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GE Z-Wave 4-Way Switch - Hot White Wire?



I’ve installed a ton of GE Z-wave switches (both regular and plus) in my house but I’m attempting my 1st (and only) 4-way switch and running into some issues. I searched this forum and several others and can’t seem to find my exact issue on any of them so I’d appreciate some help.

So far I’ve removed all 3 of the existing switches so the wires and hanging free. Initially I was quite confused as my NCVT would beep around 2 of the wires on one switch and 3 of the wires on another switch. They obviously couldn’t all be hot so I broke out my multimeter. Upon checking each wire in each of the 3 boxes I found the following. ALL wires other than the white wire in Box 1 are reading 0VAC.

Box 1

  • White (hot, 124VAC) x1
  • Black x1
  • Red x1
  • Ground

Box 2

  • White x3 (nutted together)
  • Black x2
  • Red x2
  • Ground

Box 3

  • White x2 (nutted together)
  • Black x2
  • Red x1
  • Ground

I’m a bit stumped as I haven’t ran into any scenarios where the white wire is hot (and therefore no neutral in Box 1).


(Michael) #2

Did you happen to take pictures of your switches before you disconnected them? The key to 3/4/+ way switches is the actual 3way switch the ones with only 3 wires. On that switch you will find a screw that is either black or bronze for the common wire. One switch will have the line from breaker and other will have the load to fixture. What boxes were those in and which wire was the common wire in those 2 boxes?

(Michael) #3

And clear pictures of the boxes will help too!


Thanks for the reply. The bad news is that I did not take pictures. The good news is that I always move the wires into position so that I know where they came from on the original switch. I was just able to rewire the circuit using the original switches and it works perfectly so that’s good. I can post pictures soon but for now here’s an update with more (hopefully helpful) info. My house was built in 2014 if that matters.

Box 1

  • White (hot, 124VAC) x1 (black screw)
  • Black x1 (gold screw)
  • Red x1 (gold screw)
  • Ground (green screw)

Box 2

  • White x3 (nutted together)
  • Black x2 (1 black screw, 1 gold screw)
  • Red x2 (1 black screw, 1 gold screw)
  • Ground (green screw)

Box 3 (I believe this switch has the load but not sure which black wire the load is)

  • White x2 (nutted together)
  • Black x2 (1 black screw, 1 gold screw)
  • Red x1 (gold screw)
  • Ground (green screw)

(Michael) #5

Can you verify the number of Romex wires coming into each box? I am afraid that you may have power going to your fixture first and then the positive wire is being switched, thus why your 120 is white. In this situation you cannot use smart switches because you have no neutral in the box.

Please confirm the number of Romex wires in each box and definitely post a picture of box 3.


Sure thing. Here is a zoomed out and a zoomed in pic of each box.

Box 1 (1 Romex)

Box 2 (2 Romex)

Box 3 (2 Romex)

(Michael) #7

Box 2 appears to have more than 2 Romex wires. Please confirm.


Hm after looking at the pictures you may be right. I won’t be home for a few days but I’ll take a better look when I am able. Thanks for your help thus far!

(Michael) #9

Also ignore the Romex wires with 3 (really 4 if you include ground) for now. Find the boxes with 2 wire Romex and disconnect them from any wire bundles and measure if they have 120v. If you find one that is likely your line from breaker. Use a multimeter on the white and black wires of that wire. Make sure the other 2 wire has no power as that is likely your load to fixture. Let me know which box is which.


Sorry for the lack of response and for bumping this old thread but I wanted to provide an update. I tried a few more switch configs and was never able to get it to work so I put the dumb switches back in and left it as is. I have an electrician coming tomorrow so maybe he can figure out what the issue is or if using smart switches is even possible.

I did realize that I made a mistake counting the Romex wires. The correct counts are:

Box 1 - 1 Romex wire

  • 1 red, hot white, black, ground

Box 2 - 4 Romex wires

  • 2 white, black, ground
  • 2 red, white, black, ground

Box 3 - 2 Romex wires

  • 1 white, black, ground
  • 1 red, white, black, ground

I was going to take your suggestion to take the two 2-wire Romex from box 2 and disconnect them and measure for 120V but I don’t want to mess around with the existing config too much before the electrician comes. Like I said originally though I highly doubt any wire in box 2 has 120V. When the breaker is on and I use my DMM only the white wire in box 1 shows 120V. My NCVT also reflects that result.

I’ll update this thread again in the next couple days with the results from the electrician’s visit.

(Davin K Dameron) #11

If the wire comes from the panel to the light and then to the switch, the white wire could be the hot wire. Typically they would mark it with black electrical tape, but if it’s old, it could have come out.


If that’s the case am I screwed? I am trying to use GE Z-wave Plus switches. Would any other type of switch work if the hot wire from the breaker panel goes to the fixture and then to the switch? Also of note there is no electrical tape of any kind on any of the wires in any of the three switch boxes.

(Michael) #13

With power to light first you don’t have enough wires to make a smart switch work. Now this said I am pretty confident that your electrician can make this work with master in “switch 2” from your pictures above. Other two locations will have auxiliary switches.

(Davin K Dameron) #14

There are some older switches that don’t require neutrals, but they require an incandescent load as they have to pass a small amount of current through the bulb in order to power the switch. I don’t know if they work in 3-4 ways applications.

The joy of older houses.


Yea I have heard of those switches but I’m not really interested in using anything but LED. My house was built in 2014 so it isn’t exactly old. Hopefully the electrician can figure something out.

(Davin K Dameron) #16

Hmm, 2014 NEC code required a neutral in the switch box. Your county(city) may not have been using 2014 code then. I’m not sure when that requirement was first added. My house was built in 2001 and all my switch boxes have neutrals.

(Davin K Dameron) #17

According to this article, it was added in 2011.


Well the electrician came and fixed up the GE switches without much problem. He did have to think through it and draw it out which made me feel a little less stupid. So glad to have this 4-way done and over with. Thanks everyone for the help!


Did he have to rewire or did he figure it out with the existing wiring?


He used the existing wiring. No new wires needed.