SmartThings Community

[FAQ] GE 3-Way Wiring


( #81

Thanks for the quick reply. It looks like that set up is going to be more expensive than just getting a lutron caseta starter kit. Which is probably what I’ll end up doing, despite having to add another hub to my set up. Actually, it looks like nearly all of the 3 way switches in my condo have the load dropped at the fixture. At least the 4-way switch by the garage has the load at the switch (and that’s only because it’s right next to the breaker box) so the GE switches I bought and already opened have a use.

On the other hand it’s really simple to break 3-way wire like that into a simple switch and even run the neutral from the light if needed. Well, so long as you have access to the fixture. I’m not going to mess with that on the lofted fan.

(Paul) #82

Warning: I am not an electrician; I only pretend to be one on the internet.

I’ve done about 20 of these switch setups, many of them 3 way, and have encountered problems just like this. I see where you might be confused; it’s a setup where a 12/3 wire is being used to power two lights (this is common for splitting the light and fan in a ceiling fan), only one of which you’re trying to control this way. I could be wrong, but I believe this is what you need to do:


As a note, if the load is not too great you can always use a micro switch. You would still use your existing dumb switches and install the micro switch in the fan box.

(Andrew Hansen) #84

@Paul1114 you fucking amazing electrical wizard! You were spot on. Lights are working! Thank you 100x over again.

(Eric) #85

Hey, stumbled upon this while trying to search for a solution to my installation. Hoping someone like @Paul1114 might be able to help me out.

In my case, the power source is at the light itself, so my switch wiring looks like this:

I have no extra bundle of white wires like everyone does in the video. Being that my black wire at switch #1 is the common/neutral, couldn’t I wire nut that into the red or white wire, which would then go to both the neutral on both GE switches. I would then use the 120v line at switch #2 for the line terminal. I would then use the remaining red or white wire as the traveler wire?

The only issue here would be that I would have no wire plugged into the Load terminal on switch #1. Given that the load wire doesn’t even go into anything at the add-on switch, is it necessary to have anything there?

(Eric) #86

This is what I’m thinking:

But once again, I’m unsure if the load terminal is actually used for anything. If it is, could I just jump off the line wire?

(Paul) #87

There is absolutely a solution for this - I’m on the road tonight but I’ll work up a diagram tomorrow if no one else has solved it

(Eric) #88

Wow, thanks for the quick reply especially at 12:42am (at least my time). I believe I figured out the solution, but I’m unsure if it’s necessary to have anything in the load terminal.

(Paul) #89

It won’t work without load. These switches control power flow between line and load to turn the device on or off, and use a signal between neutral and the traveler as a “remote control” for add on switches.

Your diagram makes me think someone inappropriately switched white and black lines to the light fixture. If this is a normal bulb fixture and not a ceiling fan, it will work, but isn’t technically right. I’ll draw up a quick diagram when I have my pc tomorrow (I’m working from my phone right now since I’m traveling)

(Eric) #90

Ah okay. I’m not too keen on all this stuff. I really appreciate the responses and no rush necessary, I just appreciate the help.

I’m using a regular GE Z-Wave switch and then an add-on switch. The add-on switch just has neutral/traveler/ground so wasn’t sure if the load was needed.


You have:

Unfortunately this will not work in 3-way with GE switches. You’ll need to use a micro relay in the light box or Caseta switches. Caseta switches require an additional hub. Leviton’s switch is very hard to find and I’ve not seen it used in 3-way.

(Eric) #92

Damn, that’s a bummer. I’ll have to pop off some more covers but I feel like almost every switch in my house is wired this way.

So with the relay, does that enable the ability to use GE switches or that allows you to use one of the other switches?

(Paul) #93

I have a solution depending on access. Hang on let me throw together a quick diagram.

(Paul) #94

It’s actually unusual to have things wired at the light unless there’s a very specific reason to do so (generally to save on excess wire). For example if you have a light that is closer to the breaker than any of the switches that control it, you might see the power fed to the light just to keep the overall line length shorter (and cheaper). I would be very surprised if the majority of your switches are wired like this. In most homes I’ve worked with, it’s only a handful at most.

But there is a fix! If you have access to the box and fixture, this is how you would do it (sorry, awful ms-paint diagram below):

I know this seems a little over-complicated, but basically you just bypass the fixture and then run a new 12/2 (or 14/2; just match whatever you already have) back to the fixture. This moves the power source into the box and should still be code compliant (though again, I’m just pretending to know what I’m saying)


With a relay you keep your existing switches wired the same way they are now. You can also add an additional 2-wire as mentioned above but that will likely require cutting holes in your ceiling/walls.

Also, if either of your switches are in boxes with other switches that have neutrals, you can use those directly if on the same circuit or use that circuit and cap off the original.

(Paul) #96

I’m not a fan of relays as I don’t like adding anything to the box, but if there isn’t easy access to run an additional line, I agree that a relay makes a lot of sense.

(Eric) #97

Thanks for the help and diagram.

I was hoping it’d be as easy as just switching out the outlets but luckily these lights are on my main floor of a split level house so the access to them is in the attic.

Will require quite a lot more work but the light fixtures are easily accessible and it would be pretty simple to fish extra wire to the switch.

(Eric) #98

Just to clarify one thing though, I’m not removing any wiring from the light fixture as is, correct? I’m just adding the new 12/2 wire?


Yes that is correct. You’ll need an additional 2-wire line. The good news is that you can actually run that wire between the light box and either switch box. So if the other switch box is more convenient, that will work too.

(Paul) #100

jhamstead makes a great point - you’ve got a lot of flexibility there in choosing switch location. Definitely run the main smart switch (and new wire) to whatever box is the least crowded and has the most space to work with.

Also check what gauge wire you have - I say 12/2 out of habit since it’s the most common now, but you could have 12 or 14 gauge there, and you want to match what you already have when adding a new section of wire (pairing a new run of 12 gauge to an existing 14 gauge here won’t hurt anything, but you want to stay complaint and consistent).