Do I need an Earth on a light switch?

31 Jan 2006
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United Kingdom

I just replaced a one way single light switch in an under-stairs cupboard as it was an old bakelite one.
The switch had fairly new twin and earth running to it and the outer sleaving removed where it entered the switch. The red wire was cut and connected to what I presume was the equivalent of Com and L1 in the old switch. (Nothing was marked.) The black wire and the earth were not cut at all. The outer sleaving then continues up from the switch to the pendant light. (Also A new one I have just done.)

I have replaced the old switch with a new plastic one and a surface mounted plastic back box. The new back box had no earth terminal in it so I left the earth wire uncut but covered it with green and yellow insulation tape.

I presume this is in order as the new switch and back-box are plastic, but thought I had better check with the experts.

Also, regarding replacing the old bakelite switches how urgent is it? They all work fine and I was just going to do it as and when, but if they are a danger I will take some time off work and get it done sooner. (After I have worked out what wires go where on the old two way switches anyhow.)

P.S. Both the ring main and the lighting circuit are relatively new cable, not the old rubber stuff. I did get a man round from Southern Electric to check the wiring was safe and apparently it is, but the list he left stated the bakelite fittings and old pendant lights needed to be replaced. Unfortunately I was not at home and the wife did not ask how urgent all this was. Both kitchen and bathroom have modern switches and sockets so I assume Part P is not an issue.

Many thanks

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You did right on the switch and if there had been a terminal in the patress it would have been prudent to have terminated it. good idea not to cut it if you can, as earth coninuity is better maintained by an intact cable.

I know there are some electricians who would argue that the 'old' bakelite switches must be replaced urgently but as long as they are not damaged and the insulation resistance is good they are still acceptable if a little out of place in a modern house. The wooden blocks they are mounted upon are not acceptable as they are flamable. Personally IMO the action on the old switches is far more positive.
Thanks Qedelec,

I've done all the three pin sockets, just a few light switches left to go now. (Although some are two way and the old switches have no markings on them to show whats what, so I shall be having an interesting time!"

Thanks again,

Just a quick note on the bakelite switches, if they are the ones which you can unscrew the fronts without the need of a tool I would say replace them sooner rather than later, especially if there are any children about.
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