Dimmers/Switches that don't need a common (neutral) wire? (2016)

LOL – I can’t even get my wife to answer her SmartPhone. Trying to get her to use Alexa to turn lights on would be science fiction.

(Although it was extremely interesting seeing what she had asked Alexa to do when we first got her – I went out of the house and when I went to the app and saw the things she thought Alexa might be capable of… well, let’s just say my wife still believes in Unicorns and having computer cook dinner for her :>).

  • minimotes glued to the switches.
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Also, sometimes (at least in our house) Alexa seems to be about as dumb as dumb can be.

Last night one of our cats knocked down something in the living room (we assumed) making a terrible noise. I said “Alexa, turn House on” (my house group is all my lights) and Alexa said “I don’t understand you” (I was speaking VERY clearly). A second attempt got about 1/3 of the lights on with a “Those devices don’t support that command” (ALL of my group are just switches). A third attempt FINALLY got most of the house lights on.

However, a few minutes later NOTHING I could do could turn them off (I eventually had to use my iPhone to do that). Alexa finally just said “Smartthings doesn’t work” or some such, which is surprising since my phone worked fine with it.

There are many times I think Echo just isn’t Ready For Prime Time yet. Some day, but not yet.

(Oh, and do I have to add that it would only take ONE time for this not to work that my wife would go to the switch. Her level of patience, on a scale of 1 to 100, is about a -5).

FWIW, I have had a number of problems with the Echo/SmartThings integration, but none with the direct Echo/Philips hue bridge or Echo/wink app integration.

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I am using a GE dimmer with no neutral in my master closet.

I’m using a disable led bulb in it. It works pretty good. I can not doin before 10 our above 80. It turns beyond either threshold. But I’m pretty sure 80 is at full bright anyway when compared to the same bulb elsewhere in the house.

The only reason I’m using it is because I’ve got around 6 of them. I’m using two. The others are in a box in the garage.

You interested? @Kelleytoons

I completely forgot the other popular option.

Even though there is no neutral at the light switch, there has to be a neutral on the circuit somewhere. Typically that is at the ceiling fitting.

You can use one of the in wall micro relays (there are a couple on The official compatibility list) and just put it in the circuit where there is a neutral. Then usually replace the wall switch with a nonnetworked momentary switch that controls the relay with pulses.

Search the forums for Aeotec micro and you will find lots of information. :sunglasses:

There are several different models, some with dimming, some not.


LOL – unless the electrician wants three or four hundred dollars most of these solutions are WAY too complicated for my purpose.

However, I got to testing with my Lightify bulb last night because I hadn’t been thinking right – I didn’t think that even if you turn off a networked bulb you can still turn it back on by just flipping the power switch on and off. That was my biggest concern if I replaced all the bulbs and left the switches alone – that I’d turn them off and my wife would go ballistic if she couldn’t turn them on again with a switch (I don’t need to turn this lights on automatically half as much as I need to turn them off).

SO… I need to do a cost effective comparison. I’d have to replace four lights, and if the cheapest solution I can find is $40 per bulb (and it would cost $60 for the switches) then all I really need to find out is how much an electrician would charge. If it’s appreciably over $100 (two or three times that) then replacing the bulbs makes a lot of sense (but if he can do it for, say, $150 then I’ll go with that route and do it right).

Thanks guys for all the input, though. Now I’m off to price bulbs (these are all recessed ceiling type kitchen lights – need BRIGHT, of course, but I’m not sure what the wattage is to begin with).

Just thought I’d cap this off with what I ended up doing.

Laid down for a nap (us old people need our naps) and suddenly realized how much of an idiot I am. You have to understand – I talked this problem over with a guy who built his own home (and did all his electrical wiring himself) and after coming over and looking at the situation he didn’t have any answers short of running a common wire from the ceiling down… But as I was dozing I suddenly realized there was a switch on the opposite side of the wall (a regular switch, not a three-way) that almost surely had a common wire in the box.

Sure enough it did, and I just used a jumper and ran it through to the other side in that box that was missing it and saved myself hundreds of dollars (perhaps) on an electrician. All is working fine now (the lights even dim and I was kind of worried I had non-dimmable LEDs in there).

