I'm not particularly electrically inclined, but am giving a go to setting up a wired Nest Protect where an old smoke detector was installed. The device says to connect its white wire to the white (or grey) wire from the wall, but I don't seem to see one of those. Is it possible I don't have a neutral wire here? I read that in some cases brown may be the neutral, so I've got it hooked up that way at the moment, but am not getting the green light from the Protect.

The house was built in 1930 (in California) and still has a fair amount of old wiring.

TIA for any suggestions.

nest wiring

  • How was the original device wired? – Tester101 Oct 27 '15 at 2:40
  • @Tester101 if I was thinking I would've noted that. Unfortunately I pulled it out months ago and didn't take any notes. :( – turboladen Oct 28 '15 at 2:28

Which Nest Protect should I get?

Just check the smoke alarm you have now. If it connects to [line voltage] wires, you’ll want Nest Protect (Wired 120V). If it doesn’t, you should get Nest Protect (Battery).

Those colored wires in your ceiling look like 24 gauge thermostat wires, unsuitable for line voltage. I surmise your old smoke directors ran on 24 volts. You need the battery version or you'll have to pull some new wire.


The two brown wires look thicker though, more like 14awg. Do you get 120v across them? If you do, I'd assume the neutral is the one with a stripe.

The red, black, yellow and green wires should NOT be hooked to line voltage (and you shouldn't use them as 'interconnecting wires' if the detector is going to send 120v through them). Get the two brown wires separated from all the others and test them.

Utter guesswork that you'll need to confirm with the proper test equipment:

Black to solid brown. White to brown w/ stripe.

  • Thanks for the quick response! I do have test equipment but have to wait until the family is away (bad breaker labeling from the previous owner, so I kill everything). – turboladen Oct 28 '15 at 2:30

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