Switch with 3 wires and not a 3-way. Help

Hi. Trying to put in a new GE toggle switch and the existing switch has 3 wires and only powers an outlet that has 1 side switched. One of the Browns is hot the other brown and the orange are not hot. The browns and orange go into different conduits. I hooked the brown hot to line, the other to load, and then the orange to neutral - didn’t work. Then removed the orange, and ran a neutral from the switch next to it, and nothing. No ground wires as it’s done through the conduit. I replaced all the house switches in the past with smarts (including a couple 3ways) but this has me stumped. Any help appreciated. Imgur: The magic of the Internet

I’m still trying to figure out what’s what here (without a meter it’s pretty rough) I’m pretty sure your orange wire is ‘hot’ here.

I don’t trust wire colors ever - but I do usually trust screw colors - because things just don’t work right if you connect the wrong thing to the wrong terminal. - Standard NA conventions -the dark screw terminal is the ‘common’ That’s orange in your first picture. It’s also sourced from the bottom left conduit whereas both browns go into the top left conduit and the browns are connected to the light terminals which in a three way are the two travelers. I’d suggest checking that with a meter.

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In the US, most wire colors aren’t mandated, but orange Romex should mean 10 gauge wire intended for higher loads. You see it used a lot for air conditioners.

I just mention that because you’ll definitely want to know if that’s a higher load circuit to make sure that the switch you are putting there can handle it.

(of course it could just mean that was the last spool left in the toolbox. :wink:)

It looks like standard white romex JD. Prob 14ga most likely. There’s a neutral bundle in the box

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Presumably the OP is replacing the dumb switch with a smart switch because it’s actually being used to control something. But he never stated what the existing switch was controlling (which might help us understand the wiring). I mean, if I didn’t know what a switch was used for, I wouldn’t bother replacing it :slight_smile:

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Thanks, I just listened to the post, I didn’t try to look at the pictures. :sunglasses:

I’d be willing to bet that the brown is, in fact, hot and there’s another switch involved.

My guess is that it looks like this circuit here: https://i.imgur.com/R1pdvuR.jpg

But yes, a meter would sort it all out pretty quickly.

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The switch only controls one side of one outlet on the other side of the room.

Only one of the browns are hot. The orange isn’t. ?!? Tested with a probe.

I wired the brown hot line and brown load line to the correct slots on the outlet. Added neutral from a smart ge switch right next to it in the box. Nothing. Swapped that neutral for the orange (which is not hot) nothing.

Hard conduit, not Romex anywhere in the house. the breaker for this switch only has 4 outlets on it and just the dining/living room. Only have 220 for ac and dryer in the basement. And yes, looks like this house was wired with every imaginable color, so I don’t trust wire color. No other switches involved. It’s not a 3way. There is a 3way in the box, but that goes outside.

color either. It is 14g solid. There is neutral in the same box I used years ago for the other 2 ge switches.

I metered the wires. One brown has 120. The other brown and orange have 0. It must be a 3 way. Just have to find out where from. Ug.

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Definitely a 3 way switch looking at your first picture. Orange was hooked up to your dumb switch black “common” screw meaning it’s either line or load and orange are travelers. Definitely need to find that other switch.

Pull out the receptacle and snap a picture of it. Are both outlets controlled by this switch or just one of them? If only one which one so we can see which color wire is hooked up to it.

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Solved sort of.

Located the 2nd switch. We’re the 2nd owners. They made a built in shelving unit on the wall with the other switch. It’s in the back of one of the shelves spaces. Now 23 years later, buried behind some books the useless and out of the way switch is found. Now trying to figure out if I want to bother with that switch or just put in a smart bulb.

As for the controlled outlet, 1 side is switched, the other side always on.

Thank for all of the comments.


If you are inclined pull this switch out of the wall and post a picture. You can always disable it and put a blank plate on it and then smarten the other switch.