Switch wiring question/problem

I’m not an electrician, but I’ve done plenty of outlet/switch/fixture replacements, and haven’t ever had any problems. I replaced a light switch (not 3 or 4 way) with a GE switch. It worked fine for about 4 or 5 days and then yesterday for some reason the circuit it was on broke. I suspected that switch since it was the only work done. I took it out and it had a burn mark near the load wire. I put the original switch back and when I turn the light on now that breaks the circuit too.

I’m confused about what could have happened. The fact that it worked right for 5 days makes me believe it was wired correctly. The worst that could have happened is I reversed the 2 wires, but that would have been a problem immediately, not 5 days later, right? Not sure what else to do to fix it. Any advice would be helpful.

When you tied your white neutral wires together could one of them actually have been a unmarked “hot” wire? I found one of those cases in my garage where the electrician did not mark the white wire when he ran it to a split outlet. He tied the white wire to the red for the second half of the outlet in a separate junction box so I originally had no way of knowing that the white I was wire capping with all the rest energized the entire neutral bundle…

Mine would work but would often strobe and would blow a gfci that was in a different room but on the same circuit. The electrician had made the white/red connection in the same junction box as that gfci outlet. I did find burn marks on the GFCI when I removed it, but I think that was actually from a different problem as all the wires were not secured and when I pulled out the outlet the wires came unattached. I think they were probably arcing in the box…

Just something to check anyway. Take a multimeter and test your whites to see?

Thanks. I was only replacing the switch, so I didn’t tie any wires together. Just took the wires out of the old switch and inserted them into the new switch. Pretty basic. Both wires are black, so I don’t know for sure which is the neutral so my only thought is I reversed them somehow.

Ok. You are talking about a GE smart switch right?

You should have going to the switch:

One load
One line
One neutral

You would have had to add a wire from the switch to the neutral bundle in the box.

OK, apparently I don’t have a neutral wire so that would explain it. How would it have been working for 4 or 5 days if I had it wired incorrectly to start with?

Now that I have no answer for… Maybe @jdroberts can help. He’s the resident engineer with the brain ball… They don’t let me hold the brain ball anymore… I broke the last one.

To muddy the waters even more, I have an installed switch that has been working fine for a couple months now. I’m sure I did it the same way. I guess I will be pulling that one out to make sure it’s not going to be a problem as well.

There are GE Dimmers out there that do not require a neutral, Is it a Dimmer?

No, just a regular switch, but maybe I should look into the dimmer instead if that is the case.

Don’t get me wrong, it isn’t necessarily better. The particular GE dimmer with out a neutral doesn’t play nicely with some LED’s, I was only trying to help diagnose. If you have a neutral wire at the switch I would recommend using it.

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These are for back and front porch lights, which is why I didn’t do dimmers to begin with. I need to open it back up and see if I just missed the neutral wire. Learning experience for me, but since I have a few more switches I want to do, I need to make sure I understand it all.

Dumb switches don’t usually have a neutral wire attached to them, so IF your smart switch requires a neutral then it isn’t a direct swap. You have to get a short pigtail of wire and connect it to the neutral bundle in the box (hopefully you have this).

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OK, this has all been helpful. I will be looking into it tonight.

Do is a favor and post a good well lit pic of the box when you get it open. Try to leave the switch connecyed but also show everything inn the box

This happened to me last week. I am also not an electrician and have replaced a few single switches with the GE.

This time I was replacing 1 switch out of the 3 switches in my wall. I have the white neutrals since my home is brand new.

I first, installed it without the white neutral and it worked fine but then it tripped the breaker. Then I realized I forgot the neutral.

I separated the 4 white neutral cables, put one of them into the switch and I had no power on my living room. Well, after doing some research I realized I need to use the white jumper cable (that comes in the box) to go from the 4 white neutral cables to the GE switch.

Hope that helps.

Yep, I made the same mistake on my first switch. All of the neutrals need to stay grouped together.


Glad to hear I’m not the only one that did the same thing. I know I saw the jumper but didn’t realize what it was for. I did read the instructions but even that didn’t make it clear to me, like it is now.