GE 4-Way Switch Frustration (12724 12723)

(Brad) #1

I’ve read countless threads and tried countless combinations and I’m coming up empty so I come to you all, white flag in the air.

Successfully installed several GE 12724 (master dimmer) and 12723 (slave switch) combinations today. All went well until I got to my 4-way box.

I have the master and slave installed in two of the 3 4-way circuit locations and working quite well. However, the 3rd location, which I believe is called the middle of the circuit, is giving me headaches with the 12723.

In the box (in addition to the neutral bunch which is easy) are two red/black wire pairs. One pair is carrying 120 volts. The other pair is carrying no volts.

The 12723 has just two wire screws, one for the neutral which I used the white jumper for. The other screw, I feel I have tried all combinations of wiring under this screw to no avail. I need help! Also, I need to know which of the remaining wires (not used) I need to cap individually or cap together. This seems to be a step ignored in instructions and all posts I see - Essentially how to determine which wires to actually connect to the 12723 slave switch, and how to cap the remaining unused wires (together or separately).

As I mentioned, I received 120v on one of the wire pairs, both on the red and the black. On the second pair, no voltage.

Suggestions welcome, I’m just baffled at this stage. The standard 4 way switch I’m replacing had one pair on the top left and top right screws, and the other pair on the bottom left and bottom right screws.

Thanks much.

(Michael) #2

Give this old post of mine a read. It may help you. Box 2 had the 4way switch:

(Dale C) #3

Detailed BEFORE pictures showing what you have coming in and out of the boxes and terminating on the switches always helps troubleshooting. I have found when you have trouble it could be due to the wiring at the light fixtures themselves is not what you expect especially when there are multiple lights involved so don’t forget to get pictures at each of the light fixture gang boxes.

If you got the BEFORE pictures it makes it easier to know what you had when it worked for tracing wires. If you didn’t get them we have to play detective and use the AFTER pictures which we know are not working which can be more of a puzzle. :slight_smile:

(Brad) #4

Thanks guys, I appreciate the replies. I tried the two red wires to the GE switch in the 4-way circuit and capping the black together to no avail, though my issue may be elsewhere.

I previously had a dimmer switch at the hot location in this 4-way circuit so it’s possible that load and traveler got mixed up, so any tips identifying those would help. The hot wire was of course easy to identify in this location.

Box 2 is probably the real problem though I may have the load and traveler swapped in Box 1 though I’ve moved them around as well. I have a multimeter (don’t think I have a long enough jumper wire though) so any suggestions on testing I can do by flipping switches and taking measurements on bare wires to help identify wires in Box 1 or Box 2 would be great.

Pretty sure Box 3 is correct, Box 1 I might have load and traveler swapped, if that even matters, and Box 4 I am now stumped on the 2 black/red pairs and if the red are travelers, the black or travelers, or what. I can say that one of the blacks is definitely throwing 120 volts regardless of the master switch’s position (though I have not disconnected the hot/master switch yet, but maybe that tells us something too.

Box 1 (Hot)

(Old Switch - Lutron Dimmer)


(New Switch - GE Zwave Dimmer)


  • White = hot wire
  • Red = Load or Traveler (may need to swap?)
  • Black = Load or Traveler (may need to swap?)
  • Green Ground
  • White Neutral jumper

Box 2 (4-Way Circuit)

Old Switch (Standard Toggle)

New Switch (Ge Zwave Addon)


  • Red = Load or Traveler?
  • Black = Load or Traveler?
    PAIR 2
  • Red = Load or Traveler?
  • Black = Load or Traveler?
  • Green Ground
  • White Neutral jumper
    I assume there is no hot in this box???

Box 3 (3-Way)

(New GE Addon Zwave)

  • Red = Traveler
  • Black = Load (Capped)
  • Green ground
  • White neutral jumper
    99% sure I have this box wired right.

