[FAQ] GE 3-Way Wiring


(Bryan) #223

Based on your picture, if both of your switches look like that then that suggests you have a power to the light situation. But your note about the black on one of the switches into another conduit suggests otherwise.

Please post pictures of both boxes with the switches pulled out. Make sure the entire box and whatever is in it is visible. That will help get things started.

(Pete L) #224

I wish i would have seen this page night. I’m pretty sure that while I didn’t stroke, it probably wasn’t very “healthy”. What I find amazing is the fact that I know more know after reading your paragraph may now than I ever did reading that garbage GE tries to pass off as instructions. Thanks for this, one I fully calm down, I’ll go after it again thanks to this.

(Warren) #225

Thanks Bryan, I appreciate the feedback. Will do on the information but probably not until the weekend. These switches are on a critical breaker for other things (of course).

(Warren) #226

More pictures attached. For reference, the first picture (sorry dark) is of the switch near the door, it’s the only switch in this box. Red and White wires go into one conduit on the left, Black into the conduit on the right. There is a neutral pigtail in this box, as well as the black pigtail from the left conduit. I’m guessing that is relevant since there is nothing else in this area of the house unless there is future wiring I’m unaware of.

Pic 1:

Pictures 2-4 are from the other switch which is part of a 3 gang box. The 3way I’m concerned with is on the right. The others are a single smart switch, and one side of another 3 way switch. Those share one circuit, not the same one as the 3-way setup I’m trying to replace.

In this box, the 3 way switch I want to replace has red/white/black wires all into the far right conduit. The other black wire coming from this conduit strings to the left and is in a pigtail with the orange wire (looks a bit brown in the pic) that goes back into the far left conduit. Any idea what this might be?

There is a neutral pigtail and a black wire pigtail (line for the other 2 switches).

PIcs 2-4:

Thanks again!

(Bryan) #227


For the single gang box you have a 2 wire on the right. Is the black on that 2-wire always hot? (pull it from the switch). Also, is it connected to the black terminal on the switch? Pictures of that switch with the electrical tape removed might help.

I would ordinarily think you have power coming into the box on that two-wire, but I’d expect to see the red and black from the three-wire connected to the switch, with the white bundled. There are scenarios where a white would be connected to a switch, but it would be a white from a 3-wire.

Curious to see what @ritchierich thinks.

(Warren) #228

Thanks Brian. This is the switch from the single gang. The electrical tape is on the one in the 3 gang box.

When you say always hot, do you mean if it’s connected to the panel? (Line)

FWIW with respect to code, I’m in Vancouver, Canada. Built in 2016.

(Michael) #229

The extra wires could be load or line, we need to figure that out. Notice on your dumb switches there is a black screw. That is common and one switch will have line and the other will have load. But this doesn’t mean that line or load is in this box, more on this later. With lights off, use a multimeter and put one probe on the black common screw on one of the switches and the other on ground. Repeat for the other switch. One switch black screw will have 120v, let me know which.

(vet) #230

Hi I have a wire like this:

In Out

---------------Red-------|switch |

There are two lights between these two boxes. used “3-way switch (Light between switches #1)” to wire. The blue light on the smart switch was on but the lights in between did not light on. Could anybody tell me why and how to correct? Thanks.

(Bryan) #231

Trying to understand your diagram. Pictures might be better.

I’m guessing that power is being fed to Box 1, so you have a two-wire feeding power and a three-wire going to the light?

Then from the light you have a three-wire going to Box 2?

If that is correct, does Box 2 have a neutral in it and is that neutral attached to the neutral terminal on the switch.

This video may help:

(vet) #232

Thanks and sorry for the bad diagram. You are right. The only thing I didn’t check is that there’s a white wire to box2 and I assume it’s neutral. I’ll check this weekend.
corrected diagram:
----------In------------------------------------- Out---------
/////////////////////////// | switch |---------Black-----

---------------Red-------|switch |

(Bryan) #233

Ok. You’re looking for a real neutral, not necessarily a white wire. You should have a 3-wire to that box, but just because one conductor is white doesn’t mean it’s a neutral. If it’s in the three-wire, it probably isnt.

You need a neutral in that box for the switches to work right. If there isn’t one there now, there is a hack to get one there.

(vet) #234

Hi Bry,
Today I checked the wires in that box. The voltage between red and white is ~68v, red and black is 120v, white and black is ~39v. I’m not experienced. Could you please tell me which one is neutral? if none, then what’s the hack? Thanks.

