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Old 03-28-2011, 03:54 PM   #1
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Light switch only has 1 white and 1 black wire?


Hi,

I have an older house and have 1 light switch in one of the rooms and the current light switch itself only has 2 wires, 1 white and 1 black and the actual switch itself only has 2 screws (1 on each side).

The new one that I have purchased has 3 screws, 1 green on left and then 2 on the right side - I have tried to search for an answer with no luck as I do not want to even try to guess or trial and error process. Any suggestions on this, last one in house to swap and figures last one trying to do.

Any help or suggestions would be greatly appreciated, Thanks

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Old 03-28-2011, 04:03 PM   #2
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Light switch only has 1 white and 1 black wire?


The green screw is for a ground connection if you have it. It can be a bare copper wire, a green wire, a metallic conduit or the metallic sheath of a cable. If you do not have a ground in the switch box, leave the green screw vacant.

Connect the black and white wires to the other screws. It does not matter which is which. Turn the power off to the circuit before you do anything.

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Old 03-28-2011, 04:06 PM   #3
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Light switch only has 1 white and 1 black wire?


You have house that has wiring that has no ground wire. The black is your power and the white is your neutral. The green screw on the switch is it to ground the switch. Your switch is opening and closing the circuit to allow power to your light. You should actually be connecting two black wires to the switch. The correct configuration should be Black(power in) to switch, Black(power to light) to other side of switch. The whites(neutrals) should be connected together.

Unfortunately the way you explained thing leads me to believe that the above is not what you are dealing with. Just replace the the two wires you took off the old switch and put them on the new switch. Forget about the green screw.

Reply before trying anything out, understand and be careful, please.
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Old 03-28-2011, 04:09 PM   #4
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Light switch only has 1 white and 1 black wire?


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Originally Posted by rjniles View Post
The green screw is for a ground connection if you have it. It can be a bare copper wire, a green wire, a metallic conduit or the metallic sheath of a cable. If you do not have a ground in the switch box, leave the green screw vacant.

Connect the black and white wires to the other screws. It does not matter which is which. Turn the power off to the circuit before you do anything.
Yes it does matter, when you go to the light you will have a white wire feeding power, this is dangerous.

Also it matter because on a switch up is on and down is off.
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Old 03-28-2011, 04:12 PM   #5
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Light switch only has 1 white and 1 black wire?


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Originally Posted by screwy View Post
Yes it does matter, when you go to the light you will have a white wire feeding power, this is dangerous.

Also it matter because on a switch up is on and down is off.
It is a switch loop. The white wire is NOT a neutral.
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Old 03-28-2011, 04:14 PM   #6
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Light switch only has 1 white and 1 black wire?


Follow post #2 and you will be fine.
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Old 03-28-2011, 04:17 PM   #7
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Light switch only has 1 white and 1 black wire?


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Originally Posted by screwy View Post
Yes it does matter, when you go to the light you will have a white wire feeding power, this is dangerous.

Also it matter because on a switch up is on and down is off.

Where did you get your wild ideas? He has a switch loop and has no bearing which wire is connected to the switch terminals. There white wire is the one that is hot (or should be) and should be marked black with tape or other means to identify it as a hot lead.

You statement about up and down makes no sense other than the switch should be installed in the box with the on side up.
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Old 03-28-2011, 04:36 PM   #8
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Light switch only has 1 white and 1 black wire?


Quote:
Originally Posted by screwy View Post
You have house that has wiring that has no ground wire. The black is your power and the white is your neutral. The green screw on the switch is it to ground the switch. Your switch is opening and closing the circuit to allow power to your light. You should actually be connecting two black wires to the switch. The correct configuration should be Black(power in) to switch, Black(power to light) to other side of switch. The whites(neutrals) should be connected together.

.................

Yes it does matter, when you go to the light you will have a white wire feeding power, this is dangerous.

Also it matter because on a switch up is on and down is off.
What is your professional are of expertise?
From reading these replies it is obviously not electrical.
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Old 03-28-2011, 04:40 PM   #9
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Light switch only has 1 white and 1 black wire?


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Originally Posted by rjniles View Post
Where did you get your wild ideas? He has a switch loop and has no bearing which wire is connected to the switch terminals. There white wire is the one that is hot (or should be) and should be marked black with tape or other means to identify it as a hot lead.

You statement about up and down makes no sense other than the switch should be installed in the box with the on side up.
I agree! Hopefully "screwy" is not an electrician! a switch just opens and closes the circuit. it doesn’t matter which is which....WOW. Also "Screwy" said that you should be connecting two black wires... that is also not necessarily a required scenario so disregard that comment as well.