Note with Box 1 and 3 connected as displayed, and Box 2 connected with the old toggle switch in the ON position, Box 1 and 3 function perfectly.

(larance) #5

I didn’t read the entire post (my apologies) but the way I identify which wire is which is by firstly turn the breaker off so there is no power in any of the wires.
You will need a volt tester and ohm meter.
To begin, disconnect all wires from the switches and make sure no wires are touching anything (suspended in the air)
Identify which wire is hot (with the volt tester) and which is load (both should be black), I’m assuming you already know.
To identify which red is which, tie one of the red wires to ground (temporarily just for testing) and with an ohm meter, go to another box and check for an ohm reading between the red wires to ground (the one that gives a reading is the one tied to ground at the other box)

I believe that all add on switches can share the same traveler wire when using the GE smart switches.

You may end up with wires that don’t get used when wiring with a smart switch setup.

(larance) #6

Also conventionally, hot is at one location (call it location A) with a 3-way switch, load is at another location (Call this location C) with a 3-way switch, and a box in between has just 4 traveler wires (Call this location B) and a 4-way switch. What I believe I did is use a traveler to get hot and load in one box (let’s say location A), then use a traveler wire from A to B that will connect to the add on switch, and lastly a traveler wire from location B to C that will connect from the add on switch at location B to an add on switch at location C. Obviously connect all neutral wires together as well as their respective spots on the switches, and do the same for the ground wires.

(Brad) #7


Thanks for your reply. I believe i have accomplished what you said for 2 of the boxes. Box 1 (your location A) has both hot and load in there. Box 3 (your location C) is my 3-way switch with load and now just a traveler wire. Box 2 (your location B) is where I have the 4 traveler wires.

I think what you’re telling me is just ONE of those 4 wires will be the one that I connect to the GE smart switch and the other 3 will go unused.

I actually have just 3 wires in my location A – A white (which is the hot, it’s not black, which confused the heck out of me for a while), a black, and a red. I am making the assumption that the black is a traveler wire from Box 3 above carrying load (I have tied the black in that box to the other black which I believe has passed the load down to Box 1). Which leads me to believe the remainig 3rd wire, the red wire, is a traveler going to the other box where the 4-way switch is (Box 2).

I think I will use your test by tying the red wire to ground in location A/Box 1 and then testing in Location B/Box 2 to identify which of the 4 remaining wires gives a reading. I will then hook that one wire to the GE smart switch traveler port.

What do I then do with the remaining 3 wires? Cap them all together? Separately?

Thanks very much for taking your time to help.

(larance) #8

Sorry for so many replies, I was better off reading things through fully the first time, in box one black should be the hot wire, it’s against code for white to be hot.

Here is what you should have, in box 3 tie load to a black traveler
In box 2 tie the 2 black travelers together (this will make your black traveler in box one now a load wire)
Wire your smart switch in box one, Hot to Hot on the switch
Locate the black and red wires in box one that should be twisted together (originally travel wires), the black should go on load and the red should go on traveler. You are now done with box one (besides wiring neutral and ground)
I believe box 2’s switch is correct. Both reds to traveler, and white to neutral.
Box 3’s switch should be the same as box 2 except only one red to traveler.

I’d like to apologize again, I am answering on my phone so I’m unable to view previous posts and your images while replying. Feel free to remove the previous posts.

(larance) #9

You shouldn’t have any capped wires, I was confused on my end (using 2 switches with hot and load in one location will result in unused wires)
However you have a 4-way switch wiring, all wires should be used (my apologies). I’d confirm that your white is indeed hot, I’ve seen it done before but I doubt your home passed inspection that way. My previous post should help clear things up. As stated before, when red is twisted with black it indicates they are both travelers.

(Brad) #10

Hi Lalo,

You have no need at all to apologize. You’ve been so kind to help and they way you explain things makes it very easy to understand.

