Ensuring I wire up my new light switches properly... advice?

Hello all,
My new light switches should be arriving tomorrow and I will be hot to trot to get these puppies installed and configured. I was wondering if I could get a little electrical advice from you all to make sure I understand what is what when I do dig in.

Background: I will be installing 3 new switches. By my front door is a 3 gang switch box where I will be replacing old school swtiches with 2 GE on/off switches and one Homeseer dimmer. The dimmer will be wired in a 3-way config (traveler wire already set up as old switch was a 3 way also). One thing to note is the 3-way is not currently a dimmer but as I understand it there are no wiring differences for the 3 way dimmer vs 3 way on/off, correct? The other end of the 3way will get the Homeseer add-on switch (it’s going into a 2 gang switch box but I’m not upgrading the other switch in that box for now).

Here’s an inside look of my entry way box:

As you can see inside there are two bunches of wires that are capped off. I’ve deduced that one (white group) being the Neutral bunch and the other being the hot (ungrounded) conductors (this is what another forum told me they assumed it was).
See this photo for closeup of what I assume the hot ungrounded conductors group is:

So I totally understand what to do with the Neutral group. But I’m not certain if there’s anything I need to do with this hot ungrounded conductor bunch or just leave it alone? As I understand it, I just need to use the line, load, and ground wires that are already currently going to each switch and also get a pigtail from the neutral wire bunch. I haven’t seen anything that mention what to do with a hot ungrounded wire group? Sorry if the answer is obvious… I’m super interested in this stuff but it’s not my forte obviously.

Thanks in advance for any info you all can help with this!


Network switches are often wired very differently then non-networked switches. You can’t just swap them out for what’s there.

In particular, if I understand what you’re saying, if you have a three-way setup you must have auxiliary switches which are specifically designed to work with the master. So you need to replace all the switches, not just the master. You can’t wait and change out the auxiliaries later, there’s a very real danger of burning out your new master switch.

As for the other stuff, the first thing you need to do is map every segment of every circuit so that you know what it does.

Then you read the user guide for the specific model of the switch that you are installing to make sure you are wiring everything correctly.

( actually, the very first thing you should do is take photographs of both the front and back of the existing switches, including the screw connections, so you can see exactly how everything was in case you need to put it back.)

I’ll leave it to others to comment on any specific wiring issues, but from a device standpoint, you need to replace a three-way as a complete set, not do one switch now and the others later.

If you are interested in learning more about all of this, most Home Depot’s have classes on how to install a light switch and you will at least learn how to use the wiring tools follow a circuit. The classes don’t cover networked switches, but since Home Depot does sell the GE Zwave switches, the instructor can often help with specific questions on those models.

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Oh I am definitely replacing both ends of the three way switches. I have a HomeSeer HS-WD100+ for the master switch and a HomeSeer HS-WA100+ companion switch that will be installed at the same time. I think what confused you was that I mentioned not upgrading the other switch next to the companion switch in my hallway box but didn’t mention that is for an entirely different light that goes down my hallway. Another project for another paycheck.

What does mapping out every segment of every circuit entail? I guess this is where I’m still in the learning phase.

No problem, I read every instruction manual front to back and then back to front before I install/build something. :wink:

Great advice, I’ll be doing this also.

Very eager to hear any feedback in regards to this hot ungrounded wire group and it’s uses?

Excellent advice again… I’ll take a look at my local HD schedule, thanks!

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Sounds like you got it down. Your neutral bundle looks pretty full, so you may need to pigtail to one z-wave switch and then link from switch to switch for your neutral. If you haven’t yet, go here and figure out which 3-way wiring option you are working with. Hopefully it isn’t a line into the fixture scenario. Even if you do have line at on of your switch boxes, some slight wiring changes and/or capping will be involved, so look at the included wiring diagrams with your switches closely.

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Thanks @Automated_House, I was able to get everything wired up properly at the last moment and everything functioned great while we were away at Disneyland… phew!!! Now planning my next home automation upgrade… :wink: