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Dimmer Switch: Ground not attached, exposed hot wire & do I have a neutral wire?

Dimmer Switch: Ground not attached, exposed hot wire & do I have a neutral wire?

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  #1  
Old 02-05-16, 06:29 AM
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Question Dimmer Switch: Ground not attached, exposed hot wire & do I have a neutral wire?

Hi,

I had recessed lighting installed in a room about 12 years ago by an electrician. The dimmer switch is a Lutron with a remote controlled by a IR remote (not a wifi smart switch). Today the plate was loose and kind of popped off and when I looked in the box I noticed the green ground wire from the switch is not connected to anything and a bare connection is exposed on one hot side (cap looks like it came off). Now that this has come to my attention it has sparked my interest to convert my lights to LED BR40 bulbs that run at 16w each so with 4 lights that will be 64w and I think this Lutron switch has a minimum of 60w so it will hopefully work with these dimmable LED's. At the same time I would like to upgrade my switch to a wifi enabled switch that is definitely compatible with LED's but a neutral wire is absolutely required. I think I have a neutral wire setup in my switch box currently. Based on my below posted pictures can you guys please help me answer the below questions? Your help is MUCH appreciated!!!

1) Do I have a neutral wire in my box? If so is it just a simple swap out for the new switch, just connect the two black wires like the old switch is connected?

2) Is it ok that the green ground wire from the switch is not connected??

3) The exposed hot wire connection seems very dangerous, I assume I should put that loose cap back on and maybe also strip some more of the wire back because it looks like that connection is hanging out by a thread. I also hear an electrical sparking noise (no visual sparks) when moving the switch now that it is hanging out of the wall which is very scary.


Thanks so much in advance guys!!!!
-Binya Jr.














Light Switch in my room
by Rr Reo, on Flickr
 
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  #2  
Old 02-05-16, 09:16 AM
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The person that did that work was no electrician, even though they may have called them self an electrician.

You MAY have a neutral lead. Do you have a bundle of white (and no other color) wires all connected together? If so you probably have neutral available.

It appears that none of the equipment grounding conductors were properly connected.

The red wire nut is damaged and needs to be replaced.

The bare connection was never properly made up in a wire nut.

There may be more that I can't see because of the wires obstructing the view into the box. Excellent pictures, by the way, just need a few more with the wires moved out of the way and also from a lower camera position looking into and upward in the box.

Also, that red wire may be wrong but I need to see the upper inside area of the box to make that determination.
 
  #3  
Old 02-05-16, 12:07 PM
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It appears that none of the equipment grounding conductors were properly connected.
Speculation on my part is that the original wiring system in the house is old 2-wire NM cable with no ground. I see old cloth covered NM cable in the box. It looks as if newer NM cables with ground wires have been used for more recent additions such as the recessed lighting, but there was no ground to connect them to.
 
  #4  
Old 02-05-16, 01:39 PM
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You might very well be correct, Joe and it is one more nail in the coffin lid that this was no electrician that did the work. It is obviously a plastic box but not a remodel (old work) box. It is held in place by a couple of drywall screws through the side of the box and it is not the type that would normally accept screws through the side. Plus, for me anyway, the lack of caulking around the outside of the box simply screams "hack job".
 
  #5  
Old 02-05-16, 01:49 PM
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Thumbs up

Thank you very much for the replies I really appreciate it. The house was built in the 1950's and this recessed lighting job was added about 12 years ago. It would not surprise me if this electrician did a hack job as 99% of Long Island contractors are scammers and thieves which is why I usually do everything myself except for electric since I cannot for insurance reasons although I would probably do a better job. I think I have the neutral then because I do see a bundle of only white wires in the back of the box. I am going to go to the store and get new wire nuts and look up online how to properly use them. Can you please explain the situation with the grounding? I don't a lot about electrician work but I am generally a very good DIY'er.

I will take some more pictures by pulling out the wires so I can get better views deeper in the box once I shut the electric off in about an hour.

Thanks again!!!!
 
  #6  
Old 02-05-16, 01:58 PM
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All the grounds in the box should be spliced together and to any devices.

If the circuit was ungrounded it should not have been extended.
 
  #7  
Old 02-05-16, 02:09 PM
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When you go to buy the new wire nuts look for a book titled Wiring Simplified. It is normally found in the electrical aisle rather than in the books and magazines section. The cost is about ten dollars, more or less ($6.95 the last time I looked in my local Home Depot, about a year or so ago). Wiring Simplified is the best book for beginners I know of as it is not so simple that it is useless nor so complicated that it is impossible to read. It tells not only HOW to do it but also WHY it is done a certain manner.
 
