Finding the Neutral Wire in Switchbox


Old 09-21-07, 05:11 PM
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Join Date: Sep 2007
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Finding the Neutral Wire in Switchbox

I'm replacing an existing simple light switch with a special (X-10) home automation light switch. The new switch requires a neutral wire to work. In all the new switch installation diagram calls for hot, neutral and 'load' wires, along with ground.

(I believe this portion of the home was built in 1990's.)

The existing switch only has two wires, black and white.

There is a dimmer switch next to this switch, it is wired to black, red and white wires coming into the box.

Which wire(s) is neutral coming into the box? How do I determine if and how I can wire this new switch? I have a multimeter and feel comfortable using it.

Also, when I'm ready to ground, there is no place to attach the ground wire...can it be attached to one of the screws that hold the light switch in the box, or is this not considered sufficient?

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Old 09-21-07, 05:29 PM
Join Date: Sep 2003
Location: Central New York State
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You don't have a neutral wire in the box.

A ground wire is NOT attached to a screw holding a switch or other device to the box. The proper procedure is to use a ground screw threaded into the appropriate threaded hole in the back of the box.
Old 09-21-07, 05:35 PM
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Follow up question

Thanks for your quick reply!

So then do you think I have any options? If I call an electrician will he be able to solve the problem, or is running a neutral always expensive? Realize you don't know the configuration of my house but maybe you can speculate.

Thanks again.
Old 09-21-07, 05:39 PM
Join Date: Sep 2003
Location: Central New York State
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You need to replace the cable that runs from the light in question to the switch. You will need to use 14-3 (with ground) or perhaps 12-3 (with ground). You can do it yourself if you want, and it;s not too bad if you have an open attic above. If you don't have an attic above then expect to have to do some drywall repair.
Old 09-21-07, 05:43 PM
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Wink Sorry

You have no neutral in this box, If your telling us all the conductors in it.

What you have:

1 sw. bk and wht- a single pole sw.. this turns on a (or more) light from 1 location.

the dimmer sw. is a 3-way, this controls 1 (or more) light from 2 or more locations.

The constant feeds are 1 of 2 places. Either the light fixture or the other switch location.

With some more research you may be able to make this work. Consider Plan "B".
Do not disconnect any wires, just look and document then relay it on. You may not be "SOL".
Old 09-21-07, 05:52 PM
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Thanks, appreciate the great replies. The light switch I'm replacing controls four flood lights in a carport ceiling outside. The switch is in the kitchen. There's no crawl space... I think I'm going to call an electrician as this is too ambitious for me!


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