So I got most of my light switches replaced with GE smart dimmers, but while most of them had neutral wires I found out a bit late that some switches (which happen to be 4 way) are missing the neutrals. Do I have any options for a dimmer that could be used in a 4 way setup without neutral other than the Lutron Caseta with Pico remotes? And if there are no good options, how much of a pain in the ass is it to get neutral wires where they are missing (in other words, how much can I expect to pay an electrician to do that)?
I’m going to assume that you are using US terminology for “four-way” Which would mean one fixture and 3 switch positions. (In the UK terminology, that would be a “3 way”)
If you are willing to use Halogen rather than LEDs, GE has a current zwave plus model which does not require a neutral. Model 14299
It uses the regular GE add on switches For the auxiliaries, so wiring is pretty simple. The auxiliaries communicate to the master with a physical traveler wire, so that will work even if your smartthings hub is down.
If you are willing to use a virtual set up for the auxiliary switches, then you can use one of the in wall micros that doesn’t require a neutral, such as the aeotec nano dimmer as the master, and that one will work with LEDs although it may require an additional bypass device if the load is under 20 W.
Then you can use the virtual connection for any auxiliary switch you like. Even a battery operated one. The Auxiliary will talk to the hub, the hub will talk to the Master. It will all work fine as long as the smartthings hub is operating.
Or, as you mentioned, you can use the lutron Caseta line.
(Cooper also makes an older no neutral model, the aspire 9534, which will work with halogen but not LED. IIRC it can handle three auxiliaries. But at this point most people prefer Z wave plus.)
So you do have some choices depending on exactly what you are looking for.
there appears to be a code update that may be temporary, that allows cheat method, “NEC 2017 code in 404.2( C ) where the ground conductor can extend to the neutral”
search “neutral code ground switch limit 5”
2020-LATE-EDIT: NOTE THIS REFERENCE was misinterpreted by me by confusing “Grounding conductor” (AKA THE GROUND WIRE) and “Grounded conductor” (AKA THE NEUTRAL) - so this does method does not workaround the missing neutral. In short, this is not the easy fix I was looking for - END OF EDIT.
It would seem to be somewhat less safe than a real neutral. I don’t see how it could be as safe unless the smart switch neutral was explicitly power-limited to some low current, only capable of driving its own smart guts.
You should still check with your local jurisdiction as not all of them simply adopt the NEC code as is. They often have their own changes and if they referenced an earlier version of the code without the update, the update may not pass inspection where you live. Particularly for things like this.
Yes the neutral is power limited if it is really UL listed. Not speaking about fake stuff. But the real stuff has been tested to limit the dangers.
Local jurisdiction usually adopts the latest NEC eventually. And if you are able to reference the new codes, they usually accept it. Inspections usually don’t happen unless it is a new install. And new installs, should have the neutral there. Inspections inside a switch for existing installs doesn’t really happen much. So in regards of inspections, there is such a slim change of “not passing” that this is really nothing to even worry about.
Also just use the lutron caesta switches and get 2 pico remotes… Basically the same as a 4 way setup. You can have up to 10 remotes … so really ou can have like a 5 way, 6,7,8,…
They can also occur in the event of a house fire or an injury caused by the electrical system. And if you have modified the wiring in a way that does not match local code, you may have voided your homeowners insurance. So I personally wouldn’t put this in the “nothing to even worry about” category.
You are correct. But building to the most current code has never voided any insurance. Building to older code has. Modifying to the latest code for this instance is not modifying it in a way that would cause an increase risk of a house fire or injury. Because the risk was already there to begin with. This is why the code is very very specific on how to do this and in what circumstances. Also in terms of Engineering, The electrical engineer on the job can follow the latest regardless of the latest being adopted yet or not. Because the latest code is considered the best practice. Anyways, this gets into very very specific legal talk. So for this instance, wiring to the latest code as long as it is all followed is nothing to worry about. Even in the industry, if there are doubts, follow the latest codes. If any further questions, have the electrician do it. Get a permit for it. And have an Engineer sign off. Then you are covered by the insurance of the electrician, and the electrical engineer, and the city. If approved by the plan check then you have no problems with insurance.
I would have to respectfully disagree. There are a number of townships in United States which have added their own requirements to code and you must follow their requirements if you live in their jurisdiction. Insurance almost always requires that you comply with local codes for the address being covered. Not the national code. There’s no loophole in that.
If the local Township requires that a swimming pool fence gate be painted bright orange and you don’t do that, you can’t claim that the national safety Code doesn’t have that requirement and get out of liability for a pool related accident.
The NEC is not necessarily the “best.“ Or even the “safest.“ It is the consensus of a specific group. Local townships can decide whether or not that works for their region. Local electricians have to know their local codes and homeowners doing DIY projects have to as well.
Submitted with respect.
As I said earlier I still agree with you. The probababilty is soooo small that I could care less.
You were indeed correct, I was using US terminology (I’m in Canada though). Don’t think I’ll want to switch to halogen. If I understand correctly, Lutron pico remotes are just battery operated switches, they’re not wired to anything, right? So I assume you basically just get rid of whatever other switches you have, just connect the wires together to get rid of the three/four way setup and stick a remote on the wall in its place?
Unrelated, I haven’t posted much here but I’ve done quite a lot of searching and read tons of stuff and the name JDRoberts comes up a lot. Thanks for putting in the time and being so helpful, it is very appreciated.
I am seeing a lot of confusion between “grounding“ and “grounded.“ Those are two completely different things.
The grounded connector wire is the same as a neutral. Exactly the same. So the code exception is saying, “yeah, we told you guys you all had to have a neutral at the switchbox but now we’re going to let you fish up one from someplace else on the circuit.” It’s still a neutral wire. It is not the ground wire.
A grounding wire is usually just called the ground, and it’s the one which is actually attached to earth and is a safety wire.
The neutral or grounded wire should be white. The grounding wire should be a bare wire or green or yellow. But not all houses follow the wiring conventions correctly, especially if they’re older.
Anyway, make sure you understand this difference. They are saying that if you have a smart switch we’re going to let you pull a neutral from someplace else. They are not saying you can use a ground wire instead of a neutral to make the smart switch work. The first one can be done safely. The second one cannot.
oooch I read it too fast!
It’s hardly any help at all then.
Thanks for clarifying.