I'm installing a dimmer (and thus replacing the left switch in my bathroom) and from the four wall wires only the white and red attach to the left (light) switch and the bare wire (I'm assuming the ground) attaches to the right switch. They seem to operate independently as I can turn on the lights and/or the fan. The dimmer has a green ground wire that they say to attach to the ground however I do not have access to this wire as it is attached to the right switch.

Am I safe installing the dimmer using only the two wires that are attached to the left switch and leaving the ground unattached?

Left Switch Connection (red and white wires) Left Switch Connection (lights)

Right Switch Connection (bare and black wires) Right Switch Connection (fan)

  • 3
    The ground, presuming it is actually electrically the grounding conductor and not being misused (illegally) as a neutral, should be pigtailed and connected to both switches. Sep 10, 2017 at 9:07
  • @Craig, please copy this comment over as an answer. Sep 10, 2017 at 12:57
  • 2
    Ground is being misused here! Both ends are wired wrong and the ground is probably hot. We need to see the wiring up in the fan/light. Sep 10, 2017 at 13:45
  • 2
    Can you pull both the switches out of the box and get us a clearer photo of its inside, as well as getting us a photo of the wiring in the fan/light? Sep 10, 2017 at 14:25

2 Answers 2


The ground, presuming it is actually electrically the grounding conductor and not being misused (illegally) as a neutral, should be pigtailed and connected to both switches.

However: it is difficult to see what the actual connections on the second switch (black/bare) are. If it is a functioning switch and only has the black and bare wires connected to it, then the bare wire must be a live wire in the switch loop. If this is true, then it is both illegal and dangerous to humans and must be fixed.

The fix depends on what is really going on in this box, which is still difficult to tell from the pictures.

You could, for instance, have a single circuit supplying switch loop current on one wire and feeding two different loads through the other two wires. This would be fine. You would just pigtail the incoming live wire to both switches, and pigtail the ground to both switches and to the box.

There are too many unknowns and we really do need to see better pictures of the switches, and pictures of the wiring on the other end (in the ceiling box[es]).


This is a metal box it should be grounded. When you attach the switch to the box it will be grounded in a code compliant way so no you don't have to tie the ground to the switch. I missed that one switch has the bare ground in use. This would be a code violation and dangerous to use the bare copper as part of a switch leg. It should have new wires pulled in that case.

  • Take another look at the last photo (only a black wire and bare copper wire going to the fan switch). It looks like the ground wire is being incorrectly used as a neutral. Sep 11, 2017 at 21:07
  • The "neutral" or white being used is quite common and if used it should have been marked but this was a legal install for a switch leg. Other than that I do not see what you are referring to.
    – Ed Beal
    Sep 11, 2017 at 21:46
  • 2
    Ed, the OP seems to be indicating that there is only a black and bare wire connected to the second switch (with the red and white wires only being connected to the first switch). Sep 11, 2017 at 23:31

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