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I called an electrician today to help me install some smart dimmers in my home. For one of the dimmers, he tied up the neutral and ground wires from the dimmer to the copper ground wire in the wall. Is this ok (see picture)?

dimmer_wiring

When he first opened the box, he noticed that there was no neutral wire and then used a voltmeter to see if he can use the copper wire to connect to the neutral. After he concluded it was fine, he connected it and then just capped the green wire off (not connected to anything). Then when I asked him about connecting the neutral to the copper ground, he said it was fine. He then explained something to me but there was a bit of a language barrier, plus I'm not familiar with electrical work. He then said there are incidences where it is also acceptable to wire the ground, neutral and copper together, so he did that. I also asked him if connecting the three was ok and then he said yes it is safe. I will also note that I was having a hard time connecting the smart dimmer to my phone when just the neutral and copper were together. Once he added in the ground to the two, it connected to my phone. Not sure if this is a coincidence or not?

  • What make and model is the smart-dimmer in question? Can you post a photo of the junction box that looks into the back of the box for that matter? – ThreePhaseEel Sep 17 '20 at 11:43
  • The white wire connected to the switched hot should be taped with black tape, assuming it's a switch loop. – JACK Sep 17 '20 at 12:44
  • See Harper's answer and read the instructions for your dimmer (which your electrician should have done). If you don't find a clear and explicit instruction telling you that it's ok to use ground instead of neutral, then you know that your electrician was more interested in getting paid than doing a safe & code-compliant job. – brhans Sep 17 '20 at 15:07
  • This is the dimmer I bought: amazon.com/gp/product/B07VP4PHJJ/… – Emma Sep 18 '20 at 0:26
  • @Emma -- are you attached to that specific smart dimmer for some reason? Can you get us a photo that looks squarely into the back of the junction box in question, also? – ThreePhaseEel Sep 18 '20 at 0:43
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If and only if the dimmer's instructions say so

Bootlegging neutral off ground is not allowed, no.

However, a small number of dimmers are made to do that. The instructions say to use ground for neutral if neutral is not available; otherwise they want you to use neutral. This method has been approved by UL, and they approved the instructions as part of that.

  • Although I agree that some use the ground for the return I have not seen one that tied the grounded to the grounding conductor. Unless specified by the instructions and that it has an approved listing that would be a code violation. The reason this type of device is available is for the cases where there is no neutral. I would see if the instructions state to tie the insulated green to the neutral conductor and would believe that before tying them together. – Ed Beal Sep 17 '20 at 18:23
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Straight from the linked Amazon page:

Neutral wire required;

That is all that matters. There may be other issues - the page talks about all kinds of certifications but not UL listing, though if it is properly ETL listed (as seems to be indicated), that should be equivalent.

But it is quite clear about the neutral. Not "neutral optional" or "neutral recommended" - "neutral required".

Your electrician was either trying to "get it done and get paid" or simply didn't read the directions.

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