Trying to setup 3 way switch GE Smart Switch Z Wave [SOLVED]

[Completion edit: I’m going to add accurate commentary.]

Hello all, first post, my apologies if it’s terribly structured.

I’m trying to wire a GE Smart Switch and an add on but I’m having issues. Someone a bit more electrically inclined might easily be able to figure out.

On my main switch (not the add on) I have 2 black wires (line and load), neutral and a ground.
On my add on I have 1 black, 1 red, 1 neutral, and a ground.

I’ve tried what feels like very possible combination and can’t seem to get it to work. It’s frustrating because there is a red wire at the add on location but not at the main. I’ve even installed the main switch as it says in the instructions but I can’t get it to work. I’m guessing it has something to do with the wires at the add on location. I’ve installed 4 other Z Wave switches throughout the house and this is the first 3 way.

That’s the brunt of it. I got the lights to come on at one point but they wouldn’t cut off. There is a red and black wire tired together at the back of the main box and I linked it into load. I undid it because it just didn’t seem right, and of course, the lights didn’t turn off until I did.

In your case you said you have line and load in the same 3-way box. If that is the case, connect the main switch as instructed by the included diagram, plus connect the red to the traveler. The black line to the add-on switch will not be used.

If the main switch is not working (add-on does not need to be connected to test as line and load are in the same box), then you may have a bad switch.

The add-on should have the white, red and ground wires connected.

In any case if you are still unsure you can attach pictures of your 3-way boxes.

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Did you take pictures before you unwired the dumb (original) switches?

It’s not always obvious where the master switch goes and where the remote switch goes.

Remember smart switches DO NOT wire up the same as dumb switches.

Refer to these drawings at post 12. Maybe they will help you figure out how yours is wired.

Also a drawing / images helps others to visually see what you have.

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Don’t trust the color of the wires for anything. I had 4 3-ways and each was wired differently. What starts as red in one location could be a different color at the next. Just because it’s black does not mean it’s a hot or load. Do you own a multimeter? Do you have access to the actual load (light). You may need to do some rewiring.

I ended up giving up on one as the location of the wires are in the middle our vaulted ceiling near the edge with about 2 feet of attic space to work in. Without being able to change how my neutral was wired I just made it a regular switch with an incredibly long run for the load. I the added another regular switch at the remote location with no load and let smartthings take care of it.

One day I may get brave enough to try the 6 way.

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I didn’t take pictures. Usually I take pictures before I start doing things like this but after installing 4, I got over confident. All the diagrams I’ve seen, I think I’m at 12 now; indicate a traveler wire in both boxes. Thank you for taking the time to read and contribute. I genuinely appreciate it.

I’ve connected the main switch as if it were to be a stand alone and it didn’t work. I tested the fixture on another switch wiring it the same way and it worked. The add-on has the white, red and ground wires connected.

The image is the main box. I had a second picture but I got a dialog box saying new users can only upload 1 picture in the post, fair enough. The black wire with the sticky on it is the line (or hot). The wires are hooked up where they’re ““supposed”” to be. I know some of the wires don’t look like they’re attached, I just left the circuit off and the wires as they were because I got frustrated. Thanks for taking the time to post a reply.

[Completion addition: I failed to understand that the black wire tied into the red was the only wire getting power, hence the box not working]

Not trusting the color of the wires has been my hunch since about my 3rd attempt at wiring it and I’ve had probably 7 attempts. I don’t remember the particular combinations I’ve tried. There’s just so much running to the fuse box and back. Here’s the add-on box.

Did you use a meter or non contact tester to verify the line?

Are you “sure” that white wire (by switch) is actually neutral?

Is it the paddle GE with the led? Does it light up?

Do you have access to the light box itself so you can see what’s actually hooked up to the light?

I realize you’ve done these switches before but 3 way circuits can be confusing. Can originally be wired several different ways. Can have different colored wires than the drawings online.

If you can find the real line and neutral and get switch to power up without load hooked up you’ll be making progress. Then try with just load, if that works. Then figure out the remote switch.

Try to trace the Romex cables the best you can and draw yourself a diagram with the wires label on the drawing and on the wires. I usually use small cheap printable address labels to mark wires . Then pull it off when I wire it.
If you don’t have a cheap meter go get one just to do basic readings like continuity to make sure your romex cables are going where you think they are.

I know you have probably done all this. Sometimes I had to step back, throw away what I had done, throw tools, then test and trace and draw it again to get it right.

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It took me a long time for 3 ways. The black wire in your add on should be capped and taped. It is not used like another said.

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I used a little voltage pen that just tells me if a line is hot or not. I was sure that the neutral wire was neutral but I just tested it after reading this and it comes up as hot, but it is wired to the switch. It’s not the paddle with the light, that would help. I don’t have access to the lights and they’re like these weird fixtures. I’ve pulled and pried at stuff trying to get it apart, there aren’t screws I can access so my progress there is looking at where the light screws in. Now that I think about it, the lights have to be linked because I thought I would put the add-on first and when I did that the dumb (non-smart) switch wouldn’t work.