My house was built 2 years ago, but I am 99% positive that the white wire in Box 1 is the hot. I disconnected all 3 switches with all wires floating at that was the only wire throwing 120 volts. So that leaves me with a red and a black at box 1. I did what you said and tied the red wire in box 1 to the ground in box 1 and tested continuity at Box 2. Box 2, the one with the two twisted pair of black and red wires, let’s call them wires 1-2 and 3-4, passed continuity on wire 1, the red wire in pair 1. Once I removed the red from the ground at Box 1, continuity no longer passed. So, I believe I have identified Wire 1 at Box 2 (the 4-way location) as the traveler wire.

Given your latest post though, the question now is what do I do with wires 2-3-4 (the 2 blacks and the other red). Do all 4 wires need to get under that one traveler screw in order to keep the circuit alive?

Box 3 seems the simplest with a red traveler wire, a black traveler and a black load wire. Capping the 2 black wires at Box 3 (load and traveler) seems to have worked for that switch. Per GE instructions only one traveler wire should connect to the aux switch I believe, and the others are to be capped. I could be mistaken here, as the instructions are not the greatest. This could be my problem, in that I should be placing all these wires under the traveler ports on the GE Aux switches and not keeping any of them disconnected from the switches and capped together.

I have yet to find definitive instruction on the way to connect these GE aux switches up in a 4-way configuration unfortunately.

(Michael) #11

Unfortunately there is no standard on wire color however the fact that your white wire is hot concerns me. Your power may be coming from the fixture and the black and white wires may be cutting the circuit for the switch. Can you confirm this?

(Brad) #12

That is probably the case and I’ll call my electricians out on this. Is this non-standard wiring? I’ve done a bunch more testing and here’s what I found out:

Box 1 - White wire is the hot wire. One red and black pair going to box 2. Standard 3-way switch installed here (pre-zwave).
Box 2 - Contains two pair of red and black wires. The first pair, wires 1-2 come from Box 1. The second pair, wires 3-4 go to Box 3. 4-way switch installed here.
Box 3 - Contains 2 black wires and a red wire. 1 of the black (I presume) goes to the light and is load (neither show any AC current with power on). The other black/red are the ones that come in from Box 2.

So now the question is, how do I wire these GE’s up?

I assume the main switch goes in Box 1. White goes to hot, I’m just not sure what to do with the black and red now since neither are going to load, and this switch has both a load and a traveler port.

In Box 2, I have no hot so I need to put an aux GE switch in. This is the “middle” of the circuit and the remote switch basically has 1 port for traveler wires. Since I assume both pairs of red/black (all 4 wires) are essentially “Travelers” do all 4 wires need to go into the GE aux switch?

In Box 3, I had previously nutted the two blacks together (one black traveler from Box 2, the other the black load line going to the light fixture) and connected the red to the GE aux switch. If I connect both the red and black travelers that came in from Box 2 to the GE switch, the remaining black to load has nothing running to it and the circuit will fail.

I think I’m getting close here. Hopefully with this information I can get some expert opinion?

(larance) #13

You are right aboout not having any schematics, I had to figure it out for myself when I first wired a 4-way setup.

Here is a schematic of one possibility, the other would be to have a traveler take the hot from box one to box 3 instead of putting load into box 1

Out of curiosity, does that Hot white wire come into the box as a white wire? What are the other wires in the same Romex as the white hot doing? Isn’t there a white, black and ground in that Romex? What is the black doing? I can’t imagine it being used as a neutral.

(Michael) #14

This is likely your wiring then:

Code in my area now requires neutral at all switches so yours may not require that given build timing. The challenge you have is no neutral which the GE switches require

(Brad) #15

Okay now we’re getting somewhere.

The romex at Box 1 contains the white (hot), red and a black. That’s it. The red and the black contained with the white are the travelers to Box 2.

