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I’m trying to install new smart switches (box and switch oics included) where some old timer switches are currently installed. The new switches require a neutral wire and ground. Is the bundle of gray wires in the box the neutral wires and the bare (albeit with paint or drywall on them) wire the ground? If so, since my current switches don’t use a neutral or ground, can I just unravel any of the neutral and ground strands and use them in the new switches? Thank you for any help.

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    Eek. That's one of those Sonoffs, otherwise known as a Chinese cheapie. Except without the "cheap". Those are not UL-listed and are neither safe nor legal for use in the US. (or really any country). That's why you had to mail-order it and could not buy it in a big-box store like Home Depot. Even Amazon proper doesn't sell it, it's sold through their third-party Marketplace sellers. – Harper Mar 7 at 21:07
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    Here's what I mean, when you search the product all you see for sellers is ebay, amazon marketplace, ali express etc. When you see that, run screaming. – Harper Mar 7 at 21:13
  • Not entirely accurate. When I search, I get the listing for Amazon, and it is fulfilled by Amazon. This means Amazon stocks this item in their fulfillment centers for distribution. Now, yes, you may have other sellers offering them for a lower price, and you might wait up to a month to get them, because they come from China. Here is some info that I have found concerning Listings festo.com/cms/en-us_us/1346.htm – Jeff Cates Mar 8 at 1:59
  • Which country are you in? Not all countries will necessarily use the same colours for the different wires – SpacePhoenix Mar 8 at 7:03
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The grey wires need to stay bundled together as do the copper ground wires - you can't just pull one out and use it. In order to use these bundles, you will have to add a small length of wire (of the same type and color) to the bundles (commonly referred to as a pigtail) and attach that to your new switch. When adding a wire to the bundle, it's best to use a new wire nut fastener, and make sure that it is rated for the number and size of conductors being bundled.

Also, with the smart switch, the "live" and "load" wire position matters, but on the old switch it does not, so you might not know which is which. Live is the wire that is always hot and load is the wire that goes up to the light fixture.

  • Ok, thank you. The switch manufacturer provided a small length of neutral wire as a pigtail, but since I don't have, or know how to use, a voltmeter and there is no distinguishing the live and load wires because they're both black, it sounds like I'm out of luck, correct? Thanks again for the help. – user98017 Mar 7 at 20:06
  • Right, there's really no way to tell without checking for voltage. Honestly a voltmeter/multimeter is a pretty basic, cheap tool these days and learning to use one would be great - but, I'm not sure I would mess around with high voltage before having those skills. – JPhi1618 Mar 7 at 20:09
  • Thanks for such quick and helpful replies. I'll have to maybe look into getting and learning to use a voltmeter; I want to replace most of the switches with smart switches, so it'll likely be worthwhile. – user98017 Mar 7 at 20:11
  • Get a book on basic home wiring, too. There are a few situations you will run across that will be confusing or even dangerous if you've never seen it before. Replacing switches is a good DIY project, but you need some background info. Great job posting pictures and asking before messing around with the wire bundles. – JPhi1618 Mar 7 at 20:15
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    Right, "Live" is the one with voltage when the circuit is on. "Load" goes to the light and will show no voltage. – JPhi1618 Mar 7 at 20:39

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