of getting the wires out of the old box into a new one. Some old boxes have screws on their sides that make it easier to disassemble them. Otherwise you've got a messy job of pushing wires out the holes in the old box. BE SURE you securely attach a label of some kind to the old wires. It's a real headache that having to debug which ones go where because they weren't labelled. If it's old wire (armormed BX cable) then be careful how you handle the insulation. Older insulation can crumble and you want to handle it as little as possible to prevent it from developing shorts later on. Otherwise the job will expand into replacing the old wire. That will greatly complicate the job so try to avoid it.
I just replaced a 2-gang box with a 4-gang box to accomodate some new switches. Took all damn day but works fine now.
Another thing to watch for: I've put some Switchlincs in 2 & 3 gangboxes, including a three-day ordeal a few weeks ago (three-way switches are a pain!). In addition to all the comments I've seen, another warning is that there may be more than one circuit in the box. I got zapped! I shut off the breaker for the switch I was replacing, but I didn't realize that the switch next to it was on a different (and live) circuit.
All and all it's a real pain trying to shoehorn in the bigger X10 switch, plus dealing with the neutral and ground connections. At least my house is almost new and has all the right wires available. I really wish that they would make the X10 switches smaller and have the insertable wire connections like regular switches. This would save all the room needed by an extra length of wire and the wire nut.
I have 2 3-gang boxes, 1 4-gang box, and many 2-gang boxes in my home. Almost all of the switches in these boxes are X10 (SmartHome). I spent many a boring hour cutting back and re-arranging the wires in these boxes, which are pretty much standard depth boxes with little room for extra wire However in all cases including the 4-gang box everything fit in. The 4-gang box is referred to around here as my "masterpiece." I saved _it_ for last.
In several cases the common wires and some of the hot leads were cut way back, twisted together, and connected to a separate piece of 14 wire that was run out of the box. Most of the leads from the X10 switches are stranded wire, and I was able to connect many switch leads to the single 14 gauge wire. This was a big help.
This is not something I would want to do more than once, and I doubt that a professional installer would bother doing it this way considering the time required. There would probably be little payback for such a job.
In the US, the National Electrical Code (NEC) _requires_ six inches of conductor extending at least 3 inches outside the box -- so your wiring no may longer meet code.
I am not an electrician or inspector, but this part of the code seems very clear.
NFPA 70 National Electrical Code 2002 Edition 300.14:
" Length of Free Conductors at Outlets, Junctions, and Switch Points. At least 150 mm (6 in.) of free conductor, measured from the point in the box where it emerges from its raceway or cable sheath, shall be left at each outlet, junction, and switch point for splices or the connection of luminaires (fixtures) or devices. Where the opening to an outlet, junction, or switch point is less than 200 mm (8 in.) in any dimension, each conductor shall be long enough to extend at least 75 mm (3 in.) outside the opening."
I had a friend who in the 1970's wired a farm out-building to be his residence. He very neatly routed and cut off what he though was 'excess' wire. The county inspector - who as the story was told was also the principal wiring contractor and didn't much like them long-hairs coming to his county -- failed the wiring. Every last piece of wire was too short and had to be replaced ... Second time around he got him for too tight bends ( too neat) but that was more easily fixed. .
I follow code when I'm aware of the provisions, but I did not know this. I suspect the wiring is 1 to 1.5 inches short in some instances, and if it ever comes to that an inspector may find fault. Since my next move is to the crematorium I am not immediately concerned.
However I do not think that the switches would fit well enough unless I did what it seemed I had to do. Additionally the removal of XS wire may help in heat dissipation, which is sometimes a concern with X10 components such as dimmers. The house is relatively new, but during construction about 3 years ago I was uninformed enough _not_ to request extra deep boxes. I was also lucky enough to find the common wire in all of the boxes (29 switches) when the time came.
Having spent some summers nearby in Harvey Cedars you might find Mother Nature has other plans. If the scientists are right, there are going to be lots more Cat 5 hurricanes like Katrina and offshore islands like Long Beach Island seem to be among their favorite foods! It's certainly changed my long-term retirement plans.
I'm expecting that insurers may make living in the hurricane belt a very expensive proposition. Only people who can afford the premiums or can self-insure are going to be able to rebuild. I think Katrina's going to change the very nature of beautiful but risky living, at least for some people. For others, it's going to mean they have more beachfront to themselves, even if the beachfront moves inland every decade or two.
After thinking it over, I'm heading for the mountains when I retire. Of course, that limits the amount of sailing I can do on a daily basis. I must admit that Long Beach Island is remarkably beautiful. I can remember deep blue skies, giant puffy clouds, the sound of the surf, the smell of the salt air . . . Where's my Jan and Dean "Surf City" 45RPM?
