I stupidly removed 3 pigtails from an electrical box housing 3 switches, since I wanted to replace 2 of those switches with WiFi enabled ones. The switch on the left is a 3 way switch which I intend to leave alone. The other 2 switches I removed control a row of high hats each which switch on and off the rows independently.

The 2 inputs on the right have a load line on each, which I assume are for the 2 rows of high hats. When I gave up on it and was ready to call an electrician, I disconnected everything except the 3 way switch and capped off all the wires until he can get here. That's when I noticed that all the power in that room would not turn back on when I flipped the breaker back on. I had to combine the hot wires indicated where the yellow arrows are.

I'm very confused by all of this. Anyone have any ideas?

I have 2 WiFi switches which have a neutral, ground, Line and load wires which Id like to install. All the neutral wires are twisted together as well as the ground wires.

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1 Answer 1


First, this is a metal box. The ground wires need to attach to the metal box first. If you're learning off the Web, you see stuff where they get grouped and then pigtailed to the switches - that's on plastic boxes. On metal boxes, grounds go to the metal box. The switches pick up ground automagically via their mounting screws and their metal yoke (mounting flange).

If the switch has no metal yoke, then take a close look to confirm the switch is actually UL-Listed. (ETL and CSA also permitted). If all you see is "CE", "CCC", "FCC" or "ROHS", those are the typical fake markings placed on unsafe, cheaply made junk sold mail order. These don't have the numerous safety elements required to switch 120V safely, such as use of the proper (expensive) borated plastics so the thing doesn't "burn like plastic" and spew toxic smoke that impedes your escape.

As to your confusion, here's a rule in NEC. "No buried splices". Every cable must end in a junction box, and the junction box cover must be accessible. You may be expecting there is a hidden wiring trunk that distributes power. Actually no... power distribution is handled inside the existing switch and outlet boxes, via extra wires for that purpose. For instance most receptacle boxes have not only the needed black and white wire, but another pair carrying power onward to the next outlet. The same occurs in switch boxes.

You found the blacks already connected to each other (also with pigtails to the old switches). You removed the pigtails, which was fine; but you also stopped them from being connected to each other. That is what broke the downline circuit.

It looks like in your box, except for the 3-way switch, the wires conform to ideal colors: white for neutral, black for always-hot, and red for switched-hot to a lamp. Should be straighforward attaching those to a smart switch.

The 3-way wires will be different and weird. That's just a 3-way thing. Those wires should not interact with these wires (except for the ground wire, which again should go to the metal box).

  • But why does the hot from the wires next to the 3 way have to be connected to the hot from the wires on the right in order for the room to get power? I'm assuming the wires at the right is the wires for the row of high hats, so are the wires next to the 3 way supplying the power?
    – John M
    Feb 28, 2022 at 17:06
  • So I should I pigtail from hot from wires next to 3 way? In other words 3 pigtails from there with 2 going to the 2 switches and the 3rd into where?
    – John M
    Feb 28, 2022 at 17:20
  • @JohnM don't need to care, wires often do multiple jobs, so if a wire isn't involved in your job, don't change it. But yes, most likely one of the blacks was always-hot from the panel via one light, and the other black was always-hot onward to the second light and beyond to other points of use. It doesn't matter which is which. So the /3 cables are doing double-duty, both extending always-hot and neutral of the base circuit, and carrying switched-hot to lamps. Mar 1, 2022 at 3:21

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