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Old 04-07-2011, 08:53 PM   #1
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what is this wire on my switch outlet box


I had to switch out an old dimmer switch for a new toggle switch. When I removed the dimmer the box behind it had 3 wires one black one white and one copper. The copper wire was not attached to the dimmer. The copper wire comes in from the back then goes back out the back and appears to come in again from a hole in the right side. It was just folded along side the box but was not attached. I think it is a ground wire but it was not hooked to anything. If I try to put the toggle in right side up the box is so tight that the copper wire would make contact with one of the screws for the hot wires. If I put the switch in upside down there is just enough wire to hook it to the green ground screw. Is it ok to do this? Is it better to leave the switch ungrounded? This is an old Victorian with some knob and tube wiring and some wiring updated in the 70's.
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Old 04-07-2011, 08:57 PM   #2
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what is this wire on my switch outlet box


A single-pole toggle switch doesn't have to be grounded. Don't let that bare copper ground wire touch anything in the box that might energize it.

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Old 04-07-2011, 09:11 PM   #3
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what is this wire on my switch outlet box


Let me ask you this why doesnt it need to be grounded???? What it it were in a 3 gang box with other devices? And it became energized and had a metal cover plate????? If it didnt need a ground screw than why would they put it on the switch????? They could save a lot of money not putting it there. Now if it were a self grounding I would agree. because it would than pick of the ground from the box when screwed in. I would splice a piece of ground wire onto the short piece and make my ground connection to the switch. Granted the switch will work without the ground but it is there for safety reasons. And if it did energize the breaker would trip granted it is all wired correctly.
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Old 04-07-2011, 10:44 PM   #4
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what is this wire on my switch outlet box


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A single-pole toggle switch doesn't have to be grounded. Don't let that bare copper ground wire touch anything in the box that might energize it.
Huh? If this is allowed by the NEC, please cite. I really didn't know this.
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Old 04-08-2011, 12:46 AM   #5
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what is this wire on my switch outlet box


because it doesnt exist.

switches have to be grounded....i believe the only exception is if there is no grounding means, then a replacement can be ungrounded but you must use plastic covers and plastic screws.

someone can expand more i'm sure.

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Huh? If this is allowed by the NEC, please cite. I really didn't know this.
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Old 04-08-2011, 05:44 AM   #6
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what is this wire on my switch outlet box


Okay okay okay calm down everybody, I meant single pole switches don't possess a third lug (usually a green one) for grounding. Or maybe they do! There's no telling where that uninsulated copper wire may go so don't let it touch on an energized lug when re-stuffing the box.

Jesus,,,
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Old 04-08-2011, 06:43 AM   #7
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what is this wire on my switch outlet box


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I meant single pole switches don't possess a third lug (usually a green one) for grounding. Or maybe they do!
They most certainly do!
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Old 04-08-2011, 07:28 AM   #8
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what is this wire on my switch outlet box


For a metal box the ground wire must be screwed onto or clipped onto the box, the latter requiring an approved clip sold separately.

The switch itself needs to be grounded. If there is no green screw then the ground wire (or an extra length aka pigtail) may be squashed between the mounting strip and the box with an approved clip in between. FOr a grounded metal box the bare pigtail may be omitted byt the clip is still needed.
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Old 04-08-2011, 10:58 AM   #9
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what is this wire on my switch outlet box


Thanks guys. It sounds like you all think this is the ground wire. I couldn't really imagine why else there would be a bare wire wrapped all over the place, but just wanted to double check. The pigtail idea is good. Right now I've got the switch in upside down as a stop gap until I can get to the store for ground wire.
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Old 04-08-2011, 10:18 PM   #10
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what is this wire on my switch outlet box


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Originally Posted by Reschia View Post
Thanks guys. It sounds like you all think this is the ground wire. I couldn't really imagine why else there would be a bare wire wrapped all over the place, but just wanted to double check. The pigtail idea is good. Right now I've got the switch in upside down as a stop gap until I can get to the store for ground wire.
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This is an old Victorian with some knob and tube wiring and some wiring updated in the 70's.
Are you sure the other end of this ground wire is connected in some way to the main panel ground bus?
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Old 04-09-2011, 02:13 PM   #11
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what is this wire on my switch outlet box


Quote:
Originally Posted by Bud Cline
I meant single pole switches don't possess a third lug (usually a green one) for grounding. Or maybe they do!
Quote:
They most certainly do!
YES THEY DO! My bad. The house I am working on right now has a lot of the switches in place so I went and looked at most of them and sure enough - they all had a provision for grounding although several were not grounded. I have been pulling-out switches for years to do back-splashes and never once noticed the damned things had a grounding lug. In fact, as I so wrongly stated earlier I was convinced they did not.

So...I stand corrected and I regret pounding my keyboard to relay incorrect information. I was anxious to get an answer for the OP as quickly as possible but in my hast I showed my ignorance. Sorry about that.

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