UPB switches in metal boxes


This weekend one of my mini-projects was to replace two sets of three way switches (Insteon today) with 6 UPB switches. Two of these switches being the primary and 4 being the secondary virtual slaves. I have have both hot, neutral, ground and travelers in each of the virtual slave boxes.

A little history.

1 - I converted all of the HA switches to Insteon about 7 or so years ago.
2 - The metal boxes initially were double boxes with single covers on them.
3 - because I was painting each room I cut out the single metal mud plate cover and installed a double metal mud plate covers in many switches.
4 - I added many switches when I did this; such that now most of the double boxes (almost all of them) have two Insteon switches in them. A bit of a tight fit but not really an issue due to the thin metal front plate of the Insteon switch and the "shallowness" of the Insteon switch.

The concerns

1 - Yesterday decided to do two sets of 3-way lights.
2 - first box was easy in that it was a double box but only had one Insteon switch in it.
3 - The metal boxes are standard depth with at least one conduit going to it but mostly with 2-3 conduits in each box.
4 - The depth of the UPB switches are about 50% greater than the Insteon switches.
5 - The depth of the UPB switches caused me some grief during installation; such that I had to rearrange the position of the switch.
6 - Most of the switch boxes in my home have the conduit connected on the top with multple wires coming from it.
7 - One that I was working with had the conduit coming in from the side with 4 14 guage wires coming from it. Made it very difficult relating to placement of the switch. I had to swap the switch with the other switch in the box to get it to fit. (this became a WAF issue)
8 - Next issue was getting two switches to fit in one box. They didn't fit too well and the cover plate doesn't fit too well on the two switches.

Needless to say I stopped with the first set because of issues relating to installation of one switch with an existing Insteon switch in the same metal box; I fit them both in the box but the fit is very tight and I had to swap the position of the two switches for the fit as the Insteon switch was 1/2 in depth of the UPB switch. The one I had the least problems with was a 4 gang box with only two insteon switches in it.

I am now seeing that in order to fit more than one UPB switch in a box I may need to remove the metal mud plate (once again) and put a single mud plate in the box combining two switches to one. This will involved cutting the drywall on each of the switch boxes that I need to upgrade. This alone is kind of a major endeavor as I do have the original paint utilized but will make the conversion a very lengthy process.

To date all of the switches that I have converted over to UPB on the second floor were plug n play as they were mostly either paired with regular switches or single switches in double boxes with single metal mudplates. The last switch that I installed yesterday was one of two in a box. It was paired with an older Insteon switch. It fit but not easily. Looking at the wires in the metal box I will not be able to remove the Insteon switch the paired Insteon switch and replace it with a similiar UPB switch. It was a UPB slave switch being used in a virtual 3 way with main switch.

This endeavor has put a damper on my migration to UPB as to now the migration will involve some drywall work, new mudplates and combo switches (of which I haven't purchased yet - except for one).

One room / endeavor is the dining room. Two primary double cans each with four Insteon switches controling two loads in the room. I was hoping to be done with this room as the last endeavor was a custom wood floor (which in itself took over a week to install)

Any suggestions relating to continued use / installation of UPB would be welcome.

I have a mix of sorts relating to UPB; using HAI, SA and PCS. Yesterday's endeavor was to install two 1000 Watt PCS and 4 600 Watt SA's as virtual slaves. Configuring the switches were the easiest part of the endeavor.


Active Member
Sorry to say Pete but you're probably going to have to bite the bullet and cut out those boxes to replace with a deep box so you have room for not only the larger Automated switches but the wiring as well. I was able to use a sawsall and remove some fiber boxes I had, without destroying the drywall and replace with deep plastic old work boxes. The conduit does give you an additional challenge though.


Senior Member
The multi tools are great for cutting out boxes without damaging the drywall.
I used the $30 Harbor Freight one (gave it try, the price was right) for at least 8 of my retrofits.
I found it had more control than my reciprocating saw.


The electrical metal boxes are standard depth. I've seen the deeper boxes; not as common though in the big box hardware stores.

