An Oldie, but a Goodie..No Neutral!


(Zachary) #1

In my basement, there is a switch at the top of the stairs that controls on bulb.

The rest of the lights down there are controlled by a single toggle switch under the stairs which is a pain to turn on and off constantly.

It powers about 5-7 different lights, some halogen, some CFL, some LED. Upon opening the outlet box, of course no neutral(s).

I tried putting in an old GE z-wave dimmer which doesn’t require a neutral and it sorta kinda works? The lights turn on sometimes bit flicker and buzz.

No on-off toggles don’t require neutral. Any help??

(Zachary) #2

No way to automate all of these lights?


You said you have different types of lights in the basement. Are they also different design of lights or regular screw in light sockets with different types of bulbs in them?

(Zachary) #4

3 or 4 are screw in bulbs. The rest are the long tubed fluorescent lights. The wiring is also all over the place because its the basement.


Well my experience is a bit limited. Someone else may chime in here with additional recommendations.

I don’t know what you can do with the fluorescents there may be a device that could be wired in before the fixture that would allow you to control them.

As far as the regular bulbs go you could replace the actual bulbs with something like Cree Connected bulbs. They cost about $15 each and can be controlled as individual entities of as a group.

(Zachary) #6

Yea I do have a bunch of GE Link bulbs, can throw a few down there in those sockets. The issue is the fluorescent lights are on the same switch so I couldn’t turn the connected bulbs off through app because the fluorescents would still be on as the switch will remain on…


Yep, I see the problem. Wish I knew the solution. I’m sure there is one. I’ll keep watching this thread. I’m sure someone is going to give you something that will work.


I misread the first post and didn’t realize the tubes weren’t already on a dimmer. So ignore what I previously said, it doesn’t apply.

@Navat604 or one of the other electricians may have some suggestions.

(Ray) #9

Pretty sure these are not dimmable bulbs so using dimmer could be an issue for sure. Are the rest of the bulbs dimmable? Mixing different bulbs is bad enough but not dimmable bulbs is definitely not a good idea. Not really sure how easy access you have but it’s very doable if you know where the power source (Line hot, neutral) is at. You can then use in wall relay module or run an extra wire to the switch from that power source (Line hot and neutral).

(Dale C) #10

So let me see if I got your situation correct… You only have two switches and they are not wired as 3-way. The one on the stairs controls one bulb only. That one is OK.

The one switch in the basement controls 5-7 mixture of lights. You are looking for help on this switch only?

I totally agree with @Navat604 on the basement lights to just use the in-wall switch (Enerwave or Monoprice) mounted at the incoming power fixture box and rewire the wall switch to signal the in-wall switch to manually control lights. Running a neutral to the wall switch isn’t worth it for you since you are only doing On-Off. I would use your existing GE Dimmer at the top of stairs (and replace that light with incandescent) Then in ST you could easily control both switches and even have them operate as a virtual 3-way. That is how I do it in my system.

(Morgan) #11

I’ve used this switch

on a few switches where i didn’t have a neutral and it has worked very well, but you can’t use CFL or LED bulbs, you have to use old bulbs for this to work.


Majority of your fluorescent bulbs cannot be dimmed( and very few of the dimmable CFLs actually dim well). Your best bet is a switch vs a dimmer. The switch should work with no problem. The only gotcha may be most switches need a neutral.

(Zachary) #13

That’s pretty much correct. The top switch controls a couple of bulbs on the stairs just below, the other switch down there controls all the assorted bulbs and only has 2 worries going to a simple toggle.

There must be like 5 or 6 different neutrals with all the assorted lights so how could I put an in wall switch?

(Zachary) #14

I am 100% fine with a switch, the only reason I put the dimmer is because it was sitting around and DOESN’T require a neutral. I don’t even know how I would run a neutral there for a switch with so many lights.

(Dale C) #15

Don’t worry about the multiple neutrals for each of the lights. Electrically they are all the same. It just would have helped if the neutral (with the incoming power line basically) had been fed to your wall switch box. No worries though, that is why the in-wall switch was designed.

The in-wall switch is located up in the lighting gang box that has the incoming power. So you need to determine where that romex is that would be coming from your breaker panel feeding those lights. It will be in one of those several lights. Take them down one at a time till you find it. Do you have a voltage detector or meter to test with?

This in-wall switch is NOT going to be a dimmer but On-Off switch which is the way your current wall switch is operating. I would suggest the Enerwave ZWN-RSM1S, Monoprice Z-Wave In-Wall On/Off Module, or Aeon Labs DSC26103

Here is an example of a standard GE Smart Fan Control alongside the Aeon in-wall style light switch that I mounted in my ceiling fan canopy.

Where do I connect the In-Wall Relay Module Switch?

They have to all be on the same circuit, or the single existing switch couldn’t control them.

There still seems to be some confusion. The existing switches are just on an on off switch, correct? No dimmer.

I’m also still confused because your first post mentioned CFL’s, but then a later post mentioned old fluorescent tubes. CFL’s are the newer generation of fluorescents, and although they are made in long tubes, that’s pretty unusual. The whole point is that they are “compact” fluorescents intended to replace incandescent bulbs, not intended to replace existing fluorescent tubes.

There are CFL’s which are dimmable. But not the old-style long tubes.

So you said you had put in a new Z wave dimmer switch. were you trying to get dimmer control of any of the lights in the basement? Or did you just get that particular switch because it was on sale or available locally?

Sometimes the dimmers are easier to find then the on/off zwave switches.

Anyway, let’s just back everything up for minute and nail down the use case.

As I understand it, none of your existing lights downstairs are dimmable. Is your goal to have them be dimmable? Or just to network them with an on/off switch?

And are the fluorescents CFLs which screw into the same base as an incandescent bulb? Or are they tubes which fit into a ballast?

(Zachary) #17

THere are 2 toggle on off old switches, one at top of stairs which is fine, the other downstairs which is annoying because if I forget to turn it off, I have to go down and do it. It is also inconveniently located to turn on or off.

I had a GE z-wave no-neutral dimmer laying around, so I tried hooking it up to the downstairs box which just has a black (hot) and white (load) wire. It sorta works, but the lights come on and sometimes go to full brightness, other times certain ones switch back off (the fluorescent long tubes). They also flicker and buzz on that GE no-neutral z-wave dimmer.

There are 3-4 screw in bulbs, which I can put whatever I want but are currently CFL and LED, AND there are 2 big long fluorescent tube lights like you see in an office building that are on that downstairs switch.

Sorry for any confusion

(Zachary) #18

I traced the wire coming from the switch box (it’s a basement so all wires run on unfinished ceiling so easily accessible) and it goes to another box on the ceiling with a ton of wires including 4-5 white ones all tied together…

(Dale C) #19

GREAT! You have lots of options then. Go with the in-wall style if you don’t want to mess with running the neutral or because everything is exposed you could easily run the neutral down to the wall switch like @Navat604 suggested and install a standard wall switch (not that GE Dimmer)

Take pictures and post what you have.

(Zachary) #20

So that big bundle of white wires all tied together, if I just wire that to the neutral on a z-wave switch, will work?