As for fitting X-10 switches into a shallow gangbox, you've hit on the eternal "how do you fit 10 pounds of *stuff* into a 5 pound sack?" I've been able to get around that problem by using X-10's ultra-thin "Sticka" switches to operate one in-line module and a number of lamp and appliance modules. The switches are of horrible quality (sometimes taking two or three presses to activate) but they allow me to turn off 4 sets of lights standing in one spot.
Installing X-10 switches to do the same would cost me at least $400 in electrician time and dry wall repair. Since we're not staying here much longer, it seems better to make do with a switch that's used twice a day than to rip out walls and wires. Worse, still, this is very old wiring and highly unforgiving of being buffeted around. A simple switch replacement can easily turn into big trouble if an old wire breaks.
Your situation is different. I think there's a series of Leviton faceplate switches that might work if you used in-line modules or lamp modules (that can be made into in-line modules by cutting an extension cord in half). I don't know if it would help to have to install only one X-10 type controller per wall gang, or even if the Leviton series take up more room that stock X-10 devices, but it's something to consider:
Beware of what you ask for ;-) X-10 switches already have undersized inductors -- just a few turns on a small ferrite rod. The inductor should be significantly larger in order to adequately reduce the switching noise from the TRIAC.
The requirement in Europe of passing CE standards for generated noise that is more stringent than in US is likely part of the reason why there are DIN-mounted, centrally-located X10 dimmers sold for use in Europe.
The toroid inductors used on typical commercial/architectural dimmers like Leviton/NSI's are larger than ann entire X-10 switch. This is a problem with the majority of US dimmers for home use, not just X-10. One can take up even more wall-estate with a second switch box to make room for the wires and add-on inductors available from Leviton and (others ?) to solve volume (installation), noise problems and to help with heat dissipation. When you break off the ears of dimmers to make them accommodate another dimmer next to it, the ability of the Dimmer TRIAC to dissipate heat is reduced and the dimmer needs to be de-rated. They should be de-rated even more if you place three in a small switch box and cover with a plastic wall plate which further reduces heat dissipation. I'd derate three X10 dimmer in a single box at least 50%.
Mixing in some remote switches used in 2-way and 3-way applications in a multiple switch box is helpful from both a heat and internal box volume standpoint. It may be that you can reverse/change the locations of the actual dimmer and the remote(s) to your advantage.
Same here. I've decided to buy a home with "hurricane glass" a bit more inland than my current digs. It's very nice being close to the Gulf of Mexico but I think it's time to move to higher ground _before_ the next one comes knocking.
For folks like us this is a mere inconvenience. Sadly, for many of the people who suffered the most from Katrina and Rita, moving to a better place is not an option.
You may be aware that I spend a portion of each year in Brazil. I was feeling good about the fact that Brazil never gets hit by hurricanes... until just recently. A pair of scientists, one Brazilian and one Australian, have published a paper which claims global conditions are ripe for hurricanes to hit the East coast of Brazil soon. :(
You're bringing back fond memories for me. I spent many a summer weekend "down the shore" on Long Beach Island. We used to go to Surf City and other towns along the island. My aunt still owns a large summer home there.
BTW, speaking of the Jersey shore, do you recall the time back in the early sixties when someone climbed the Lavalette water tower and repainted the sign so say "Love-a-Lot"? I swear it wasn't me... :^)
I understand your point. However, it doesn't apply to my house. I use compact fluorescents most places, so I'm using the relay switches, so there shouldn't be any issue with switching noise. And they should be able to be pretty small.
I don't think you can do this. The load will only be wired to one box, correct? Unless there happens to be an extra traveler wire, you'd only be able to put the main switch in one location. Unless you go the transmitter-instead-of-slave-switch route.
Also, most of the slave switches I've seen (PCS, Switchlinc) are the same size as the masters. What I do to make them fit is exchange all the wire nuts to the smallest possible size that will still make a good connection. That seems to help considerably.
I learned this lesson myself, replacing the switches in my bedroom.
When I tore out and rebuilt my living room walls, I put an extra "gang" in each box. 3 gang where I needed 2, 4 gang where I needed 3, etc. Home Depot sells a line of "build your own switchplate" covers, which have outlet, decora, standard switch, and blank plates which snap together.
Most of my boxes have 2 decora openings for *lincs and a blank spot. The blank spot is officially for "future expansion" but for the time being makes a cozy location for neutral connections and pigtail wirenuts.
Interesting. We/I tend to use dimmers where multiple on-off _switched_ lights might do the just as well or better especially when high apparent color temperature is desired. Using mechanically switched fluorescent lighting an excellent approach to energy conservation in my opinion.
Another efficient and simpler approach using incandescent lamps and obtaining two different color temperature are well as different illumination levels is the tri-state, switched diode approach (on-low-off) used in some table lamps. I need to think on this some more.
The use of/need for dimmers (as contrasted with on-off switches) is a major complication for automated lighting owing to factors ranging from available time ('bandwidth") on the AC line for X10, to design of switches/knobs, to electrical efficiency, to complexity of software.