Now, at Box 2 this is interesting. I see the romex coming in with the white-red-black bundle alongside the other romex that goes to Box 3 (another white-red-black bundle). Those whites in Box 2 (the 4 way location) are nutted together and connected to nothing. I assumed these were neutrals. Am I assuming wrong? Because I have had the GE Switch in Box 2 jumped to these 2 white wires under Neutral where the whole time I may have been connecting this to a HOT and not a neutral! There is another group of white wires back in the breaker box behind another switch in there, is it possible these are the neutrals in this box and I’ve got the switch on the wrong neutral?

I may not just be doing this wrong, I may also be frying switches. I’m going to turn the power off, disconnect the nutted together whites in Box 2, and see if they are both also HOTs.

If that turns out to be true, what’s my next move?

The schematic is great, but I may still be misunderstanding it as it looks like what I have already tried and failed (use the reds on the GE switches, twist the blacks together and cap) and it didn’t work. What I might need to know is exactly which color wires to connect to which ports in each box, and which to twist together and cap, if someone could be so kind. Bearing in mind the GE remote switches have just a neutral and a traveler port, and the main switch has neutral, traveler, hot, and load.

(Brad) #16

Confirmed. There are two bundles of white wires coming into this box, Box 2, the 4-way switch. I was hooking the GE neutral’s up to the white hot wires that are coming in from Box 1. These are 2 Romex bundles of white, black and red, where black and red are travelers and both whites are hot. There is another bundle of whites behind the other switch in that box that show no voltage so I can use them as neutral.

So I think (think?) what I’m going to do is:

Box 1 - Connect red to traveler screw, connect black to load screw, connect white to hot screw. Connect neutral screw to non-hot white bundle.
Box 2 - Connect both reds to traveler screw, wire nut blacks together, connect neutral screw to non-hot white neutral bundle (I see why making the white wire hot can be confusing now).
Box 3 - Connect red from Box 2 to traveler, wire nuts blacks (black from Box 2 and load) together, connect neutral screw to neutral bundle.

Sound correct?

(Brad) #17

Well what can I say guess except thanks for sticking with me. The inspiration to more closely look at the white wire solved the problem – Simply connecting the 4-way location to the NEUTRAL bundle, not the hot white bundle, in the switchbox solved the issue. I then nutted the black travelers in the 4-way box and the non-hot 3-way box together (up there it was traveler and load). Main box has white going to hot, black going to load and red going to traveler.

All 3 locations now work as they should and I’m happy. Some minor buzz at the main switch where the load is when switched on and dimmed but considering this is a chandelier at 540 watts total at max and these max out at 600, that may be a side effect I have to live with.

I felt the main switch getting a little hot yesterday when I had it on a while, going to keep an eye on it tonight before putting it back into the wall to see if it gets hot again, that’s a bit of a concern unless this is normal for these switches to run hot when under near full load.

Just wanted to follow up with the solution and acknowledge my stupidity over connecting the aux switch’s neutral to a live bundle in that 4-way location. Until I moved that wire, there was NO combo that was ever gonna get that switch working!

(larance) #18

Sorry I didn’t get any notifications, you must’ve not hit reply to my posts. I’m glad you figured it out! I would recommend you figure out a way to correct the wiring. I’m sure you’re just glad to get it working and don’t want to mess things up.

A bit of knowledge that might’ve helped you;
Nuetrals and grounds are technically the same thing.
In your breaker box they are tied together. You could’ve done an ohm reading on the white wires to ground in order to identify which are truely neutrals.
I’ve had an “electrician” install some new circuits and he never ran the neutrals back to the panel and had me stumped for a while.

(larance) #19

Also, I believe the buzzing is caused by using non dimmable bulbs, since the switch is dimmable.

(Daniel Milroy) #20

Here’s a thought, if you are using a combination of motion sensor and voice
assistants(Echo or Home) to turn on and off lights, and can be okay with
not being able to use all the physical switches, just rewire one location
as a standard SMART switch to the load(s) and ‘abandon in place’ the other

I have started to do this with 3-way switches, and it is working fine -
even have spousal approval!