3 Wire Wiring - Switch & Outlet Options?

Hi all,

I was curious what options I have for 3 wire home electrical setup? I do not have a neutral wire in any of my boxes and the current switch I am trying to replace looks like the one in the picture linked here.

I will be installing various switches throughout the house as I build my system more and more, so will be needing normal on/off switches, dimmer switches, and a 3 way switch for celling fans.

If anyone has a link that would explain my different options for switches and outlets on my 3-wire system would be awesome. I am completely new to this and from what i’ve found so far it’s best to replace switches and outlets themselves as opposed to just replacing the light bulbs, etc.

Thank you!

Hi @jmnewcomer,

Welcome to ST and the community. That is a very common question asked by many people. If you try using the Search feature you’ll find a lot of information. Take a look at this search and I think you’ll find answers to all your questions:


The following might also be of interest (this is a clickable link)

All of that said, I haven’t heard of any houses in the United States built after 1950 that didn’t have a neutral wire at the outlets. That would be really unusual unless you had knot and tube wiring, and that usually means a house built in the 1920s.

Are you sure you don’t have Neutrals at the outlets? Or are you not in the US?

If you’re not in the US, the device selection is going to be different.

BTW, i’m not sure what happened on your link, but The link code looks really crazy.

Here is a picture of the first two switches I would like to replace. The one on the left goes to a ceiling fan that has another switch controlling it as well on the other side of the room. The switch on the right is just controlling one light and I was going to start with that one, that just has the black, white, and copper wire and that seems to be the case in all of my switches.


I also dug into some other switch boxes just now and found that it seems the rest of the boxes have the neutral wires. The above picture is a new box that was installed recently so I will have to check with the electrician on why that doesn’t have a neutral wire in that box. Check out the picture linked below for all the other boxes that seem to have the neutral wire.


Where you have several or more than one switch present you can use any neutral in the box for your zwave neutral.

So this box with two switches doesn’t have any neutral at all unless the copper wire can me used for neutral?


The copper wire is the ground. It cannot safely be used as a neutral.

If you read the other links I gave you, you’ll see that:

One) an electrician can often “fish up” a neutral from a nearby outlet, or

Two) there has to be a neutral on the circuit somewhere. It’s often at the light fixture if it’s not at The wall switch. Many people who don’t have a neutral at the light switch will use a micro dimmer installed at the fixture instead.

So there are still choices. :sunglasses:

Pretty impossible to run a 120V outlet without a neutral :slight_smile: Even K&T has a neutal.

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