Wiring – Replace a motion-sensor/timer with simple single pole switch


I am trying to replace a motion-sensor that has a timer functionality to turn off the lights after 30 minutes. The motion sensor never worked when we moved into the house. I just want a simple single-pole switch.

I opened the box and see that the old timer-switch has three wires:
1. Red (Load)
2. Black (hot)
3. White (neutral)

I do have a green ground in the box that is open and not connected to anything.

The new switch has 3 screws – two brass and one green for ground.

What am I supposed to do? One of the brass will obviously be the black-hot wire. What happens to the red and white? Am I correct in assuming that neutral is not required for single-pole? That only red-load is connected to the brass screw? And that I don't connect the neutral coming from the wall?

old switch

new switch

Best Answer

Switches that do something more than just "switch", often require neutral - timers, sensors, smart switches, etc. Ordinary switches do not require neutral. You actually have the opposite of the usual problem - someone who needs neutral but doesn't have it because it was not always required to be available. So your problem is easy to fix!

  • Cap the neutral

This is the simplest solution. If you had only one neutral in the box then that would be the thing to do - cap it with a wire nut and a piece of electrical tape to keep it secure since wire nuts do not always hold well with a single wire.

  • Remove the neutral.

If your neutral, as is often the case and appears to be the case in your box, goes to a bunch of other neutrals on a wire nut, remove the neutral wire from the wire nut and replace the wire nut. Or better, put on a new, appropriately sized, wire nut, to hold all the other neutral wires together, as reusing old wire nuts is iffy at best.