I've got an older house (1958) and I want to control my outside light with a smart switch on a dusk to dawn schedule. Light sensor bulbs are not working properly in our outdoor housing. That light switch is in a 2 gang box with the other switch being a 3 pole light in the foyer. There appears to be 5 black wires in play here and I'm not understanding the setup. The switch on the right is the one for the outside bulb and will be the one that I want to replace with a smart switch. I have no plan to change the other to a smart switch, but I'll replace with just a paddle switch while I'm in there for appearance sake. Planning on using a GE Cync On/Off Paddle smart switch that does not require a neutral wire. I'm planning on tying the ground into the bare copper. Does it seem like this can be done with this setup. Thanks in advance for any help. enter image description here

  • Have you given the light sensors 24 hours to "settle in"? They come with default lux settings for day/night, but they may need 24 hours to learn what day/night lux is at the sensor. I found that out when my light sensor(in a heavily shaded location) immediately failed "hard on", but then I said "hell with it" and came back 3 days later and it was working perfectly. Note that cutting power to the sensor may wipe its memory and make it start over. Feb 22, 2023 at 23:16

1 Answer 1


First of all, if "light sensor bulb" means "light bulb with an integral sensor", I'm not surprised they don't work very well. I would expect a light fixture to have a higher quality and better placed (possibly even adjustable location) sensor. That fixture could either have an integral LED driver/light or have E26 or similar socket for a light bulb.

But assuming that "smart switch" is the solution rather than "new fixture":

  • Consider a switch that uses neutral. You have a neutral bundle in the back of the box, use it. The problem with switches that don't use neutral is they either piggyback on ground (OK if done legitimately, as shown by UL or ETL listing), but not ideal in my opinion (especially if you have GFCI on the circuit for some other reason, as generally GFCI is not needed on lighting circuits), or they leak some current through the light even when "off", which is often a problem with LED lighting. A switch that requires neutral should avoid these problems as it gets power the way the electrical system is designed to provide power - hot and neutral.
  • The existing switch has power in (a.k.a., "hot" or "line") that also feeds other stuff - that's the loop around the left screw. And it has switched hot (a.k.a., "load") - that's the loop around the right screw. Some smart switches automatically figure it out and provide two connections for "line or load" and some specify "line here, load there" - so you should be fine either way. Assuming the "loop" is actually a loop and not two separate wires, I would tape over it well with black electrical tape and instead use the end that is in the wire nut (the other wire will also need to be connected to power something else, likely the 3-way light).
  • "tape over it well" are you suggesting that the gap in insulation be "fixed" by covering it with tape? I didn't think that met code. (Don't have any reference, just my vague understanding.) Otherwise, +1
    – FreeMan
    Feb 23, 2023 at 15:18
  • @FreeMan Can I say 100% for sure? No. But in this situation the options (if I am correct about the wire "loop") are: Continue using it as is (I don't like that), chop it at the currently bare section (leaves wire relatively short) or tape over the bare section. You decide. Feb 23, 2023 at 15:20
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    If cut off, it's no shorter than the one next to it, I'd go with that, personally, but I'm no licensed electrician. I'd cut it & wire nut it to a pigtail to attach to the new switch. More likely, though, the new switch will come with leads that could be bundled in with this cut wire and the one it's nutted to.
    – FreeMan
    Feb 23, 2023 at 15:22

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