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I'm in the process of making my home a "smart" home. The new outlets are not a problem as they merely plug into existing outlets. The switches, however are something different. They require a ground wire. My home was built in the early 50s and has only 2 wires (white, and black). My question is this, the wires are run in romex, and I've read from other posts that conduit can act as a ground. Is it the same with Romex as it is metal too.

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  • I've seen many smart switches that require a white neutral connection, but do they require a ground as well?
    – JPhi1618
    Jan 18, 2018 at 19:21
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    @JPhi1618 - It wouldn't surprise me if there's some neutral/ground bootlegging going on here and that it actually requires a neutral, but someone (maybe even the 'official' installation instructions) suggest using ground instead.
    – brhans
    Jan 18, 2018 at 19:23

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No. "Romex" is a trade name and is actually a brand of non-metallic cable or NM cable. Article 334 of the National Electrical Code.

If your house was wired with NM cable in the 50's or before, it most likely has no ground wire.

Smart switches require either an equipment ground or a neutral wire to power the smart switch while it is waiting to turn on the lights. You should not depend on visualizing wires in the boxes. You should test your system to determine if there is an equipment ground available at these locations. There was a method in the 50's of taking the equipment ground and wrapping it around the cable and then clamping it into the box. So, you boxes may be grounded after all.

If you don't have an equipment ground, all is not lost. You can run separate equipment ground wires to any of the boxes where you need one. It will be a hassle but the switches will not work without it.

Good luck!

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  • Neutral is not ground. Smart switches shouldn't "not work" if there's no ground, that would mean they are bootlegging ground as a current return (what neutral is for). Jan 19, 2018 at 1:29
  • @Harper some smart switches use the neutral and some use the ground.
    – ArchonOSX
    Jan 19, 2018 at 2:07

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