(Bryan) #235

If you are not experienced, you should probably get some professional help.

To test the voltage, you should be testing between the ground and the conductor, not between the conductors. Does the white have 120V with the switch in either position? I’m guessing that it does. If that is the case, then you don’t have a neutral in the box, which is required.

The hack I referred to is farther back in this thread. It’s by @ritchierich. It involves rewiring the fixture, routing a neutral to the secondary box. This works because the GE switch only requires one traveler.

You might also cosider the Zooz switch, which I understand works with existing remote switches.

(Jesse) #236

My wiring is like “line-switch-load-switch2”, and I was going to switch out my standard 3-way switches for GE smart switches. If possible I’d like to chain an outlet off of the last switch (the add-on switch) so I can have power in an adjacent closet. Since the black wire from the light to the add-on switch is not used in the smart switch wiring, can this wire be connected in a way that will enable an always downstream outlet?

Also, if it’s not possible with the current conductors, it would be feasible for me to fish an additional always on hot line to my light box, then chain that via the unused black conductor to the second switch location, and then to the outlet box (just on the other side of shared wall. If I did this, could I utilize the ground and neutral off the add-on switch to wire up the outlet?

EDIT: I just tried this, by running a temp wire from the black line before the smart switch, to the unused black conductor at the light. This allows full 120v to flow up to the new outlet, which is also tied into the ground/neutral at the add-on switch. Everything appears to work as expected, both dimmers/switches work, and the outlet maintains a full 120v (verifies with multimeter) regardless of the lighting circuit on/off/dimming states. Am I missing anything here, or is this an acceptable/safe setup?

(Timothy Evard) #237

Can a switch that was not previously a 3-way be made a 3 way by adding a z-wave switch and pairing it with an add-on? I recently added a GE z-wave 3way dimmer switch to a light that only has one switch. I want to install an add on switch at the top of the stairs so we don’t have to go downstairs everytime the kids leave the light on. Can an add on switch be added next to any switch and then paired with my smart switch?


The GE add-on switch communicates with the master switch electrically via 2 conductors between the two switches, so you’d have to run Romex between the two. The GE add-on switch does not “pair” with anything or do wi-fi/zwave/zigbee itself.

Your best option may be to use a button at the second location that has an action of controlling the light. So in other words, unless you can run wire between the two, think in terms of some other SmartThings control device you can use to accomplish the same thing.

One other thing to think about. I have no idea what code requires in your area or what the potential is for having to fix this situation when you sell the house, but in most cases you are required to have switches (and not smart switches or other workaround) at both the top and bottom of a stairway. For this reason, consider running 3-conductor Romex between the two locations and use the add-on switch. The add-on only takes 2, but if you needed to swap out your smart switches when you sold the house, you’d need three to put two 3-way dumb switches in those locations.

(Bryan) #239

As @Luther said, no, at least not without running a 3-wire Romex to it.

But off the top of my head, it seems like you might be able to do something with two smart switches to get both to toggle through some automation. I’d have to think about it a bit, but my initial impression is that should be doable with webCore and perhaps other apps.

I think the remote switch wouldn’t have a load but would mirror the existing switch.

Take a look here:


To be clear, the add-on switch would only require 2-wire, but you’d be nuts not to run 3-wire if you are running Romex at all.

Bry’s idea is a good one too. Having another switch there would keep things consistent, and I’m pretty sure you could do some automation that “when fake switch changes state, have real switch change state”. No action would be needed when real switch changes state.

(Pete L) #241

That diagram you just made is about 5000% better than the instructions GE provided. I tried to install one of these & almost stroked out that night from rage, eventually threw my hands up and quit (VERY VERY VERY difficult for me to do), put it back together and flipped the breaker back on which instantly tripped. Apparently my inner Incredible Hulk needs some household wiring 101 classes. I haven’t had kitchen, bathroom, or hallway lights for a month and a half now, but I’m just about there, I think I’ll have calmed down enough in the next week or two to make another go at it. It still amazes me how such a relatively simple concept can be so massacred by an electrician exploiting a lack of inspection oversight requirements, and thinks using all one color wire for an entire house is OK because it’s easier or cheaper for him. I’m gonna have the ole’ Multimeter this time.


I am trying to install my GE 3 way switches, however, I have been unsuccessful in identifying whether I have the line-switch-load-switch-1 set up (with 2 lights ) or the line-switch-load-load-switch setup. How can I figure this out? I was hoping I wouldn’t have to cut into my wall.