GE 4 way 12723 -- Whites not connected in one box

(james) #1

I just ran into an issue where one of the boxes where I was going to install a smart switch doesnt have the whites tied together. See images below, The other 2 boxes do however is this just a misstep by the electrician who installed it? Can i join the whites together or is there something I should test first.

(Paul Haskins) #2

Without checking with a meter - no way to tell. It might just be a switch leg.

(Jimmy) #3

holy hell, just snipping them and not capping them isn’t safe at all! Did the lights work at all before?


As Paul said, it’s probably a switch leg and those neutrals are not even connected at the other end. But it needs proper testing to make sure.

(james) #5

I took the cover off, and then was about to start work and saw that. The lights currently work.

(james) #6

Any good write ups on how to test that? @Paul_Haskins or @Nezmo

(Robin) #7

I would open up the light fittings / other switches first to see if I could find the other end of the cut wire.

If it’s cut at both ends you’ll know it’s safe and irrelevant.

(james) #8

Both wires coming into the box are just cut, maybe I am misunderstanding but wouldnt i be looking for 2 wires that go to no where?

(Jimmy) #9

i think he meant the other two switch boxes

(Robin) #10

You have shown in the photos one end of a ‘3 core + earth’ cable (with the cut white wire).

You now need to find where that wire goes and what the other end of the cut white connects to (if anything).

Hopefully when you find the other end of the ‘3+1’ wire you’ll see the white is disconnected there also.

I would hazard a guess that the original installer (electrician) ran out of ‘2+1’ wire and to save going to the shops to buy more, he just used what he had in the van (3+1) and cut off the white at both ends. Poor practice but it happens!!

(james) #11

All the other boxes have the whites tied together, I need to get a ladder to reach the lights so that might be a while before I can do that.

(Robin) #12

Depending on your wiring layout, the wire could also be the supply feed, so could come from the main fuse / junction box (or next circuit in a ring).

You really need to fully understand exactly what circuit layout you have and exactly how it works before tinkering with it!

Trace every wire at every junction box and draw a schematic to help you get your head around it.

If you’re in anyway unsure, get a professional to help you… It’s simply not worth the risk!

(Robin) #13

The following diagrams may help you identify and understand your circuit layout:

2-way to follow when I find the link!

(Robin) #14

(Robin) #15

I’m thinking this was the original circuit:

I think the switch in your photos is the one in the middle:

I expect that at some point someone drilled or put a nail through the neutral in the supply wire or between two switches, so someone has fed a new neutral to the light from a different source.

The only way to know for sure is to check behind the light.

Unfortunately, if my suspicions are correct then you have no neutral at the switches and your smart switches won’t work :scream:

(james) #16

I pretty much gave up on this topic as I couldn’t get an electrician that would tell me anything other then its working why do I care about the whites.(had two different people come out) The way the circuit works according to what I can tell is this… A switch at my basement receives the power from the breaker, that feeds up to my switch in a closet (where the whites are not connected) from that it goes to the next switch in my garage where whites are connected from there it goes to a light socket where the light socket has a 2 blacks, and 2 whites connected. How do i test if it is safe to connect the whites? Just test voltage from whites to ground make sure there isnt a voltage difference between the two, then test from black to white validate its 115 - 120v?

Thanks for the help!

(james) #17

I had another electrician make it out to the house today. After he looked at it he could only come up with that some where there is a junction box, and within that box the whites are not connected. He gave me the suggestion to go right above where the light switch that does not have the white connected and see what I can find. Well he was 100% right. There was a box, and the whites were cut super short for the runs down to this specific light. It looks to me like this light switch was added after the house was built. So this afternoon I replaced the box, and now have neutral to this switch! Everything is working and I plan to wire in my 4 way GE’s tomorrow as tonight has been enough work for the day.

Before :
You can see that two whites are tied together, however there are 4 wires that come into this box! The other two are cut off you can see in the next picture.

Whites cut off, and super small box:

Complete, with neutral

(james) #18

Completed this tonight everything went well :slight_smile: Super happy

(main switch) In Wall Smart switch Ge 12711
Pretty much the wiring went as follows… Isolate the main switch power, then add the “Line” wire to the the line port on the Smart switch (non add-on) , Add the other black wire to the load side of the first switch, then add the red wire to the traveler port. Attach the white pig tale to the group of whites in the back of the box and the nutral port on the switch. Connect ground to ground port.

(4 Way Switch ) – Use Add-on 12711 in wall

Connect all blacks together with wire nut or wego push connectors( Do not connect to switch). Connect white wires and a pig tale, then connect to neutral on add-on switch. Connect the reds together then also pig tale, connect pig tale to the Traveler on the add-on switch. Connect neutral to switch.

Last Switch – Use Add-on 12711 in wall

Connect blacks together do not connect to switch. Pig tale the white’s and add to neutral of the add-on switch. Connect Ground to the switch, and then connect the red wire to the traveler on the add-on switch.

After thats all done should be good to go