Most of them (probably all of them) have more than one conduit going to them. Its the conduit piece which would be most difficult to deal with.

Replacing the mud plates I was able to cut around the old mud plate just enough to be able to remove and replace it. That part is easy.

Think it might be a bit easier to use multi switch switches with new mud plates. It'll be a WAF issue relating to the combo switches though.

Thanks for comments guys.


I'm really surprised why the UPB mfg's never looked and modified the actual physical design of the switch.

Personally very ill concieved plug n play design; especially with the new/old competition that they have in todays HA for light switches world.

So if I were building a new home; I would have to specfically specify a box depth and methodology for just the use of UPB switches; not too new construction friendly; say being in the "shoes" of a contractor or even an electrical contractor working for a building contractor. Today in Florida with the plastic boxes and romex I would have to replace all the boxes to do UPB. I do have HA right now there and using X10 for the time being; working fine with the Leviton X10 switches in the plastic boxes.

I personally still tend to like the metal conduit to metal boxes way of doing electric versus just tacking wire between walls and using plastic boxes. (IL versus FL electric in a new house).

Guess I'm just getting cranky in my old age.


Active Member
I guess it's a matter of personal preference. I prefer the romex and plastic method. Much easier if you have to make changes after the fact. The metal boxes while not called shallow were thinner than the newer but still old fiber boxes and these days the plastic are still a little deeper yet, in general, even if they're not the real deep boxes. These days I see electricians uses deep boxes more and more with the advent of they having to put in other types of dimmers, fan switch's, timer switches, etc. All of those are larger than a standard paddle switch. I've used pretty much every automation protocol at this point and while yes UPB is physically larger so are most automation switches. As I understand it from manufactures it's to keep a little air flow around dimmers, especially where there is more than one dimmer in a box. If you have to put any of those 1500w dimmers in they alone take up a double gang box for just one to dissipate the heat.


I understand about personal preference. In FL the electrician used the deeper fiber boxes. He also ran 3 wire plus ground strap to each box. There is no room in these fiber boxes for a larger switch unless you remove the fiber box. I'm handy and can remove a fiber or metal box; redoing the wall if necessary. I've done it already in FL. The work in FL was not the box nor the electric so much as the work to make the wall the same as if I never did anything to the wall. I've been able to complete the MW house second floor UPB endeavor just fine except for 2 sets of 3-4 ways with no issues. The issues that I am seeing really only relate to multiple gang boxes with multiple (not single size multiple switches) HA switches.

I am going to continue with the UPB switch implementation and will make it work whatever it takes; but I am not a happy camper relating to the "not friendly" design of the three UPB MFG's switches (HAI, SA or PCS). I have over the last 6 years purchased $80-120 combo fan/lamp switches that work fine in the metal boxes I have next to the Insteon switches which were already replaced by UPB switches; fit was ok and a non issue.

If I were to budget a retrofit of UPB switches in any homes in the area less than 10 years old; it would be cost prohibitive due to the added electrical and wall work necessary for said retrofit.

Lets put a number on it; how much would you charge to upgrade one switch knowing you will need to rework the box, the wall and the wiring in said box?

There are (in my area in the MW) that are utilizing both romex and metal for electrical. New construction with work arounds for said switches relating to electric passing thru said fiber boxes or metal would be very custom and a percentage ding on the said purchaser of a new home.

I understand about the 1000-1500 watt sizes /heat etc. My endeavor yesterday and main switches were 1000-1500 watt UPB switches. They fit fine in the boxes; plenty of room; I had no issues. It was the virtual switches which do not have a load that I had problems fitting in boxes with smaller Insteon Switches. But that really isn't what I am complaining about.
Here's what I know that most might not be aware of:

Chicago and I'm sure some sections of IL have a mandate for conduit or AC/MC only being installed, no romex or plastic allowed. Stems back to an them keeping the work within the "trade" and non-pros out from doing electrical in the area. Many of the big box stores don't even carry NM cable in the area.

