GE SmartSwitch with this wiring?


(Christopher Deal) #1

I have a mid 1960’s condo and it has no overhead lighting. However, in both rooms the wall switches control the top outlet on specific outlets.

The one I’m looking at is in the bedroom. I was looking to possibly put a smart switch in, but I’m not sure if there’s a neutral wire in the bundle.

However, to my surprise (and I assume lack of code since 1969), there is no ground on the switch.

I pulled the switch from the wall and there are 2 wires connected to it. One looks white with a black stripe (bottom screw) and the other looks black (or blue hard to tell).

The white one looks like it goes into a wire nut which meets a couple wires and goes down. The black/blue wire seems to go straight up into the ceiling (i assume this connects to the outlet on the far end of the room).

There is however, a wire nut in the back with two white wires in it. One of them goes down, and the other other up (neither is connected to the switch in any way). What exactly is this wirenut? I didn’t see any obvious ground. The switch itself has only 2 wires.

I was looking to possibly have an electrician install these, but if I don’t have a neutral, it’s probably a lost cause and don’t want to waste his time. I do have a multimeter, so I can test anything.

Was just curious how to know if it’s neutral or not before I go splurging on attempting a smarthome.

The GE Switch (zigbee) has what looks like 4 connections. Is there a way to figure out if the white wires are neutral?

(sorry for the repost - i linked too many images and it flagged my last entry)

https://postimg.org/image/txjxp4xlt/a2c71f59/


(Bill S.) #2

It looks like you have a fairly common 1960’s setup, line, load and neutral. You can easily test the wires yourself using a multimeter to see if it truly is a neutral wire. However, without a ground wire, I wouldn’t recommend installing any smart switches. If you are already thinking about hiring an eletrician, I would go that route and have them install a whole house ground wire. Or if you have metal gang boxes, installing a ground wire into the gang box, but that is not fully recommended. Also, I would look into making sure that your circuit can handle the additional load of the switches.

I have the same type of wiring and I have been installing Aeotec Micro Dimmers instead of replacing my switches. They are able to run without a ground wire and so far have been pretty reliable.


(Christopher Deal) #3

Thanks for the insight, I’ll check to see if it’s a neutral wire. (I’m waiting to hear back from the HOA - as I live in a condo and not sure what requirements or if I’ll be able to remodel with a ground wire - the box itself is metal)

With the dimmers you provided - do they still allow normal operation of the paddle? Reason being is my wife isn’t exactly technology aware and will still use the switch to turn on the light. Was looking for something that I can add to my existing setup (goodnight) where it turns off all my lights, checks doors, etc… Basically have a dumb lamp plugged into the outlet that is controlled by the switch (up turns on, down off), and was looking to see what options I had to remotely turn off the light.


(Ron Talley) #4

Looks all good to me.

The conduit is the ground. When the switch or outlet is mechanically connected (screw) it makes the ground. The conduit that runs throughout the house all serve as grounds that is earth grounded at the panel. The should all be mechanically connected.

The wire nut bundle appears to be the neutral bundle that is not needed for a switch.

You would just tap the metal box for ground.


(Bill S.) #5

Yeah, the Aeotec dimmer and switch (imho) are better than the smart switches as you can still have the illusion of the switch working “normally” (aka, dumb tech) while still being able to be smart controlled. However, the drawback is that the switch will get confused when toggled manually. So, you can have ST turn the light on, but the paddle is still in the off position, then, when someone flips the paddle up, it will reverse what the state that the light is currently in. I’m pretty certain that can be handled either using the Smart Lighting app or with webCoRE, but it’s a gotcha that I didn’t know about at first.

Also, if you are going to be connecting to an outlet, I would recommend using: https://www.amazon.com/Aeon-Labs-DSC18103-ZWUS-White-AL001/dp/B008VWAPU4. The instructions for the micro dimmer explicitly state NOT to connect to a switch controlling a receptacle. Probably for voltage reasons. :wink:


(Ron Talley) #6

I 100% disagree with this. If you have a proper setup for a smart switch, then you should install a smart switch.

If you do not have the proper wiring, then explore other options. You can still use most smart switches even when the cloud is down and they have different styles for you to choose from. (Toggle or Rocker)


(Christopher Deal) #7

So are you saying then for a GE switch, I can connect the green ground wire from the switch to a self-tapping screw into the conduit/gang box? Thought it wasn’t reccomended to ground in the box.

Also you said the neutral isn’t required for the switch (Are you talking about the existing?) Because the GE series say they require it.


