That’s a GE Z-Wave dimmer? I’ve never seen them have a black housing on the back, what model number is it?
That’s my old light switch it’s a levitron
Many z-wave switches require a neutral. I’m not trying to insult your intelligence here, so forgive me if this sounds very basic, but just to make sure anyone who is reading this is on the same page:
A light obviously works by electricity flowing through it. One line (the hot line) takes electricity from the panel in your house and allows it to flow to the light. Then the other line (the neutral line) allows that electricity to flow away from the light bulb. Without a complete circuit the light won’t turn on.
A “dumb” switch generally sits on the hot line and physically interrupts the flow of electricity. When you flip it off the switch physically separates the wires so no power flows.
A “smart” switch (z-wave switch) on the other hand is an electronic device in and of itself. It needs both a hot line and a neutral of it own in order to function. It shares the same hot as the light switch, but generally needs it’s own neutral.* If it shared the neutral with the light, electricity would always be flowing and the light would always be on.
Okay, background crap out of the way… Looking at your picture, it appears that this is existing switch is just sitting on the hot line and there is no neutral in this box. Yeah, there’s a black and white, but it’s not unheard of for wiring to be a bit haphazard like this. I’m guessing that the white and black are the two sides of the hot line and there is no neutral.
So… it doesn’t look like you can use a z-wave switch that requires a neutral in this location unless you can get a neutral line into the box.
*However… there is another option. A select few z-wave dimmer switches operate without their own neutral. They do this by “leaking” a little bit of power through the hot line to the light and then back through the neutral line attached to the light.
“Yeah but,” you might think: “Didn’t you just tell me they can’t do this a couple of paragraphs above?” Yeah, but… that’s mostly true, kinda. Here’s the thing: Z-wave switches only use a very little amount of power… so they only need to let a very little bit of power flow through the line to the light. This usually isn’t enough to make the light turn on. If you have just a single, very low wattage incandescent bulb or a low combined wattage of LED lights, you might see them glow faintly when the switch is off, but only if the wattage is really, really low.
So if you can’t get a neutral to this box, one of these switches might be your only option. I have a switch like this for my dinning room and it works well. I believe the GE/Jasco 45612 is a dimmer that doesn’t require a neutral, but it’s been a long time since I shopped these, so verify that info before buying.
Always take before pictures before you disconnect any electrical devices, including pictures of the screw attachments.
In the US, wiring can be almost any color in most jurisdictions. There are guidelines but no absolute rules.
In addition to @chrisb 's excellent explanation, the wiring FAQ should help.
I already bought a switch and it came with my V2 hub today. So would I connect the white wire to the LOAD ( the white wire that is connected to the black in the picture above)? and leave the Neutral connection empty?
Thanks for all your help
My best guess would be that yes… black is hot line from the panel (line), and white is the hot line to the light bulb/fixture (load). But that’s a guess. I have, in the past, hooked up a switch wrong and switched the lines later and it worked so I don’t think that mis-wiring will damage the switch, but your millage may vary.
However: without connecting a neutral (which you don’t have in this box), the switch won’t work.
This!!! Take note of this!!!
Well this is just super disappointing. The two lights I wanted to control with smart things do not have a neutral wire. I was so looking forward to controlling my lights. Of course the rest of the house has proper wiring except the living room and kitchen. Thank for all your help everyone.
Smart bulbs or use one of the dimmers mentioned above that dont require a neutral
Yeah if I went the smart bulb way that would be 9 bulbs. I’m trying to find a dimmer switch with no nutrual. Does anyone know of any ?
If you read the wiring FAQ previously linked to, That thread discusses all of these issues in some detail. It should be of help.
The short answer is that yes there are some switches that do not require a neutral wire, Cooper makes one, but they only work with incandescents, they generally do not work with LEDs or CFL’s. You can try them and see what happens.
There are some other alternatives as well, again discussed in the FAQ thread. Here’s that link again for convenience:
CFLs are a definite no-no with the dimmers. However, LEDs, if you have enough combined load, usually are okay. For example, I have a dinning your three-bulb fixture. I put three 12-watt LEDs in there and it worked fine.
I have heard that you’re not supposed to use a LED that isn’t specifically marked as dimmer-capable with a dimmer switch, however I’ve generally not had a problem with my LEDs in dimmer areas even though they are not marked.
Again… your millage may vary.
The FACT that there is only 1 wire in the box, not 2 tells us right off that it does NOT go to the panel and that it is just a loopback to the light fixture. So there is no Neutral wire to give the Z-wave the constant power it needs for the radio. Besides that putting a Z-wave switch in a metal box is just asking for signal problems and an unhappy customer.
Unless you like rewiring your house ( which I actually do ) your only real option is if you can stuff a Z-wave module in the box AT THE LIGHT , not at the switch. IF ( and it should) it has the neutral wire.
I’ve done this with ceiling fan/lights. Just stuff a couple of these modules under the cap. You should have constant line power at the actual light.
Can I ask does the switch on the wall still work? Does it always have to be on? Second question you have a light / fan. Can you change the speed of the fan? I love to put this in my bed room and the fan has three speeds to it
Ok couple of questions about the module from monoprice. Can I dim the lights with this? Also I would love to put this in my bedroom to control my light fan. Can I control the speed of the fan with this module? And is it hard to wire up?
Fan speed controllers need to be different than dimmers. Look @ the GE Fan Switch Z-wave. I have a few of these and they work great. It will require a Neutral though. There’s no way around that one for fan-controllers that I’ve seen that are HA Ready (Z-Wave / Insteon / etc.)
Don’t know about the other questions, but have experience with the first one.
If you wire the module correctly , it has 5 wires . 3 go to house wires, 1 go to the light, 1 go to the switch. If your current switch is wired like most, the wire going from your light to the switch and back would be the green wire in the wiring diagram.
So the switch works in parallel with the z-wave module. So You can turn the light on by the switch and off with z-wave of vice-versa. Of course if you have an old toggle switch not a button up/down = on/off will be irrelevant since z-wave will not be able to change the physical switch positioning .
I just used a simple on/off module for the fan. If I really need to change the speed, I can just yank my chain.
I have not used that exact module I linked to, but it was one just like it. Monoprice were on sale last week, so had the link handy. It is NOT dimmable, but there are others that are.
So I looked around to see if I could fine a module that can dim the lights and not need a neutral wire and I have beeen unable to find anything to fit that bill. I just wonder if i had a electricion come out and rewire? The lights are in a valeted ceiling so i would assume it would be ver difficult to re wire it with a new neutral wire. But I also wonder does this mean I would need new lights for the living room? I looked at them and each light has 2 black wire and 2 white wires and that is it
I know this has been said by others, but I have metal boxes for nearly all of my Z-wave light switches and outlets and have had zero problems with my mesh network. My how was built in the 40s and the person building it was building it for his daughter, so he didn’t cut any corners in terms of materials. Metal gang boxes everywhere. Thick walls too… gypsum board with nearly a 1/4 inch of plaster on top of it.
But as I said, never had an issue with any z-wave switches not getting good communication.
A metal switch box with a plastic switch plate typically still allows the signal out through the plastic, so usually you’re OK. You may get a signal drop of 15 to 25%.
A metal switch box with a metal switch plate, however, may cut the signal by 75% or more, and typically causes a lot of problems.
It also depends on where the next nearest repeater is. If there’s an outlet in the wall nearby that is also a repeater, that may be all you need to get the signal back to the network.