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Do I have a "Neutral" wire here?

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  • Mar 1st, 2017 3:55 pm
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[OP]
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Dec 9, 2002
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Kitchener

Do I have a "Neutral" wire here?

Neutral Wire.jpg
14 replies
Deal Addict
Oct 13, 2014
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Just Moved To Somewh…
Is there another unused screw terminal on the other side of this switch? Are you asking about the ground wire (other screw) or neutral, which should be the white?
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[OP]
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Dec 9, 2002
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Kitchener
Nope, there are only three terminals, and the ground is in the housing at the back. I was thinking the neutral was the white as well but wanted a second opinion.
Deal Guru
Feb 9, 2006
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Brampton
X-Nemesis wrote: Nope, there are only three terminals, and the ground is in the housing at the back. I was thinking the neutral was the white as well but wanted a second opinion.
Usually the neutrals are bundled together in the back of the box. If you don't see it and all you have bundled in the back of the box are grounds then you don't have a neutral. Usually they don't hook up the neutrals to the light switch if it's a plain old on off switch.
Deal Expert
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Jun 12, 2007
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London
That's not a neutral. It's likely a second hot - part of a 3 way light switch
Image


edit - ask the mod to move this thread to the "home" forum where someone with an electrician background can confirm
Sr. Member
Mar 19, 2013
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Prince Albert, Sask.
Neutrals are not connected to a switch, just hot. Your power source for the switch comes from the light/fixture, not from the switch. A switch needs power in and power out to operate. The black wire brings power to the switch. Now you need a wire to take power out, back to the light/fixture. The white wire now becomes the hot out, it operates like a black hot wire. Common practice is to mark this wire black, tape or marker. The red wire is a traveller/switch wire. Takes power to another switch.

Is there another switch that operates the same fixture/light? If so, that is a 3-way switch setup. There are many ways electrical connects are done. The internet has lots of good information. I69norm's example is a good illustration of one way. The way wires are installed and number of conductors are a couple factors that determine the proper connections.
Member
Dec 7, 2015
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Ottawa, ON
Magoo61 wrote: Neutrals are not connected to a switch, just hot.
Unless the wiring is done by an idiot/DIY enthusiast. It is possible that the white wire is hot and the black is neutral instead of the correct way round. It is also possible that the switch opens/closes neutral (white) instead of hot (black). Always check!!
[OP]
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Dec 9, 2002
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Kitchener
Magoo61 wrote: Is there another switch that operates the same fixture/light? If so, that is a 3-way switch setup.
Yes, there is another outlet that has the switch for the same kitchen light and a switch for the bathroom fan.

And I'm definitely not touching anything that should not be touched or until the breaker is turned off.
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Oct 14, 2010
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Barrie ON
The switch in the photo is a three way switch, and none of the 3 visible wires are neutrals.

The switch should also have a green painted screw with a bare copper wire attached to it. This bare wire will lead to a screw on the metal box itself. This wire is not visible, can you confirm if the switch has the green painted screw?.

I assume you are looking for a neutral which is required for installing most electronic switches. That could be a simple timer switch or a home automation switch (e.g. Z-Wave). If that is the case, you will usually find any neutrals (if they are present at all) marretted together at the back of the box. They should be white in color. If your plan is to install an electronic switch AND this is indeed a 3 way switch, be certain you specify a 3-way compatible replacement.

Perhaps if you explained your reason for asking the original question someone could better help you.
[OP]
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Dec 9, 2002
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Kitchener
Yes that is the reason, I'd like to install some smart switches to work with my Echo dot. I'll check for the green screw
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Nov 18, 2005
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Kitchener
You could rewire the whites to a neutral in the light fixture box, but you would loose the function the 3 way switches. Probably doesn't matter if you are installing a smart switch
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X-Nemesis wrote: Yes that is the reason, I'd like to install some smart switches to work with my Echo dot. I'll check for the green screw
The green screw is there for personal safety, and is not required for the circuit to operate properly.

So did you find any white wires connected together in the back of the box (not visible in your photo). If you have the neutrals, you can install your smart switch. If you install something like a Caseta smart switch at one of the two switch locations which has neutrals, then you can replace the switch at the 2nd location with the battery operated Caseta remote.

Edit: Apparently the Caseta does not require a neutral.
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Oct 23, 2008
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GTA, ON
I see 3 wires here:

1) Hot (white) - live wire
2) Load (black) - one going back to fixture
3) Traveller (red) for 3 way switch
Tis banana is IRIE :razz:

10% off is cold, 50% off is warm, 75% off is hot, but FREE IS RFD!
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Oct 23, 2008
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Speaking of problematic switches, I encountered my own with my dining room chandelier and I can't figure out what's going on with the switch. I have 3 wires in my light switch box, 2 that go into the hot (one around the screw, the other in the hole) and then one load (bottom screw). I can't figure out what the 3rd wire does. I have this strange feeling that the builder's electrician used it as a junction box out of laziness as there is an electrical outlet just below the switch.

This wouldn't be the first time I opened up a box in my house and just went, WTF, why so many wires.

Anyone have a theory of what's going on here?
Tis banana is IRIE :razz:

10% off is cold, 50% off is warm, 75% off is hot, but FREE IS RFD!
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Oct 24, 2008
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If you're keeping it as a 3-way, also make sure that whatever switch you're looking at is compatible with 3-way setups. I know WeMo isnt compatible with 3-way.

As others stated, look in the box to see if you have a bunch of white wires tied together.

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