In this case, the best you're going to get, especially with conduit is an extra deep mudring, which you're probably going to have to get at a trade house, not a big box. You're still going to be limited as far as how you can move the pipe and 4" box within the wall.


Thank you DELInstallations

Conduit and metal boxes have always been easily available at all of the local big box HW stores in the area. Just recently the Electrical codes have changed though from being able to use romex to conduit only. I have been able to go to electrical houses in the area to purchase what I couldn't find at a big box store if needed.

I've tried the deeper mudrings and they do work kind of. They are sold at the local big box hardware stores here. Easiest with one conduit to box. I tapped the head off the one nail holding the box onto the 2X4 making the box movable and used a small drywall screw before installation of the mudring to tack it to the 2X4. It give me the addition depth of the deeper mudring which is for an easier fit.

The other issue though is more related to the mudring itself being made for smaller footprint switches. If you take two UPB switches side by side they to not fit in a double switch sized mudring. The UPB switches are too wide. I have a bench grinder and I'm going to try to modify the corners a bit on a double switch mudring such that the two UPB switches have more space. The space for the two switches on the mudplate is the same for every size I've purchased. I have played with the flat, shallow to deep mudrings one day purchasing every size double switch mudring on the shelves.
Just a thought, but have you tried using the plastic covers for a 4" square plastic on a metal box?

Also thought of something like this: http://www.arlcatalog.com/Fan_Specialty/Retrofit%204x4%202-Gang%20Box.htm We've used them in some retro's, but no conduit.


I've never seen a plastic mudplate for a metal box. I didn't know that you could use a plastic cover.

I utilize Arlington LV boxes around the home.
The Arlington boxes I linked are listed for both LV and HV.

Here's a quick look I did at Carlon:

It may not "match" but given the choice, might get you out of a bind in your retro.


Thanks DelInstallations; the right most mud ring in the picture left and right edges might be thin enough to accomodate the two switches.

I've been going kind of slow with the migration to UPB; procratinating a bit knowing some of the issues. Most if not all of the boxes initially were just 4X4 boxes with single mudplates on them. I added some more electric in a few places making them double; IE: next to front door coach lights added a second switch for the mailbox lighting, same in the kitchen for the "over the grill lighting". Mostly just bending pipe - easy part. In what I had done though left enough space to remove the mudplates hopefully without doing addition drywall work. Typically the conduit is on the top or bottom of the 4X4 box. Yesterday on two of the switches the conduit came in from the side and had to swap the switches left to right; to get them to fit (where as one wasn't an HA switch). I'm lucky that no shortcuts were done when the electrician wired the home; he included power even where there were only travelers in the boxes. I've used the combo plastic/small metal boxes for LV/HV for on the wall LCDs in the home; makes for a clean looking install using conduit for the electric.


Forgive me if I missed something, but (at least temporarily) couldn't you just use a double gang plate with only a single opening? It would allow you to get on with your UPB migration and not have a hole in the wall until you got around to drywall work.

Something like this:


I don't want to do that.

Its really just procrastination, getting rid of wall switch clutter and rethinking my approach.

The second floor double boxes with double mudplates have separate smaller switches for the overhead fans and lights plus automation for the main lighting in one box. Ideally a single automated switch which controlled fan, fan lights, main lights in one single switch would be optimal.

Right now I am not even thinking about this endeavor and leaving those switches/wall plates as they are. I have already converted maybe 6 older insteon switches to UPB switches on the main floor. In a way already started but stopped at the double and triple and quad wall plate set ups. These were all double box; single mud plate switches; easy and fast. One only though in the kitchen cuz the rest of the lighting in the kitchen is all either double or triple and multiway; which is an endeavor in itself.

The way I have cut the openings and put oversized wall plate switch covers; its easy to just shift back to a single opening (in the center mud plate). I also removed the nails that held the boxes in place replacing the nails with drywall screws. If I remove the drywall screw(s) I can actually push the metal box back a bit even with multiple conduits going to it.