Old house, new outlet. Am I out of luck?


(Dave) #1

I’d like to put a ge/Jasco outlet in my living room. But it’s an older house, and the wiring for the (switched) outlet looks like this:


I think I’m SOL, as there is no ground wire (that red wire goes to the switch, I think). Correct?


(Ajf) #2

The picture didn’t load. Either way, you need the neutral, not ground wire, which should be there. Does the switch operate the entire outlet or just one of them? Often they run 3 wire to the outlets so that 1/2 the outlet turns on and off by the switch, the other 1/2 is always live. If the switch operates the outlet, why not replace the switch?


(Dave) #3

Okay, I got the pic to work.

The switch does only control one of the three (two-prong) outlets. I’m installing the outlet because I have one on hand, and don’t have a switch :). You’re probably right that a switch would be better.

Nevertheless, this scenario (no available ground) is repeated elsewhere in the house. Can I use this outlet in this situation, without connecting ground to anything?


(Ajf) #4

I’m not an electrician so what I’m about to say is a guestimate based on your post and pictures. The white wire should be the neutral, the black and red are hot. Usually the red is hooked up to the switch, the black is always hot. Usually. You don’t have a ground present because the metal box leads me to believe that you have BX cable, in which case the metal sheath of the cable acts as a ground.

Here’s the thing. I think you can replace it with the Jasco but then one outlet would be controllable by Z-wave, the other half by the switch. So whatever you have plugged into the outlet can be controlled by either the switch or Z-wave but not both.


(Ajf) #5

BTW, in your picture it looks like they used the electrical tape to connect wires rather than wire nuts which is a bit scary. I’m also not sure if on the Jasco receptacle you can feed the always hot side and Z-Wave side separately as your current outlet is. So maybe someone else can chime in on that.


(Dave) #6

The electrical tape is scary, true. My electrician told me that’s how they did it back then, but obviously I’ll be using wire nuts.

And no, the new outlet can’t have one zwave plug and one switched. So I guess this is a poor choice of location. But it sounds like the ground isn’t important for the zwave plug to work, so I can use it elsewhere. Thanks!


(Chrisb) #7

Okay, a few things @chzdanish,

Ground isn’t required for a z-wave switch or outlet to work. Neutral, which you have, is. Obviously ground should be used, but FWIW, I’ve got a number of devices hooked up without ground. Not necessarily recommended, but it’ll still work.

Next, there isn’t a way to separate the top and bottom outlet of a z-wave outlet like you can do with old school outlets like this. So if you replace with the z-wave outlet you’re switch will become useless (for now… more on this later). You’ll just connect black and white to the z-wave outlet and “by pass” the red wire here. Don’t connect red to the outlet.

Then, re: electrical tape: You may find, after taking off the tape, that these wires are “clamped” together. I’ve run into this a couple of times in my wiring. They’ll just these things together with something like a mini-bear trap, then wrap 'em up with tape.

And Finally: How to make use of that “dead” switch. If you end up getting another z-wave switch at some point in the future you can, with the switch is, do black to load and red to neutral. Then go back to the wiring in this outlet and connect the red wire to the neutral on the outlet (along with the white). Now you have a z-wave switch that isn’t connected to a load. So what can we do with this? LOTS!

  • We can set this up with my 3-way wireless outlet to make this into a 3-way switch with something else. I did this with an “extra” switch by my side door and tied it to my back door light switch. Now I can turn on/off my back door light from side door area.

  • We can us the big button app to make this switch into a “master switch” that turns on/off lots of lights in the house. I plan to put in another “load-less” switch soon by my stairway going upstairs. I’ll set this up so that when I turn this switch off it turns off any lights on my main floor or basement floor. So when going to bed: hit this switch and the house goes dark!


(Dave) #8

Oh, that loadless switch idea is great. I’ll have to tuck that away. Thanks for the other info, too. I believe I’ll get the hang of wiring this stuff up yet.