When we moved into our house 4 years ago that was built back in 1960 we had the programmable light switch that controls the front porch light replaced by an electrician that was doing some other work on the house since it wasn't working. Well 4 years later this one isn't working so I thought I would replace it with a new one.

I went to home depot and they asked what kind of wiring we had and I told him just black and white wires. He stated that the new programmable switches they carried wouldn't work with our wiring since there was no neutral wire in there. They said I would have to try and find an older version of the programmable switches to work. They said the new switches that have a green wire that need to be connected to a neutral wire and that since we only have black and white wires there is no neutral. I just wanted to see if anyone new if in fact what the home depot person said is correct and that we don't have neutral wires in this switch box. If so is there a way to hook up a new programmable switch or do I need to find an older one. Thanks for any help you can provide me with!

Ok here is some added info, I was looking at using the Defiant Model 49814 switch, here is pic I grabbed on the web of the wiring of the back of the unit enter image description here

I have included a picture of our wiring. There are 2 switches the one on the left (top of pic) is the programmable switch and the one on the right is a switch with a dimmer. enter image description here

  • 1
    Methinks you're confused. White is neutral. The green pigtail is probably a ground connection.
    – isherwood
    Apr 7, 2016 at 18:15
  • ha ha I am confused ;) that's why I need help.
    – Mtaylor
    Apr 7, 2016 at 18:52
  • I can't see the top/left switch but it appears you have the line and load connected...which means the light will always be on. Aside from that, it looks like you have a neutral to work with so you should be fine.
    – dotjoe
    Apr 7, 2016 at 19:08
  • Here's a good answer to a similar quesiton: diy.stackexchange.com/a/21327/35141
    – isherwood
    Apr 7, 2016 at 19:10
  • There's a thin, bare wire in the back of your box - is that your ground? (It looks like it has some paint on it, but is otherwise bare / uninsulated). If so, then you're good to go: bare is ground, white is neutral, black is hot (as Ed Beal points out, you have to figure out which black one is load and which is line, but that's easily accomplished with a meter). Apr 7, 2016 at 22:47

1 Answer 1


Green in house wiring is always ground, White is neutral. Hot is usually black or red but can be many other colors. The green wire goes to the bare copper ground. The white goes to white the neutral. Now the question is what black wire is hot, The black that is connected to both switches is the line side or hot leg. The switched leg is the black on the other side of your switch in the photo. This black wire going to the load will be connected to your blue. make sure to turn off the breaker while working on this.

  • Thoughts on the unused ground tail? Is safety more of a concern here than with a conventional switch?
    – isherwood
    Apr 7, 2016 at 19:18
  • Ok so what happens is there is no copper ground? I didn't see one when I took this pic but when I get home I will turn the power off to this box and poke around some more.
    – Mtaylor
    Apr 7, 2016 at 19:21
  • 1
    It looks to me as though you have a metal box, and all of your bare ground wires are attached to it with a screw. That's where you should be connecting the green wire from your new switch.
    – brhans
    Apr 7, 2016 at 19:26
  • 1
    It looked like there was a crimp connected ground at the back of the box. this was required years ago. Now wire nuts are legal.
    – Ed Beal
    Apr 8, 2016 at 15:59

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