I have these two switches which the left one is for the bathroom fan and the right one for the light.

enter image description here

Everything already works.

Now I want to add a minuter switch to the fan and the minuter have all these colors: black, white, green, red and yellow.

It a Leviton.

enter image description here

As I understand, black is for hot wire, white is the neutral, green the ground and red is for the line feed. Yellow is not used in this case.

I really need to know if I have a neutral wire but it's confusing because both whites are attached to the switch right now.

As you can see with the left one which we see the connectors that both white wires are connected to the switch and both black wires attached.

If everything works, my feeling is that the white wires are the hot and the line feed. And the black ones are neutral.

Am I wrong?

Note that it's the same pattern with the right switch.

Thanks for you help.

  • 1
    It works, therefore.... actually there are many combinations which will work and will kill you. This is one of them. Jan 25, 2020 at 18:54
  • 1
    Can you provide a picture of the inside of your panel?
    – JACK
    Jan 25, 2020 at 20:37
  • Could a neutral wire be black? most of the neutral wires that I see in person are black. but I'm not in America.
    – Jasen
    Jan 25, 2020 at 20:37
  • @Jasen, yes, in some parts of the world neutral wires may be black. The OP's profile says they live in Canada, though. Jan 26, 2020 at 3:18
  • @Jasen This question is inside the NEC /"El NEC" sphere of influence. This is stated in the question by showing North American form-factor devices, gang boxes and black-white twin-and-earth. Yes, black was the Old British Standard neutral, easy to remember, because they're the same as low voltage DC colors red+ black-. If I saw red+black T&E or red-red T&E in a square-per-gang form factor box, that would be UK sphere of influence. In fact I just saw red+black in heater wiring, with red jacket, now I'm starting to second guess myself!! Jan 26, 2020 at 3:33

1 Answer 1


It's not confusing at all. The work was done improperly.

That's plain. This was wired by a harpsichordist, not an electrician. Perhaps whoever did this other one, did yours too.

enter image description here
Let me play you the song of my people", says Bad Electrician.

The problems are probably repeated all over your house.

The answer is the whole house must be searched for similar defects, including inside the panel, and of it must be fixed before you can even consider using a smart switch. For one thing, this incorrect layout is dangerous and can kill you.

But the smart switches also care about "polarity" and will not play nice with this wiring scheme.

Correct colors are:

  • Ground: Green, yellow-green or bare
  • Neutral: White or gray
  • Hot: Black Brown Red Orange Yellow Pink Blue Purple, or white wires remarked with tape.

Switches must be on the hot leg, never the neutral leg.

Once that is fixed, hooking up a smart switch should be straightforward.

  • 1
    The colors depend on the system used in the country you live. The main land of europe uses Brown for live; Blue for Neutral. Black for any switched wire; Yellow-Green for ground. This means that brown is live as long as the breaker is on. Blue is 0 V in respect to ground. Black can have any status.
    – Decapod
    Jan 25, 2020 at 19:34
  • "Switches must be on the hot leg, never the neutral leg". What about when the source feeds the light first, then the light runs to a switch. Isn't this a typical scenario when the white coming off the light is marked "black" and runs back to the switch?
    – SteveSh
    Jan 25, 2020 at 19:36
  • yes, but in that case there would be white and black on the switch, not two whites.
    – Jasen
    Jan 25, 2020 at 20:38
  • @SteveSh thqt is an old pre-2011 Switch loop. In that setup, both wires are hot, and colors should be black-black, or black-red, etc.. However, if you're workong in cable, they probably don't make cables with only those colors, so you must put up with a cable with a white wire in it, and re-mark the white wire. Jan 25, 2020 at 21:46
  • 1
    @R.. right, configured correctly, a light socket has an easy-to-touch part that is always neutral and a hard-to-touch part that is hot only with switch on. OP has an easy-to-touch part that is always-hot and a hard-to-touch part that is neutral-with-switch-on. Worst possible combo. Jan 26, 2020 at 3:39

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