  #8  
Old 02-05-16, 03:06 PM
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Actually you are going to need to either run a new cable with ground to replace the cable with no ground if the power in cable is ungrounded or run a new ground wire from the panel or (under newest code) run a ground wire from the closest grounded circuit.
 
  #9  
Old 02-05-16, 06:52 PM
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The other stuff can wait, the exposed hot wire needs fixed before turning power back on (which is probably too late now)

Wires are never coiled around like in the picture.

- shut off power and separate the two wires
- trim off the exposed solid wire about half the existing length
- straighten out the stranded wire, you will need pliers

To wire nut, place the straightened wires side by side, with the ends even or the stranded wire just a tad longer. Hold the wires in this position and twist on a yellow wire nut.

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  #10  
Old 02-05-16, 07:05 PM
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Question More Pictures

As requested here are some more pictures that show the rear of the box and an upward angle view. Please let me know if anyone needs better angles of something specific in the box. Do these additional pictures help answer my questions?

I got some wire nuts (included a picture below) and I also ordered a new switch that is being delievered tomorrow morning via overnight shipping with my four new dimmable BR40 LED bulbs. The switch is this one: GE Z-Wave Smart Dimmer Model#: 12724

2nd Set of Pictures (additional 10 on top of the 7 in my first post, please let me know if more are needed, it is no problem for me to take more, they seem to be coming out very nice and clear which should help)























Wire Nuts for the light switch in my room

by Rr Reo, on Flickr
 
  #11  
Old 02-06-16, 12:23 AM
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Excellent picture quality, I wish all pictures posted were as well lit and in focus as these.

That entire box full of wires is a mess. With the additional pictures it now appears that MAYBE there are THREE cables in the box as there are too many wires for just two cables. (A cable is a factory assembly of two or more individual wires with an outer cover encasing all wires.) The third cable appears to be entering the box in the lower right-hand corner.

With the power off, could you GENTLY pull all the individual wires as far out of the box as possible? Do not disconnect any at this time but if possible I want to see all the back into the box, especially that lower right-hand corner.

Once you get the wires pulled out as much as possible, again with the POWER OFF, try probing that cable with the cloth-paper-asphalt insulation (the sort of metallic looking, but not metal one closer to the center of the box, to see if possibly there is a bare wire inside the outer sheath, You might need to take the point of a very sharp utility knife and carefully slit the outer sheath and use long-nosed pliers to remove the sheathing. If there IS a bare copper then you MAY have an equipment grounding conductor available, further testing will reveal that.
 
  #12  
Old 02-06-16, 03:39 PM
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Question Some more pictures with wire pulled out of box

Furd - I just want to say thank you so much for all your help, I can't tell you how much I appreciate it. Here are some more pics and your right there is a third cable coming in from the back bottom left. This is what I think, since there was no ceiling lights until I had these recessed lights put in, the silver metal shiny looking cable must have just controlled the outlet that is on same wall as this switch. The new white cable goes to the four recessed lights in the attic. This new white cable does have a bare copper wire coming out of it which you can see in the pictures (second picture below). Also to note, the outlet on the wall is always on, it is not switched by the light switch we are working on.

The new smart dimmer switch came today and came with a little white wire that most be connected to the neutral, does this get wound into the white/yellowish white bundle of wires in the back? Thanks again for the analysis and the power is currently off so let me know if you need any further pictures or testing. I included a picture of the instructions for the new dimmer switch that I am attempting to install right now. THANKS!!!

(I am studying the instructions of the new smart dimmer switch as I wait for your response, I posted a picture of the instructions below also)

















Light switch box in my room with wires pulled out with power off
by Rr Reo, on Flickr
 
  #13  
Old 02-06-16, 04:19 PM
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To bring this up to code you need a ground wire. Usually it would be grandfathered but the presence of newer cable indicated a previous non code compliant installation.

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Last edited by ray2047; 02-06-16 at 04:34 PM.
  #14  
Old 02-06-16, 04:28 PM
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To bring this up to code you need a ground wire. Usually it would be grandfathered but the prence of newer cable indicated a previous non code compliant installation.
Thank you for the response so present day cables would include a bare copper wire which is the ground? Am I ok if I don't ground my new switch? Just wondering, how would a ground be added to existing house wiring that doesn't include a copper grounding wire in the cable?
 
