Wiring help needed for GE Z-Wave Switch, Ceiling Fan/Light Combo, Two Wall Switches

I have something similar to this going on:

Basically, my office only has one device: A ceiling fan that has an integrated light. On the wall, two switches - one controls the fan, the other controls the fan light.

Here’s how the existing basic 3 prong switches were wired:

So the fan is wired with 2 black, one bare wire.
The light is wired with one black, one red, one bare wire.

From the link above, I presume that what’s actually coming from the fan is one set of wires as the load (red=light, black=fan), then I have 2 black wires from the Source, and finally 2 bare ground wires.

Now, on the GE ZWave switch, I have more than just 3 options. Ground, Line, Load, Neutral and Traveler:

(sorry for the link instead of an image, the forum said I could only post one picture)

Here’s where I’m running into issues. I’ve tried to swap in the GE ZWave to either side, and neither seems to work. At first I was thrown off by the red wire, so I tried just hooking the switch up to Fan side… so black wires connecting to the Line & Load terminals, and the bare connecting to the ground. Switch does nothing.

Tried connecting it to the Light side (bare to ground, red to load, black to line)… nothing. I swap the old plain switches back in, fan/light works fine. I was so confused by these results that I figured my GE switch was just bad, so I returned it and got another one - but the replacement isn’t working either, so I must be doing something wrong.

I don’t get it?

Model number for the GE switch? And brand and model for the fan?

Meanwhile… Almost all of the GE Zwave models require that you have a neutral line. Otherwise the radio inside the switch will not receive power. So none of the configurations you described would have powered the switch. Because of the radio, Z wave switches are wired somewhat differently than dumb switches. You’ll need to look at the wiring diagrams in the user manual that comes with the switch.

That said, don’t just randomly start connecting different wires, you might burn out either the fan or the switch.

Hopefully one of the electrical experts in the community will be by soon with some more suggestions. But we do need the model number for the GE switch.

A picture of the box with the original switches pulled out might help.

What you MAY have is power (line) coming into the box on a two wire (black and white plus ground). There may be a 3 wire (black, red and white) going to the fan. If this is the case, the black and red on the three wire are used to provide the hot side to the light and the fan. So one of your switches powers the light by sending the hot over the black and the other switch sends the hot over the red.

If this is what you have, then for the Line input on the switches, connect to the black from the 2 wire. For the Load output on the switches connect the black or red from the three wire. The neutral terminal on the switches gets connected to the white in the box. In this configuration, they’ll all be wire nutted together.

It’s not clear to me if you have three-way switches, ie two sets of switches that control the fan. Your diagram only shows one set of switches, but the article you referenced pertains to a 3 way (multiple sets of switches) setup.

Thanks for the replies - the model number is 14291 (Amazon)

Here’s the original setup - the right switch just isn’t attached but you can see the bare/ground and two black wires that were attached.

These two switches are the only ones present in the entire office; as I noted the left one (bare/red/black) controls the fan’s light, while the right one (bare/black/black) controls the fan.

The neutral wire JDRoberts mentions is a bit confusing to me as a) there are no “white” wires present from this original set that I can plug in as the instructions call for. I suppose they could be buried somewhere in the mess of wire nuts in the back but I have not looked because b) I have 3-4 of these same GE switches elsewhere in the house that are working correctly (for months) and have never seen a white wire, only bare/black/black.

I have a second part to this I want to post about my existing GE Switches that are working elsewhere in the house, but annoyingly I can only post one picture per post at a time still, so I will reply again.

Having said that, though, now I’m confused about two things. When I was setting up this specific switch for my office, it did feel a little strange to be plugging the Bare wire into the green terminal oddly located in the top/center of the GE switch, and not just to one of the opposite corners from the line/load like on a typical switch.

I was… certain that before when I did these, I only used corner terminals, so I just went and looked at my entry-way light switch (that works fine), and here’s what I found-

As you can see, the upper green/ground terminal has nothing going to it… and my bare is going into the Neutral slot - so I really did just connect it as I would a “regular switch”… and it somehow works? and has been working for months now?

Edit/Note: I’m nervous about trying to replicate this configuration in the office because I want to say I tried this configuration in the office for the fan light (bare going to neutral terminal) and it actually trips the breaker immediately when I try to flip the breaker on (so not even actuating the switch itself).

Again, I have switched out switches for probably… 10+ switches throughout the house and have not seen a single White. Only ever Bare, and Blacks, and the zwave ones have been working fine as shown above for all except this office fan. (To be fair, none of the other switches are connected to fans, only sets of recessed can lighting)

The instruction manual (also linked in the Amazon item details) shows the following diagram:

So it’s… for sure calling for Bare to be plugged into Ground at the top (A) but it’s somehow working for me in the Neutral (E), with nothing in Ground everywhere except in the office when in conjunction with the fan?

Ugh, I think I figured it out, and I feel kinda dumb lol.

JDRobert’s mention of the required white/neutral and my lack of seeing them got me thinking and researching, where I discovered that you often have to dig into the back of the box to find the bundle of neutrals spliced together under a wire nut, and introduce a jumper to draw it out for use.

Sure enough, if you look at the picture of my office switch box, you can see the bundle of them tucked in the back lower corner. This aha-moment also brought light to the fact that every GE Zwave switch I’ve purchased has come with a small jumper wire that happens to be white that should have clued me in, but didn’t.

I guess the assumption a laymen makes is that the instructions make it seem like the box “could have” some variable number of wires coming out of it, from 3-5, including a traveler and a neutral, and that the name of the game is to MATCH and connect only the ones immediately presented.

So while a lot of effort is put into warning the user to ONLY connect the traveler (red) in the event of a 3-way, there isn’t much effort placed on requiring the white to be jumped in even if not immediately present, so it’s easy to assume it’s optional as well.

To make matters worse, I still don’t even know how my other GE Zwave switches are working in other areas of the house where I have the bare/ground plugged into the Neutral terminal, but I’m assuming that’s probably REALLY wrong and possibly dangerous, so I need to go remedy those as well. There, the poor assumption I made was assuming that the GE Switch would be laid out using only corners just like a basic switch, with the only difference being one extra corner for the Traveller. I didn’t even notice the green up top.

Anyhow, hopefully this helps others, I’ll post a picture after I get the neutral jumper installed.

You are correct in that your neutrals are bundled in the back of the box and should be pigtailed to the neutral connection on the switch.

You are also correct that the bare wire is the ground and should only be connected to a Ground terminal on the switch. As you noted, the ground should NOT be connected as a Neutral, as that is incorrect and potentially dangerous. Go back and fix those other switches.

The reason those incorrectly wired switches work, I think, is because in the service panel the neutral and ground bars are bonded together (or may be used jointly), effectively making the ground work as a neutral. In so doing, however, you have lost all of the safety measures provided by the ground.