(Ron Talley) #8

Yes, most dumb switches do not use neutral wire. GE Smart Switches must have neutral.

I don’t know who says it is not recommended to tap the metal box but that is the proper way to do it. Most metal boxes come with a tapping post now-a-days specifically for this purpose…

I would use 12 gauge green stranded wire.

The raised section in the back of box with the hole fits a regular green tapping screw.


(Bill S.) #9

My brother-in-law is a licensed electrician (and owns his own business). He’s the one that said a whole house ground should be run and not tapped to the metal gang box.

I’m not an electrician at all. I have similar wiring in my house (built in 1962) and had him out when we moved in. So, I’ll add “YMMV”?


(Christopher Deal) #10

It looks similar to that, but there’s no raised tapping area. Just the 4 holes you see in that pictures.


(Ron Talley) #11

Would not have been relevant when your house was built because they were still using conduit. :joy: However, as more and more codes allowed Romex to be installed, there was a need to add, on/in the metal box, a way to transition the ground from conduit to Romex…

Someone thought, “Hey, why don’t we just include a grounding post on metal boxes from here on out!”.

No difference between grounding romex wiring vs conduit outside of the grounds are twisted together for Romex and conduit is all mechanically fastened. At the end of the day, they should all be connected together and the ground flows from either the conduit or the bare copper wire in the Romex back down to earth.


(Christopher Deal) #12

Got it. So since there’s no actual tapping area on my box, is it safe to just drill a small hole or use a self tap screw to connect the ground on the new switch? (the holes in mine seem pretty wide and large.


(Ron Talley) #13

I’ve worked in the construction industry for over 25 years and I manage over 1200 housing units and this is the way that it is done, at least, to the best of my knowledge.

I would use a green tapping screw and the proper tapping wire. Most have a u connector on it. Should be able to pick up the screw and wire set at your LHS for a buck.


(Bill S.) #14

Thanks for the insight. I’ll have to piss off my wife now and go and turn off breakers to see what I can rewire. lol


(Ron Talley) #15

LMAO!!! I feel you. I hate this site and I am sure she does even more!!


(Bill S.) #16

“What are you changing NOW?!” <-- common saying in my house… LOL

Found this, in case anyone is interested: http://www.homedepot.com/p/Ideal-8-in-Grounding-Pigtail-12-AWG-Green-Stranded-Wire-with-10-Fork-10-Ring-and-Screw-25-per-Bag-30-3184/300496029?cm_mmc=Shopping|THD|G|0|G-BASE-PLA-D27E-Electrical|&gclid=Cj0KEQjw1ufKBRDYrqLzrY3dy88BEiQAPI_r4Te5fuOsGrNkRSyNc47zKhWOKEdUmUoUY9RIIxLYuzoaAkLX8P8HAQ&gclsrc=aw.ds

$20 for 25.


(DavidK) #17

Wait, if you have a metal box, the metal box should be grounded, then no need for additional wires.

Screwing in the GE switch should ground it.

@Core_Phx yes, I originally bought those.

Do not need them for metal box and for any plastic box a ground wire was run into the box.


(Bill S.) #18

Wait… what? Screwing the smart switch would ground it? Is that correct? I’ve never heard or seen that, but it would be awesome if accurate!!!


(Christopher Deal) #19

Thanks, I’ll look that up on my trip to the HW store. I was looking at switches to finally get my wife to stop leaving all the lights on when I wake up at 5AM. I usually keep a small fan running at night and it felt great to hit “Goodnight” and have it turn the fan on, alert if doors were left open. Now if I could turn off the lights it would be amazing.

I’ll take a look at that cable, Thankfully you can pick those up for $3 each at Home Depot.

@professordave

The GE switches have a separate grounding screw (on top of the switch), you’re saying I wouldn’t need to (i mean would save my $3 and some time)

Also I hate to be a super bother, but I noticed that HD carries some smartswitches. If you use this link, and use 91361 as the zip code, what would be the best switch for me (zigbee or zwave)

Reason being I was looking at what the app suggests, but the models don’t match up

Link: http://www.homedepot.com/b/GE/Leviton/N-5yc1vZloZwcZx6/Ntk-All/Ntt-smart%2Bswitch?Ntx=mode+matchall&NCNI-5&browsestoreoption=1

I was thinking of these ones too:


(Ron Talley) #20

Tis is true for regular switches. I never even thought about it for Smart Switches but I can’t see why the same is not true for them.

I am so use to just adding the pigtail for those houses that use conduit instead of Romex. Probably continue as $1 is a small price to pay for piece-of-mind.