Need help with wiring connections on older home


Old 06-30-13, 01:14 PM
Thread Starter
Join Date: Jun 2013
Location: USA
Posts: 1
Need help with wiring connections on older home

Just bought a 45 year old house. There is a two gang switch in the garage, with one of those running a pair of outdoor lights. I would like to run those lights on a timer, so I bought a timer device from Lowe's that fits in the switch box, in place of the switch.

Their instructions say to connect black to hot, green to ground, white to neutral, and they are not clear about their red wire. They also say that if I have no neutral, I'll have to add some wiring--but they don't say why.

Meanwhile, the switch I removed had a black and a white wire at the top. It had two holes, side by side, and that's where these two wires were inserted, tightened with one screw. The black wire is hot, so surely they are both hot when they are screwed into the switch--although the white wire is NOT hot when it is disconnected from the switch.

And then on the bottom is one more black wire, and it is not hot when it is disconnected from the switch.

There is no obvious place to connect a ground, but FWIW the box is metal.

Questions--so I don't fry anything:

1) I am guessing that the black wire on the timer--that is supposed to go to hot--should connect to both the black and white that were at the top of my switch, based on the discussion above. Sound correct?

2) I am guessing that I have no neutral, due to age of the house. Is this possible? Does it matter--despite what the instructions say?

3) I can't see any obvious place to run the ground wire from the timer, i.e. no ground lug that I can see. Is it adequate to just screw it to "something" on the box, since it's metal?

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Old 06-30-13, 02:39 PM
Join Date: Mar 2006
Location: Wet side of Washington state.
Posts: 18,372
I am going to strongly suggest that before you do any electrical work that you first purchase the book Wiring Simplified and read it cover-to-cover. Wiring Simplified is written for the person who has no background in electricity and explains not only the how but also the why of the electrical codes. The cost is less than $10 and it is usually available at the mega-mart homecenter as well as better hardware stores. It is usually NOT located in the books and magazines section but in the electrical aisles.

As to your current project, please take several pictures of the switch and wiring. The pictures need to be well lit and in focus. Please remove the second switch from the box so we can see ALL the wires.

I think you have what is called a "switch loop" on the switch described. If I am correct you will not be able to use the timer you have purchased because there is no neutral conductor in the box. The neutral IS necessary for that particular timer but they DO make time switches that do not require a neutral.

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