One thing i might add is:

You mentioned that this is the last switch in the house. Have the others had a ground wire (plain copper or green)? If so you may want to look a little closer and see if there is a ground within the wiring going to the light that maybe someone cut off since there wasn’t a screw for it, if so, you will want to somehow get that connected to the green screw on the switch.
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Old 03-28-2011, 05:40 PM   #10
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Light switch only has 1 white and 1 black wire?


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Unfortunately the way you explained thing leads me to believe that the above is not what you are dealing with. Just replace the the two wires you took off the old switch and put them on the new switch. Forget about the green screw..
When there is just one white wire and just one black wire (altogether) both are to be treated as hot. To be absolutely correct, the white wire in this situation should be the wire that is always hot and the black wire goes to the light and is made hot when the light is turned on (using the switch you are installing this very moment) but once in awhile you find the wires reversed.
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Old 03-28-2011, 06:24 PM   #11
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Light switch only has 1 white and 1 black wire?


Thanks for all the input, for the most part the house was not grounded. As a matter of fact when first moved in I had the house inspected and there were only 3 outlets in the house that were grounded. The electrician has the house grounded now throughout but at first, most was not grounded at all.

Quote:
Have the others had a ground wire (plain copper or green)?
Yes, there has been no consistency here and that is not only regarding the electical but that's another issue here and there.



Ok, here is what done following Step #2
-Connected the white wire to the top screw on left and the black to the bottom screw and then left the green untouched and all is back to normal and working.

Really appreciate replies and the site itself for being avail as has helped with some other questions as well in other areas.

Thanks again all.
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Old 08-18-2011, 04:53 PM   #12
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Light switch only has 1 white and 1 black wire?


Well after reading all those replies about some people not knowing this or that I was hoping to get to the solution to the problem first stated.....I too have an old house with just the black and white wire in the bathroom switch that controls the light fixture above the medicine cabinet on the other side of the room......so the switch was bad and I needed to know if the black coated cooper wire or the white coated cooper wire goes on the top screw or bottom screw of the new switch that has the two screws on one side as opposed to the old switch that had one on each side....I do believe this is what the original question was......so.........the answer is the top screw should have the white coated wire and the bottom the black......thank you for your info too bad I had to go through all that other back talking before getting to your solution.
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Old 08-18-2011, 04:58 PM   #13
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Light switch only has 1 white and 1 black wire?


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Originally Posted by lemonhead View Post
Well after reading all those replies about some people not knowing this or that I was hoping to get to the solution to the problem first stated.....I too have an old house with just the black and white wire in the bathroom switch that controls the light fixture above the medicine cabinet on the other side of the room......so the switch was bad and I needed to know if the black coated cooper wire or the white coated cooper wire goes on the top screw or bottom screw of the new switch that has the two screws on one side as opposed to the old switch that had one on each side....I do believe this is what the original question was......so.........the answer is the top screw should have the white coated wire and the bottom the black......thank you for your info too bad I had to go through all that other back talking before getting to your solution.
It does not matter which wire goes on which terminal, as long as the white wire is remarked as a hot and feeds the switch.

Assuming you know the grounding/green terminal is different.
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Old 08-18-2011, 05:06 PM   #14
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Light switch only has 1 white and 1 black wire?


doesn;t matter which screw takes which wire
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Old 08-18-2011, 07:19 PM   #15
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Light switch only has 1 white and 1 black wire?


Just to confuse the situation a bit more.....there are two basic ways to wire a light.

1. Run 14-2 from the load center to the light....then run another section of 14-2 from the light to the light switch. At the light, the neutrals get connected and the hot goes down to the light switch. I have always been told to connect black to black at the light...that way the black at the switch is assumed to be hot. The white then gets connectd to the hot side of the light.

2. Run 14-2 to the switch....then another leg up to the light. Neutrals get tied together...hot goes to the switch...black to the light is on the output of the switch....light gets wired to black and white.

I like method 1 because it allows you to install a ceiling fan and have power for the fan indepentant of the light switch. Method 2 turns off both the fan and light.

It really does not matter which gets connected to the light switch....hot or neutral....either one will shock your a$$ if the bulb is installed. If the light has the hot connected and the neutral is open....that neutral has an open circuit volatege of 120v.....

As a general practice, it's best to avoid switching neutrals....that is how people get hurt.

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