Installing a GE smart switch


Old 07-06-15, 03:15 PM
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Question Installing a GE smart switch

I tried today to install a GE In-Wall Smart Switch (product 12722). (Note: this is not the first time I've replaced a wall switch, but it is the first time in this house, and the first time with a Z-wave switch.)

It didn't work, and I'm looking for advice on what I may have done wrong, and how to troubleshoot it.

The switch I was trying to replace was one of three in the same receptacle. When I opened it up, I found that all three were simple interrupt switches, with only two wires connected (one red and one black each). There were also a big bundle of five (?) white wires connected together with a twist-on connector, and another bundle of bare ground wires crimped together. Here's a photo (with the original switch removed):

So I untwisted and teased out the white wire that seemed to come from the same conduit as the wires attached to the switch I care about. Then I connected it all up as follows:

Black wire to the Line terminal on my smart switch.
Red wire to the Load terminal.
White wire to the Neutral terminal.

The ground wires, because they were crimped together and then painted, I left unconnected and hoped for the best. But when I turned the power back on, and pressed the switch ? nothing happened. The room lights refused to come on, no matter which side of the smart switch I pressed.

So. Is it that the ground wire really is necessary? And what's up with the original wiring not having a ground on each switch? Is that even safe?

Or, is there likely something else going on?

One more question, if you're still with me. To see if the switch was OK, I looked for a simpler case: a single switch, the only one in its receptacle, and (like this one) not part of a 3-way setup. I found such in the laundry room, but when I opened it up, I found one black wire connected to the top terminal, and three (!) black wires connected to the bottom terminal (one in the plug-in port, and two on the screw). The receptacle also contained a bundle of white wires crimped together, and a ground wire not attached to anything.

At this point, I closed it all back up and backed away. What the heck might be going on there?
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Old 07-06-15, 03:44 PM
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Welcome to the forums.

Starting with the bottom picture..... that is laziness on the electricians part or some homeowner work. The three black wires should be connected together along with a short black tail so that only one wire is on a screw terminal.

With a plastic box.... the ground wire must be connected to the device.

Did you disconnect that white wire from the white bundle...... if so..... it must go back there and you need to add another white wire to come from the bundle to the switch. The red is load and the black is line. The traveler connection is not used. The switch needs to be grounded for safety but will work without the ground connection.

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Old 07-06-15, 03:48 PM
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As far as your last question the terminal with the 2 wires and back stab are being used as a junction point ,best plan for that issue is to remove the wires from the terminal and back stab and wire nut them together with a pigtail and attach the tail to the terminal, ground wire should be connected to the switch,not sure what's going on with the Z-wave switch,never worked with them.
Old 07-06-15, 04:31 PM
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Thanks, guys. Yes, I think I see now my mistake in the first attempt: I should have added a jumper to the neutral wire bundle, rather than extracting one neutral wire to go to the switch.

While I'm in there, should I cut ground each of the three switches as well? And to do so, can I just cut the ground bundle apart and use one wire for each switch, or do I need to keep that bundle together and run three more jumpers to the switches?

And finally, thanks for explaining the strangeness behind that other switch. It sounds like the right thing to do there is (1) join the bottom three wires together with a nut and a tail to the switch; (2) run another jumper from the neutral bundle to the switch neutral terminal; and (3) connect the ground wire to the switch as well. But that leaves one question: among the black wires, how do I tell which is Line and which is Load?
Old 07-06-15, 04:53 PM
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Disconnected line will show ~120 volts to neutral or ground. Disconnected load will show ~ 0 volts. You need to use a multimeter, neon test light, or solenoid tester. A non contact tester won't work.

Last edited by ray2047; 07-06-15 at 09:49 PM.
Old 07-06-15, 09:13 PM
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But that leaves one question: among the black wires, how do I tell which is Line and which is Load?
According to what you said..... the switch you are replacing has a red and black wire on it.
If that is correct.... the single black is line and the red is load.... like I posted in the 2nd post.

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