It did throw me that my friend was clueless but I have to remember that his wiring experience was in the days WAY back before you needed commons for electronics in switches and such. That someone like myself (and I do NOT think of myself as a home improvement kind of guy) can solve these issues is very interesting.


Glad you figured it out, I was going to mention that you can usually also cheat by running a single common wire (or jumper as you called it) from an outlet that is near the switch as well, it is typically easier to do than trying to run one from a ceiling down to a switch.

Yeah, I’m surprised my electrician friend didn’t mention it but as I said I don’t think he’s used to switches that require power and was trying to actually get the same common as was connected to the light, not realizing it didn’t make any difference.

I’m really pleased with the way my home is automated now, although the recent outage with Smartthings makes me nervous that I’ll have issues in the future (it’s too bad there isn’t also a “local control” that could be used in case of server outages like that).

None of the switches in the ‘old’ part of my house have neutral or ground. They are all simple cloth-covered 2-wire.

You could, hypothetically, tie the green and bare wire on these switches to your incoming water main. But I’m not fond of that, as it potentially puts a load onto the pipe… and aside from the obvious issues with such a floating ground, water nowadays is chlorinated heavily. Introducing a load, even one that is not lethal or harmful, to the copper pipe induces the chlorine in the water to interact with the copper in the pipe. This creates ugly greenish blobs/deposits that interfere with your plumbing system.

So I have two locations that are accessible to do improvement without breaking walls. I’m going to run a separate neutral from the switch box directly to the breaker panel in both those locations (within the existing raceway, for compliance).

I don’t need a dimmer just the GE 12722 on/off switch, can I use that with no Neutral?
I called the support line before installing and they said no.

That model also requires a neutral. It’s not whether it’s a dimmer or not. The radios inside the switches are powered by the neutral so that they can hear the next “on command” from the network even though the switch is off.

There are some older model on/off switches which do not require a neutral, but again, those are only intended to work with incandescents not LEDs.

The Same brands mentioned above Make the on/off ones, but with the same restrictions. I believe the GE model of this type has been officially discontinued, but you can still occasionally find it.

Different retailers carry different brands. HA World has Leviton and GE, other vendors have the Cooper.



I have a 4 way installation and a 3 way installation that doesn’t have neutral lines. Can someone recommend a light switch (primary and slave) that supports SmartThings and doesn’t require Neutral.

I use GE ZWave elsewhere in the house and work great but can’t use it where I don’t have neutral as they have to have them in order to work.

Lutron is not a solution since it appears not working with smart things.


Here is an option by Cooper RF9534 or RF9536 with the slave switch RF9542 or RF9542-Z

FYI: Make sure to check ALL of the 3-way switch boxes and each of the lights boxes for the location of the neutral wire. The neutral location is basically where the electrician pulled the incoming power to. This is where the primary switch must be located because it needs to remain powered up at all times for it’s zwave/zigbee radio.

That being said it seems like in your case the incoming power will be at one of your lights? So instead of replacing the wall switches you could install the Aeon Labs DSC27103-ZWUS Light Dimmer (or the energy monitoring version) up inside the light box where the neutral/hot line is located and possibly re-use the existing wall switches for local on-off override but you could still dim from ST.

I had to do this for something similar for a ceiling fan light where the power was up at the ceiling box only.

I have several old Intermatic HA20 dimmers. They don’t require neutral and work great with SmartThings. The best thing, you can use them in 3- or 4-way setup using regular dumb wall switches. Obviously, they only work with incandescent lightbulbs.

Assuming works with Smartthings. Did you use it?
Also, do you know if I buy two slaves if it should work in 4 way setup?

I haven’t personally used it because I have neutrals at my house but just do a search here in the forums and you will read on others that have successfully used it. As far as a 4-way yes (according to the device description) it is like the others where you can slave multiple units so that will easily do your 4way setup.

Although it probably wouldn’t work for the OP, Another option is to use smart bulbs and a smart switch cover. This is a “no wiring” solution.

Hi, was wondering what device handler you are using? I found that only the Cooper 9500 gives instantaneous reporting. So if I turn on the switch by hitting the button, it reports back to the hub immediately. So this is great, but the issue is, when I try to turn on the light through the Smartthings app, it doesn’t work; it won’t actually turn on.