  #15  
Old 02-06-16, 04:41 PM
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how would a ground be added to existing house wiring that doesn't include a copper grounding wire in the cable?
Best is to run a new power cable that does have a ground. Second way is to run a single green wire from the breaker box to the switch. Third way under newest code is to bring a green wire from the nearest or easiest to access grounded circuit.
Am I ok if I don't ground my new switch?
Of more concern is the lights not being grounded (though not a major concern).

I have not read the whole thread but what is with the disconnected insulated wires in the picture.
 
  #16  
Old 02-06-16, 04:57 PM
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Best is to run a new power cable that does have a ground. Second way is to run a single green wire from the breaker box to the switch. Third way under newest code is to bring a green wire from the nearest or easiest to access grounded circuit.
My room is furthest from the electrical box in the basement so I guess a new grounded wire is not economical to run. Recessed lighting was added by an electrician to my room 12 years ago so instead of that switch controlling an outlet, it is controlling the new ceiling lights (the outlet is now always on, not switched anymore).

Of more concern is the lights not being grounded (though not a major concern).

I have not read the whole thread but what is with the disconnected insulated wires in the picture.
I am replacing the current dimming switch with a new smart wifi dimming switch which requires a neutral connection so the switch has power even with the lights off so I guess I need to connect that new little white wire that came with the new switch to the bundle of white wires then connect to the neutral screw on the new switch.

Whats wierd is a power strip plugged into the outlet on the same circuit says that it is grounded (the red grounded light is on). But I guess I will just leave the new switch ungrounded as I can't run any new wires.
 
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Old 02-06-16, 06:34 PM
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My room is furthest from the electrical box in the basement so I guess a new grounded wire is not economical to run.
Why? The cost would cable if you replaced the existing cable or new wire id you added aground would probably be less than $25.
Whats wierd is a power strip plugged into the outlet on the same circuit says that it is grounded
Not a correct test and all but useless.
 
  #18  
Old 02-06-16, 08:13 PM
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Why? The cost would cable if you replaced the existing cable or new wire if you added a ground would probably be less than $25.
Not the actual cable I mean running the cable to the electrical box in the basement. I am on the second story so I have no clue how a new cable would ever be able to be run to the box. You couldn't get any further from the box from my room and routing it would be a night mare. I would have to pay an electrician and since the one that put these recessed lights in didn't even ground it I can only imagine the hack job they will do and the exorbitant amount of money they would want.
 

Last edited by ray2047; 02-06-16 at 08:40 PM.
  #19  
Old 02-06-16, 08:42 PM
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I am on the second story
Do you mean you are renting an apartment? If so you should not even be replacing a switch. You need to call the landlord.
 
  #20  
Old 02-06-16, 09:00 PM
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Talking

Apartment? No the second story of my house, it is a two story brick house. The box is all the way in the basement which is a complete diagonal line from my room where I am doing this job. Anyway I replaced the switch with the new smart switch (not grounded of course) and connected it to the new SmartThings home automation hub that is connected to my router and now everything works awesome!!! I can control the lights in my room from my iPhone anywhere from my bed to halfway around the world!!! The new 4000k LED's BR40 bulbs look really nice also!! I will post some picks in a little bit!!
 
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Old 02-06-16, 10:04 PM
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Thanks for letting us know the outcome.
 
  #22  
Old 02-07-16, 12:19 AM
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Cool Installed and works!!

Thanks everyone for your time and thoughts. I have successfully installed the new smart light switch GE Z-Wave Smart Dimmer Model#: 12724. The only change I had to do was add a white wire (included in the package) to the white neutral wire bundle and everything worked perfectly!! Of course I replaced the worn and missing wire nuts but other than that it installed in less than 5 minutes. It is still not grounded but the previous switch wasn't either so I don't think there's anything I can do about that. Also the dimmable BR40 Hyperikon LED bulbs look really great. It took me a few minutes to get used to whiteness of the 4000k LED's but now I love them. I could have gotten a lower Kelvin (which would be softer and yellower) but I am happy with the 4000k. I just need the wall plate to finish it off completely, I'm surprised the switch kit didn't come with one. Now that I have the SmartThings Hub version 2 I can start adding all kinds of home automation to my house lol. Thanks again for all the responses and please see the below finished pictures.








