Confirming Wiring Situation - Power Into Light

Hey all,

Would like to install a GE zwave smart switch and add-on switch, but am having some trouble identifying my wiring situation. I’ve installed a few of these in the past and have always gotten it to work.

Existing 3-way switch Situation:

2 switches - Top of stairs and bottom of stairs.

Bottom of stairs:

  • 2 romex go into box.
  • 1st Romex: Comes from one of the 3 switched Lights, White tied to White in Romex # 2, Black wire connected to bottom switch- black screw, Ground to bottom switch-ground
  • 2nd romex: red connects to one of the gold screws on bottom switch, black connects to the other gold screw on bottom switch.
  • When testing the voltage, I get 120v or 0ish depending on switch up or down (potentially load?)

Top of Stairs:

  • One romex into box
  • Romex: White connected to Black screw and is always 120v. (suspect this is common?), Black wire connected to top switch gold screw, and Red wire is connected to top switch gold screw.

This is in my basement, so I can see all the romex wiring, but it’s hard to trace because so many things are tapped from this line - including a smoke detector and 3 permanently powered lights (and these 3 switched lights). The White-tied-to-White seems odd as it seems to be “passing” common from the source (which appears to be the Light/Load) to the Top of Stairs Switch.

Is this the Power Into Light scenario described here: [FAQ] GE 3-Way Wiring ?

I’d be happy to re-wire this if that’s the case - any tips on doing that?

There’s an electrician that hangs around here and can probably assist with your question. I can’t quite seem to remember his username to tag him though, so I’m going to tag @JDRoberts who I know has tagged him before.

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There are several. :sunglasses: I know @ritchierich is one who has posted recently.


That’s who I was thinking of, thanks!


Black/bronze screws on your switches is the “common” terminal. On one of the switches you will have line and other load. Given a 14-2 (black, white +ground) is coming into this box you don’t have neutral so smart switches will not work. Basically that 14-2 is supplying line and load on the black and white wires. Common situation in older houses as it’s the cheapest way to wire though since 2011 NEC now requires neutrals in all switches but this doesn’t help you.

You mention you have access to the wiring. You will need to run another wire from one of the lights to this switch to get neutral here. From there you can choose the smart switch you prefer whether GE, Zooz, or Inovelli, etc. The advantage of Zooz or Inovelli is you wouldn’t we’d to buy an Aux switch for your upstairs switch.

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Sorry for the delay in response - for some reason I didn’t get the notifications until I manually checked.

I’m going to check what’s going on in the light box itself because it has several runs going into it (like 3 or 4). What THINK is happening is:

  1. There’s a run going all the way around the basement ending in the electrical panel.
  2. There’s a connection to 3 other basement lights going one way
  3. There’s a connection to 1 other basement light (in the stairway between the 2 switches)
  4. There’s a connection to the light switch.

Somehow these are all tied together in that one light box.

If I’m correct about #1 does that imply there’s a Neutral in there that I can connect a new wire to, and run that to the switch? Would that be all I’d need to do? Or would I need to disconnect/rewire anything else in the light box based on the above description?

Yes lights have to have neutral to operate. You can simply run a 14-2 Romex from the fixture to the switch. Really only need the white wire and black won’t be used.

Hey there, just wanted to check in.

Thank you for the advice!

I was able to run a new romex from the light switch and use just the white (to get neutral to the switch).

A few other notes on what I had to do, in case anyone else finds themselves in the same situation:

  • I disconnected the “line” white wire in the bottom switch that was providing power to the top switch. Then I connected my new Neutral to the white wire that went to the top switch. This got me my neutral to my GE Add-on switch at the top.
  • I disconnected the black traveler wire going between the two switches. I capped it off at both ends just for posterity.
  • I re-used the red Traveler wire because it’s easier for me to remember what that wire was for (lol)
  • I used the white “line” coming from the light (which is usually black, but I didn’t feel like completely re-wiring the light) straight to the bottom switch’s “line” terminal.
  • I used the black “load” wire as the “load” wire on the new switch. (didn’t have to change anything)

Connected it all up, turned on the power and voila, works great. I did install a dimmer, so now I need to replace the existing LED bulbs with dimming bulbs so it turns on/off more normally, but I can do that tomorrow :smiley:

Any way, thanks again!

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