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I’m not an electrician, but I sure have added LOTS of lights and switches in my home. I’m almost done remodeling my basement and have just noticed that I have been splicing into the white/neutral wire for my light switches, and I should have been using black/hot.

All my lights turn on and off just fine. Do I need to go back and switch those to black/hot? If so, why?

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This is a code violation. But there are real specific reasons (i.e., not just to have all switches look the same). A specific why this is bad:

With the neutral switched instead of hot, if you turn off the switch to change a light bulb, you still have a hot socket. Since ground is present (neutral is effectively ignored since that has been switched off), you could still have a complete circuit (e.g., if a bulb breaks) where normally you would not expect it. Actual maintenance work (beyond changing a light bulb) should be done with the breaker off, but most people would not bother just to change a light bulb.

And even if you remember this, the next owner might not know about this little "quirk". Which could be a shocking experience.

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  • Thank you to all who answered my question!! I will upvote all the answers and am very glad to know about my problem here. I will be going back and rewiring the incorrectly wired switches so I’m up to code. THANK YOU ALL!! – AmmonOfAllTrades Feb 1 at 23:18
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Some folks should read the site rules prior to down voting this is a really good question.

Yes your lights work but in switching the neutral you have created a hazardous condition where the light fixture is always live. Yes you stop current flow or turn off. Not only is this hazardous where you could get shocked with the circuit turned off it is a code violation with the NEC and several other regulatory commissions around the world. So yes you should go back and put the switch on the black or hot. There is an exception for switch loops but in this case the white wire is supposed to be remarked as hot and is the always hot conductor.

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    Yup. You can pay the piper now, or you can pay the piper after the buyer's home inspector finds it. The last one would be BAD because they'll presume all the work is bad, and they'll price a whole house re-wire into their offer. – Harper - Reinstate Monica Feb 1 at 1:35
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    Worse though is that a typical home inspector won't even notice this if all the switches are properly covered up. Leaving a dangerous situation unknown to the buyer until the first time they have a problem. – manassehkatz-Moving 2 Codidact Feb 1 at 2:45

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