Use ground as neutral on a switch

We have a half a dozen X-10 type wall switches controlling CF bulbs. CF bulbs require special X-10 type switches that need both a hot and a neutral input. In all but one case the switch box has the neutral wire, but in one case it does not. That switch controls a track light system with five lights. Currently, I have a regular X-10 switch in that box and use one or two incandescent bulbs out of the five and it works fine. Still I would like to run all five bulbs as CF, so I need the special switch. The switch box is grounded (BX cable) but has not neutral. In this special case that requires very little current for very short periods, can I safely connect the neutral terminal on a switch to the ground? As an analogy, lighted switches use the ground as the "return" circuit, but the current demand, while longer term is very low.
--
Peace,
BobJ




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You sound like you know it is not code/legal, but you want someone to give you permission to do it.
There are many short-cuts that non-professional electricians can take to save money, materials, make something work when they don't have the right part, or it involves extra work.
It's similar to putting a switch in the neutral of a light circuit. Sure, it will work for you, but when the next homeowner or electrican comes to change the light fixture, they may assume that the wiring is legal and code compliant. Thus they get zapped and or fall off a ladder.
Beachcomber
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snipped-for-privacy@notreal.none (Beachcomber) wrote in

Or home inspector if you ever sell...and you are in a time crunch to close...and the only way to get it done on time is to hire an electrician... and pay the labor on top of materials, etc, etc.

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Marilyn & Bob wrote:

A very bad idea! Not legal and not electrically safe. I'm thinking this switch is on the far side of a light switch, so the black comes to the switch and the white is used as a black to go back to the light fixture. If so, you need to pull a 3-conductor line to provide the neutral.
Don't even THINK about using the ground as a current-carrier.
W. Underhill
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It is true it is not code and not recommended to use the ground as a neutral in order to allow the electronics in an X-10 switch to operate. While the code does not allow such uses of the ground in a switch, it conveniently allows the ground to be used as a neutral in older wiring of clothes dryers, where one touches the metal chassis and handles wet clothes next to a washer full of water. A serious contradiction in safety and usage of the ground wire.
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Wrong!. Lighted switches DO NOT use the grounding conductor as the return path. Some use the neutral and others get a tiny current flow through the load just like some of the X-10 switches. Unfortunately the standard X-10 switches cannot complete the circuit through the compact fluorescents hence the need for a neutral.
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Since when do CF bulbs require some newfangled special switch? I've got dozens of them on standard switches.
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Steve Barker







"Marilyn & Bob" < snipped-for-privacy@nospam.please> wrote in message
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But X-10 switches need to have a relay to control CF bulbs. X-10 is a remote control system.

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I'm aware of that, but that's not the way the OP was worded.
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Steve Barker







"EXT" < snipped-for-privacy@reply.in.this.group> wrote in message
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Marilyn & Bob wrote:

The sign on my office wall reads, "There is no right way to do the wrong thing."
It is NOT code compliant to use the ground for a return on lighted switches, even though some hacks do so. If the circuit had a GFCI breaker feeding it, that breaker might even trip on the switch bulb current flowing to ground, but maybe not, depending on how bright a pilot lamp the switch uses.
Jeff
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There are people at comp.home.automation that would probably know the actual purpose of the neutral connection requirement for X10 switches. You might want to try this question there.
Bob
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Thank you. That what I'll do. It was from c.h.a that I learned the trick of using one incandescent in parallel with the four CF bulbs to allow me to use a standard (no neutral required) X-10 switch. While most people here recommended against it, no one explained how it is different from the use of a ground as part of the power circuit for the lamp in a lighted switch which does not even have a neutral terminal. I trust that someone in c.h.a will know if this is a good analogy or not.
--
Peace,
BobJ



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The ground is NOT to be used as a current carrying conductor. You should NOT be using the ground for your lighted switches. I explained in my previous response how a lighted switch works. By connecting to the ground you are putting current on your entire grounding system including your copper plumbing. So while you are standing in a shower those faucets that you turn the water on with could be live.
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First, I don't believe you that lighted switches use ground as the neutral return for the pilot light. All of the lighted switches I've seen do not have a neutral connection at all, and the internal pilot light is simply wired in parallel with the switch contacts. When the switch is open, the pilot lamp is in series with the load. The lamp current is so low that effectively full line voltage appears across the pilot lamp with nothing across the load.
Regular X10 switches almost certainly use the same trick of using the controlled lamp as a "neutral" when they are in off mode. This may not work with a CFL lamp, since it may have a high impedance instead of a low impedance with only a few volts applied. The special X10 switch has a real neutral connection so it doesn't need to rely on current flow through the load. And it probably puts current into the neutral *continuously*, not just "for very short periods".
Can you just arrange to have *one* incandescent lamp controlled by this switch, in addition to the CFLs? Even a very low-wattage incandescent should provide enough load for a normal two-wire switch to work.
    Dave
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On Thu, 19 Jul 2007 19:43:33 +0000 (UTC), snipped-for-privacy@cs.ubc.ca (Dave Martindale) wrote:

X10 also has a "feature" that can be really annoying with some loads (including some fluorescents), where the load causes the switch to turn itself back on a few seconds after you turn it off. This can also be corrected by adding a small incandescent light to the load.

Have you seen any 120V incandescents smaller than 5W? You can use small (C7) holiday lights in night light fixtures and they use 5W. A string of those lights will cost a lot less than an equivalent number of "night light" bulbs.

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Mark Lloyd
http://notstupid.laughingsquid.com
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Or, the switch can be modified to disable the "remote-on" feature. There are web sites showing how to mod them.
Bob
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