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I was replacing some toggle type light switches to rocker type and ran into something I thought was unusual. There were 3 switches boxes (2 boxes had 1 switch, and the other had 2 switches) I was replacing where in all scenarios, all of the ground wires indeed came through and into the box, but were just bundled together and not used. There was no individual pigtail coming off the bundled crimp with a ground to attach to the switches. One of the single pole switch boxes had a single ground (no bundle) that came through into the box and was tucked to the back of the box. That was the most confusing because how simple was it just to connect to the ground screw on the light switch. However the 2 other boxes had a bundle come through and just pushed to the back. The boxes are plastic and not metal so not a natural ground; the house was built in '88 so looked at that too.

Should those bundled ground wires in the back have an individual copper pigtail coming off to connect to each switch? Why would the original installer not use the ground wires, and do I need to get this fixed by an electrician or myself to run the ground bundle all the way to the new switch ground screws?

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In 1988 switches still didn't require ground screws. Safety protocols have ratcheted up since, and switches installed today do. Someone may have replaced that switch and not bothered to connect it, or it just wasn't used initially to save time.

If you like, add a pigtail. As Jim Stewart says, "Each switch must be grounded. This could be done with separate pigtails from the ground bundle, but if that is inconvenient then you could use a single pigtail which has a "U" loop around the ground screw of one switch and goes on to the second switch."

The risk is minimal without grounding, though, if the rest of the wiring was done to high quality.

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  • If I decide to add a pigtail with a ground wire, how do I do that in the box that has 2 switches please? Do I run 2 additional ground wires off the bundle (1 for each switch), or since the switches share the same lead wire that's split, do I only need to ground 1 of the switches? – atconway Jun 15 at 14:52
  • AFIK the only circumstance where a ground is absolutely required is when a designer metallic switch plate is used. So if you replace the original switch plate with a metal one then at that time connect the ground. If your switch does not have a ground connection, then I suppose you would have to replace the switch with one that does. Is there any approved way to ground a switch which does not have a ground screw? – Jim Stewart Jun 15 at 14:53
  • Lastly if I decide to do this, what's the best way remove that copper crimp connector so I can start fresh and add the pigtail? Or is there an easier way to do this with the existing bundle in place and add a pigtail? Thank you – atconway Jun 15 at 15:06
  • My understanding of the 2017 NEC 404.9(B) the only exception that would currently allow not grounding the switch if a ground is present is if the switch was a "listed" configuration that would not allow the installation of a metal cover. – NoSparksPlease Jun 15 at 15:44
  • As a quick follow-up please, is it possible that ground bundle isn't actually grounded behind the box somewhere if grounding was never originally required (like just goes box to box)? I would hope the bundle was ultimately grounded, but just curious after reading another post. BTW I ended up using a green wire nut connector with a pigtail coming out the end (after cutting of the old crimp) to ground my switch as suggested here. – atconway Jun 23 at 15:52

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