[Completion edit: I didn’t try hard enough to access the wiring of the light. These were wall fixtures and what looked like plain little circles that stood out could be unscrewed by hand. Also the lights didn’t have to “be linked” In the previous configuration there was a black wire that supplied power.]

It is capped and taped. Man I should’ve taken before pictures.

I don’t think a non contact tester will show hot if the neutral is actually a neutral, if it’s wired up or not.

Is there more than 1 light fixture? Controlled by the 3 way?

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Maybe if you can post a picture looking into the box with the wires spread out enough so we can see which wires are coming from which Romex cable we can figure it out.

Try to. Describe your finding on voltage testing using the pictures.

Even if you have to post 2 separate pictures.

If we can’t get it maybe some of the more knowledgeable members will join in. Specifically @Navat604. He’s helped me before.

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It’s 3 lights. “Sconts” as the old lady calls it.

Aww man, taking it all apart again. I just got the main box to turn on and off but it won’t link up and it makes a humming noise so I’m pretty sure it’s not done right. I took what I thought was the neutral wire from the main box and tied it to the black and red wires that were off to the side. The wire I thought was a neutral wire has a very light almond tint to it and the volt pen said it was hot on both boxes.

This is a close up of the add-on box. The switches on either side run on a different circuit and aren’t a part of this project.

New question: The Add-on box doesn’t have a Neutral wire for the circuit it’s on, can I use a neutral from another circuit?’

Just adding a close up of the main box.

Edit: It worked! I’m not going to bother with the add-on because there’s no neutral wire in the add-on box. They look like white wires but they’re a light almond which is hard to see when you’re not working with bright white light. Some people said things or made suggestions that I never addressed but they were read and taken into consideration. For instance, the wiring diagram: I started it yesterday but couldn’t get around to figuring it out.
Edit 2: Special Thanks to Kato, TN_Oldman and jhamstead. The funny part is, the last picture of the main box which I thought was a disaster, worked. Apparently the lights wouldn’t work without the red and black wires from the add-on box being tied together [Completion edit:It’s because the black wire tied to the red wire gave the red wire power which was sent to the slave and back up through the black wire (load) that it was tied to at the slave. I basically made a really long load wire]. I don’t completely understand how it’s working but it’s working and linked up so I’m packing it up and leaving it the way it is.

Lessons learned: 3 way switches can be very confusing, especially if you don’t have the best memory or someone who helps trip the fuse for you when it’s down stairs, through a door, down some other steps, and in the back of a garage. What I thought was a white neutral wire was a lightly almond tinted wire. Big thanks to TN_Oldman for taking the time to see what was going on. BIG THANKS to everyone.

End result:
Main box: Line to line, load to load, neutral to the bundle of neutrals (not the almond wire), ground to ground, no traveler.
Add on: Red and black tied together, white capped, ground still on switch that’s left there for aesthetic purposes until something else takes it’s place.
I think the key to getting it working was tying the red and black in the add-on box together.

[Completion edit: trying to get the add-on to work was a thorn in my side, I kept at it.]

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Don’t use a neutral from a different circuit. It would probably work but your circuit breakers may not work correctly. You could end up with double or more current going back to the breaker. This could cause a fire. If there’s a gfi in either circuit it will trip.

You said the white wire showed hot. Was this at the slave side?

All your wires should be disconnected until you can trace each wire.

At the master switch. Find hot and neutral. Hook those and only those two up to make sure your switch still works. There should be no load, travelers or neutrals leaving your box. Just the master.

Do you have access to a multimeter? How far is the slave from the master? Do you have a tone generator? Trying to figure out how the wires get from the master to the slave.

I’m betting the load came off the old slave back to the light and the neutral went to the light and never left. So the wires in your slave box are hot, traveler, and load back to the light. But thats a WAG. And if this turns out to be correct, you are going to need to get to whatever box it’s wired to and I’m making a WAG again by saying it’s probably in one of the boxes your lights are attached to.

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If you have access to another zwave switch and can get power to it you can always just wire it up and let smartthings do the 3way for you. The second switch would just control the main switch over zwave and have no physical wires going to the lights.

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Soooo, you have the main switch wired and it’s working?
Is that with the white wire you moved still connected to the red/black pair on the left of the picture?
So you now have nothing on the main switch traveller connection, right?

That’s great if you got the master working. Can take a break for the night and figure out the spare tomorrow. Just cap off all the wires to be safe.

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Next time take pictures / draw it out before you unwire anything. Helps figure out what is what, helps restore it if you hit snags and get tired of working on it.


Even though I can’t apply this now, it’s good to know for future reference, thank you!

Yep, the main switch is wired. Apparently without the red and black at the add on being tied together it didn’t want to work. I will definitely take pictures next time. THANKS AGAIN for all the help.