Can I Use Ground Wire As Neutral for Smart Switch?

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Many people face problems connecting the neutral wire when wiring a smart switch. Smart switches require a neutral wire to be connected in order to keep an alive connection when the power is off, so you can control them wirelessly through the controller. Unfortunately, some people can’t find the neutral wire when trying to connect the smart switch.

This can happen for different reasons; one of the reasons is that they have a mechanical switch that doesn’t require a neutral wire, and most old houses don’t have neutral wires in their wiring. So, to solve this problem, some people think of connecting the ground wire instead of the neutral wire.

Can I Use Ground Wire As Neutral for Smart Switch?

You can use ground wire as neutral in smart switches, and it will work properly without any faults; however, you shouldn’t use the ground wire as neutral because it’s very dangerous. The ground wire is usually green-colored and connected to the switch’s metal case.

The main job of the ground wire is the protection in cases of short circuits; using the ground wire as the neutral will remove this protection mechanism. The ground will serve as a neutral wire and provide a return path for the current. This method works due to the electrical panel’s connection between the ground and neutral wires.

In normal cases, where neutral wires are found and working fine, the ground wire is used to disperse any unexpected power surges to a safe place like the earth. Therefore, the ground wire shouldn’t carry current except at fault conditions like water entering the equipment or damaged wires. Using the ground wire as neutral wire puts the life of unknowing users at risk.

When you connect the ground wire instead of the neutral wire, this will increase the risk when somebody touches the switch and doesn’t know there is no ground wire protection. If there is any fault in the circuit, this can lead to severe injuries and maybe death. Another problem that can arise from using ground wire as neutral wire is GFCI and RCD

The ground fault circuit interrupters or GFCI are connected to electric circuits to cut the power if any current is detected in the ground wire; the same goes for the residual current devices (RCD), where they trip at any time extra milliamperes drawn from the circuit. When you connect the ground wire as neutral wire, this will make the GFCI and RCD.

Another problem that could lead to multiple hazards is the connection of the ground wire; if the ground wire gets disconnected from the service panel, this will make anything that is grounded hot equipment. If someone touches this equipment, the chances of getting shocked will be very high, leading to severe injuries.

Why Can The Switch Be Missing Neutral Wire? 

If you have an old switch, you might not find the neutral wire as the wiring in older houses is simpler, where the mechanical switches need to be between the light and the hot wire. When you turn the switch on, the current will start to flow from the hot wire to the light and then through the neutral wire.

When you turn off the switch, there will be no current flowing through the circuit; a neutral switch is required in some countries like North America; you have to use a neutral wire in your switches if you are a North American resident. This is due to the recent popularity of smart switches, which require the presence of a neutral wire. 

Why Does Smart Switch Need a Neutral Wire?

The smart switch needs a neutral wire due to the need for continuous communication between it and the controller; the smart switch differs from a mechanical switch where it can be controlled wirelessly via a controller or through a button on the wall.

Therefore, the smart switch must have energy all the time in order to have an alive connection. If the neutral wire is missing from the smart switch, this will lead to cutting the power off the switch once you turn it off, so if you want to control the switch via the controller, you will not be able to control it. 

How To Avoid Using the Ground Wire As Neutral Wire?

Despite that, using the ground wire instead of neutral will work fine in the switch, but you should not use it due to the dangerous consequences of this connection. The ground wire should always be used for grounding and protection from power surges.

You can use other methods if you are missing neutral wire, for example: 

  • Adding a Neutral Wire

Adding a neutral wire can seem like the most logical solution; however, depending on the switch’s wiring, it can be very challenging. Adding the wire can be easy as removing the wire from behind the box or as challenging as connecting a wire from the lamp to the switch. First, you must check if you have a switch loop configuration. 

This configuration connects the neutral only to the fixture; you will also find that the whole set of wires passes through the switch box before coming out of the light. The neutral wire in this way of connection may be removed from the way to provide more space because a normal switch doesn’t need it.

Meanwhile, if you find that the wires pass through the light first and some of the wires go through the switch, you will need to do some changing in the wiring. It may seem easy to handle when you are rewiring a switch; however, it’s not the same when rewiring a light. If you don’t have enough experience, you should consult a professional. Because any small mistake can lead to electric shocks or fire hazards in the house, you must rewire the light properly.

  • Replace The Switch With Another That Doesn’t Need Neutral Wire

Some types of smart switches don’t need a neutral wire to keep the power running through them even when the power is turned off; these switches use special techniques and mechanisms. However, you should know that this switch uses the power of the circuit the lamp is connected to, which means they put extra load on the circuit.

This means that you have to consider the extra load that will be present on the circuit when using this type of switch. They are usually used for incandescent bulbs and can be used with some LED lights. However, when LED lights are used, the light can still be dimly illuminated due to the small amount of power drawn by the switch to keep an alive connection.

  • Use Smart Bulbs

Smart bulbs don’t replace the greatness of smart switches, where you can keep the same lamp you have been using and control it through the switch; however, in some cases, using smart switches can be easier than replacing the old switch with a smart one, some smart bulbs can even look like a normal light bulb.

Although the light emitted by these bulbs is not bright as the light emitted by incandescent lamps, they have a similar appearance; in addition, the smart light bulbs are power-saving like LEDs. The downside of using a smart light bulb is that when you turn them off through the switch, you will not be able to control them via the controller. 


To sum up, smart switches can be connected using the ground wire as the neutral, and they will work properly; however, it is not recommended, and you should not use this method if you can find the neutral wire. Because using the ground wire as the neutral wire will remove any protection mechanisms the ground wire provides. 

This way, you will put your and others’ safety in danger, as any power surges will not be dispersed to a safe location; instead, the power surge will stay in the equipment waiting for any human contact to disperse, which can lead to severe injuries and maybe death. Instead, you can look for other options to connect your smart switch, for example:

  • Adding a Neutral Wire
  • Replace The Switch With Another That Doesn’t Need Neutral Wire
  • Use Smart Bulbs

Related Readings:

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What Color Wires Can Go Together? Complete Guide

Can Two Circuits Share the Same Ground Wire? YES, But…

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