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Trying to replace this switch with a ge leave switch

I've been steadily replacing switches in my house with zwave ones. The other day I opened this guy up and found a red wire wired to the top of the switch, a black wire at the bottom and another black wire wrapped around the bottom screw. I am pretty sure this is not a three way switch but it is sitting in a room with a ceiling fan and the fan does not have a switch of its own. Just a remote. So I suspect this red wire has something to do with the fan.

Now of course I could just wire the wave switch the same way with the addition of a neutral wire (the ge wave switch requires it) but I'd like to better understand what's going on here. I'm pretty new at switches so does anyone have any idea what's going on here?

  • A picture showing the other wires in the box might provide more info. – user2448131 May 21 '16 at 22:14
  • It looks like one black wire goes to a screw, and the other black wire goes to a nearby wire socket. I'm guessing they're the same terminal on the switch. – Daniel Griscom May 21 '16 at 23:52
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    @DanielGriscom i concur. The two blacks are permanently tied to each other inside the switch. That trick of using the backstab and also the screw is sloppy and possibly illegal. The switch is made to switch lamps, and is probably not listed to be a thru-way for what could be up to 15 amps of outlet load. The right way is a pigtail to a wire nut or terminal block. – Harper May 22 '16 at 1:37
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You have a 2-way switch. One of the black wires is probably the line and the other carries power to some other device on the circuit; they are connected together by one using the backstab connector and the other the screw. The red wire is probably the load (it's also possible the red is the line and you have two loads controlled by the switch).

  • This likely is the case. Is there a white wire (grounded conductor/neutral) running through the box to a downstream outlet? Connecting the black wires through the switch like that is sloppy and they should be pigtailed with a wire nut, with just one wire from the pigtail connected to the switch. – Craig May 23 '16 at 3:27
  • Thanks TomG and Craig. I suspected the wiring didn't look right. If I hear what you're saying correctly plugging one wire into the hole behind the screw and wrapping the other around the screw amounts to effectively tying them together. Would you recommend that I get a wire nut, put the two wires in there and then use a third small length of wire and plug that into the hole? That sounds like the right and safe thing to do. – Arunjeet Singh May 23 '16 at 23:57
  • On a related note, the ZWave switch I use also requires a neutral and all my switch boxes have the neutrals (white wires) tied together in a wire nut at the back. I've been adding a length of white wire to the neutral nut and then plugging that into the neutral in the switch because I understand that's the right way to do it. It sounds like the same strategy would work for the two black wires here. Comments? – Arunjeet Singh May 24 '16 at 0:00
  • Yes, that's called a pigtail, and it's what you should do both for the white and black. – TomG May 24 '16 at 10:26

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