Old bulb on left is 120w regular incandesant light bulb VS. New LED bulb on the right is the Hyperikon 4000k LED 16w Bulb (equivalent to a 100w bulb)



Views of all four sides of the 4 pack box of the Hyperikon 4000k LED 16w Bulbs (equivalent to a 100w regular bulb)

New light GE z-wave smart light dimmer switch in my room
by Rr Reo, on Flickr
 
  #23  
Old 02-07-16, 12:45 PM
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Ray, thanks for taking over yesterday. I was on one of my increasingly rare outings (visiting a friend who lives some forty miles away) and didn't even turn on the computer until this morning.

Binya, I wouldn't lose any sleep over the fact that your new switch (nor your recessed lights) are not grounded. It has been that way from the time your non-electrician installed them and has not caused any problem. Technically, it isn't code compliant but the danger is very low. Yours isn't the only house that has non-grounded switches and fixtures.
 
  #24  
Old 02-07-16, 02:17 PM
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Wink

Binya, I wouldn't lose any sleep over the fact that your new switch (nor your recessed lights) are not grounded. It has been that way from the time your non-electrician installed them and has not caused any problem. Technically, it isn't code compliant but the danger is very low. Yours isn't the only house that has non-grounded switches and fixtures.
Ok thank you for confirming!! And thanks to everyone for their input!! Everything works great and this new smart enabled switch with the SmartThings hub is really cool.
 
  #25  
Old 02-07-16, 05:50 PM
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Anyway I replaced the switch with the new smart switch (not grounded of course) and connected it to the new SmartThings home automation hub that is connected to my router and now everything works awesome!!!
That sounds like some expensive equipment that needs surge protection. Are you aware that surge protection devices and strips need a ground in order to work and your house isn't wired with a ground? It sounds like you should have a whole house surge suppression device installed at your service panel.
 
  #26  
Old 02-07-16, 06:18 PM
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Actually believe it or not the SmartThings hub was only $100 and the smart dimmer switch was only $38. Of course as I add more automated items the cost will increase but the actual brain (hub) was only $100. And also all my power strips are considered grounded because the grounded lights are on and as long as that light is on then all the equipment connected to it is covered by the surge protectors guarantee. Maybe my outlets are grounded?
 
  #27  
Old 02-07-16, 06:48 PM
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And also all my power strips are considered grounded because the grounded lights
But till you look for ground wires in the breaker box and receptacle boxes and you check with a multimeter you don't know. There is even the possibility of a bootleg ground that makes things more dangerous not safer. Bootleg grounds are formed by connecting the ground to neutral. They are dangerous because it places return current on the metal shells of appliances. It is often done to fool home inspectors who use cheap plug in testers.
 
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Old 02-07-16, 09:13 PM
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But till you look for ground wires in the breaker box and receptacle boxes and you check with a multimeter you don't know. There is even the possibility of a bootleg ground that makes things more dangerous not safer. Bootleg grounds are formed by connecting the ground to neutral. They are dangerous because it places return current on the metal shells of appliances. It is often done to fool home inspectors who use cheap plug in testers.
Yeah I'm sure it's jerry rigged somehow knowing this house but I will definitely try to figure it out. That will be a job for another day that hopefully I can at do myself (at least check for grounds I mean).

Here is a picture of the finished product with a screwless faceplate:


GE Z-Wave Smart Switch Finished Install!
by Rr Reo, on Flickr
 
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Old 02-07-16, 09:55 PM
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Looking nice. Job well done.
 
  #30  
Old 02-07-16, 11:17 PM
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Lightbulb iPhone App SmartThings Home Automation Controller

Thank you!! I plan to add a lot more control devices of varying difficulty so I will continue to post with a lot of pictures and detailed documentation to help others with these projects because I think home automation will continue to gain in popularity because the price has come down a lot. The electronics are relatively inexpensive but it's the installation that will cost a ton of money but if you can install yourself with the help of these awesome forums, with knowledgeable people like yourselves, then us common folk can pretend we live the high life lol. But the main reason is the satisfaction of doing this ourselves so I will contribute my help by properly documenting every addition to my home automation system I do. Don't forget an added benefit of these systems is the energy savings, I will eventually be able to make sure any lights/devices that don't need to be on at a given time are turned off. The possibilities are endless .


Click here to view the entire picture album of all the pictures referenced in this thread regarding the installation of the GE Z-Wave Dimmer Switch https://flic.kr/s/aHskqwYs7T


Here is a screenshot of the iPhone app that controls the dimmer switch I installed that this thread relates to:



SmartThings App to Control the GE Z-Wave dimmer light switch in my room
by Rr Reo, on Flickr
 
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