My old light switch in a bedroom stopped working, and only worked when the switch was pushed and held in the on position.

I purchased another single pole switch. Upon taking the old switch out, I Noticed there were 5 wires...two black, two white, and a ground bare. There are two sets of wires coming into the wall box...one set of wires has the white hot, black, and ground. The other wire has the same three, but no electricity (which I assume turns on my overhead lights in the bedroom.)

The old switch had two side screws used, two push back connectors (where a wire is simply pushed into the hole in the back of the switch), and the ground wire on a screw.

The new switch I wired with the white hot into the push-back, the one black into the other push back, then one white and one black on the side screws, with the ground connected. No lights came on. I tried putting the hot white wire and black wire onto the side screws (swapping the wires between the push back and side screws), and the other white and black wires into the push backs, with no lights working again.

Not sure what this means, but between the white and black wire, I’m getting around 53v. When I put the multimeter on the metal case (near the actual switch) and the black wire, I’m getting 120v. Any help would be appreciated!

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  • Also, just to be clear I just took the wires off the side screws right before I took the picture.
    – John
    Mar 16, 2018 at 0:18
  • How many screws did the old switch have? Not counting the ground screw. Mar 16, 2018 at 1:42
  • you have the colors mixed up ... black is hot .... white is neutral
    – jsotola
    Mar 16, 2018 at 2:06
  • STOP EXPIRMENTING and engage the services of a professional electrician
    – Michael Karas
    Mar 16, 2018 at 2:43
  • It baffles me why people don't take a picture BEFORE, they take the old item out. I do this for just about every thing I ever do, so I remember where everything was before and can hook it back the way it was. If that doesn't work, then I have to figure it out. But generally, whites are always nutted together, and blacks go to the switch, but on an outlet, then you do have whites and blacks to the outlet, on opposite sides.
    – Jeff Cates
    Mar 16, 2018 at 3:37

1 Answer 1


The whites aren't hot, they're neutral

The white wires here are not hot wires at all, they're the neutral wires that return current back to the power company. So:

  • Blacks go to switch terminals (one is the always-hot, the other the switched-hot to the light)

  • Whites get nutted together to provide a neutral return to the panel/power company service

  • Grounds get nutted to each other and to a bare pigtail going to the switch's green ground screw.

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