I am looking to install an Eaton timer switch in place of a single pole switch connected to a bathroom fan. Checking the current decora switch I noticed that it only has two wires connected (hot and load). There is no neutral connector on the switch even though there is some white wire in the box. The ground connector is not used even though the back on box has a group of bare wires joined by a nut connector.

Would this be a mistake by whomever installed the switch or could be be a legit reason not to connect the ground?

My current plan is to connect the ground (green) wire from the timer switch to these group of bare wires. Also, the adjacent light switch also does not have the ground connection. I also want to connect these.

Now I am wondering if I should turn thins into a bigger project to go around the house hunting for unconnected ground wires on other outlets.

  • Or any of these?
    – isherwood
    Jan 31, 2022 at 21:53
  • 1
    Is the box metal? Switches pick up ground via their mounting screws. Feb 1, 2022 at 1:00
  • Seems like the "no neutral" part was missed. Are you using a spring-wound timer switch where you crank it by hand (with some wrist effort)? Or the version for Millennials with pushbuttons you just touch? Only the latter needs neutral (because it does the work for you). If you don't have neutral, just use a spring-wound version, which come in any max time period max you want - 5, 10, 15, 30, 1 hour etc. and let you pick any value between. They also come with or without "continuous hold" depending on if you want to allow that. Feb 1, 2022 at 22:22

1 Answer 1


Switches, and to a lesser extent receptacles (as in, needs to be marked as self-grounding where switches don't), can ground automatically from the metal yoke to the metal box. This only works if you (a) have metal boxes and (b) they are connected to ground properly.

If you see no ground wire connected to a switch, the box is metal, you have a good connection between the ground wire and the box (you can verify with a multimeter) and the switch yoke is has no paper or tape or paint blocking it from a good connection to the metal box then you are all set. If you see the same thing on the receptacle and the receptacle is a self-grounding reecptacle (may not be so easy to figure out, unfortunately) then you are also fine.

If, however, your switches and receptacles are in plastic boxes then that ground wire is necessary. It won't hurt to connect it in other circumstances, but is not always required.

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