Hi guys, I’m new here but very excited to get my home automated and my first step will be to replace light switches and outlets. My house is pretty old and I’ve seen that the neutral wire is missing in at least some of the switches. Can anyone help me find a Leviton switch that don’t require neutral ? And is neutral also a requirement for the outlets or just the switches?
First, as far as outlets, all of your existing outlets should have a neutral anyway, because they are required to complete the circuit. In fact, one of the ways to address the issue of a light switch box that doesn’t have a neutral is to “fish one up” from a nearby outlet.
Switch boxes, on the other hand, don’t need a neutral because they are just an interrupt spliced into the circuit. There will be a neutral on the circuit somewhere, but it’s quite often at the light fixture in older homes. And this is why you can typically put an in wall micro at the fixture as another alternative.
Now back to the light switch box. Most networked devices do require a neutral, because typically that’s what powers the radio when the light is off. That’s so the radio will be able to hear the next “on” command from the network. There are no current generation Leviton zwave switches that don’t require a neutral for this reason.
For some complicated technical reasons, there are zwave switches from five or six years ago which didn’t require a neutral, but those can only work with incandescent or halogen. Cooper still makes one of these, so there are still some people who buy them. But most people these days want to be able to use LED bulbs, and those Z wave switches all require a neutral.
There is one other possibility which is very popular, and that is to use the Lutron Caseta line. These are very well engineered, come in several different colors, and are widely available. They tend to be much faster than zwave switches. And they have an official SmartThings integration, although you do have to buy the Lutron “SmartBridge” Device as well. (One smartbridge can handle up to 40 Lutron devices) Most of the Caseta models do not require a neutral at the switch, so they work very well in retrofit projects in older houses.
Why can Lutron do this when no one else does? They are an engineering company dedicated to lighting solutions. (In fact, they invented the first dimmer switch.) They hold a lot of patents and use their own proprietary network protocol. They do have integrations with a number of other platforms including Amazon Echo and, as mentioned, SmartThings. The downside is they typically cost about 20% more than other networked switches. And the form factor doesn’t look like a traditional dumb switch. So different things work for different people, but when it comes to solving the problem of no neutral in the switchbox, Lutron is the easiest way.
You can find more detailed discussion of all these options in the following FAQ ( this is a clickable link)
You might also want to take a look at the “get started” list in the project Report section of the quick browse lists in the community – created wiki. There’s a lot of good information there for new folks, both practical and fun stuff.
Leviton does have one model of zigbee switch that doesn’t require neutral and should work with LED bulbs. It’s like double the price of most smart switches, probably not really intended for retail sale. But at least one community member found a website that sells them and confirmed they work with ST.
Good point on the Leviton zigbee (Lumina) line, but we should note that the dimmer switch in that line does require a neutral. It’s only one model of the plain on/off switch that does not, and that one requires a minimum load of 25 W, which will be higher than many LED applications, as most individual LED A19 bulbs are 9 or 10 W.
In contrast, the Lutron Caseta will work without a neutral even for single A19 LED bulb.
Leviton zigbee dimmer spec sheet
Leviton zigbee binary switch models spec sheet
Lutron spec sheet. Dimmers are towards the end.
BTW, for anyone who is just looking for plain on/off switch that doesn’t require a neutral wire and doesn’t need a dimmer, ecolink has just released two new battery-powered zwave smart switch covers which go over the existing switch and physically move it. These don’t require any wiring. There is one for toggle switches and one for rocker switches. People are just starting to try these so there aren’t any reviews on them yet, but it’s another possibility for some use cases.
If you had previously considered a Switchmate and decided against it because it doesn’t integrate with SmartThings, the new eco-link would be a good alternative to consider.
Yup I’m looking forward to trying out that ecolink switch cover!
I haven’t been able to justify to myself (or my wife!) buying a couple of those leviton switches because they’re soooo expensive. Especially since I ended up buying a lutron caseta bridge as well as some switches and dimmers after the integration with ST went live. I wish those leviton switches were cheaper, since I prefer the standard decora look to that of lutron’a caseta switches.
JD, do you know if the caseta dimmer and switch that don’t require neutrals will work with low voltage LED lights?
The model that works with ELV or MLV requires a neutral wire.
Not sure if something other than Leviton would work for you, but I just got two GE 1000-Watt Smart Dimmers that don’t require a neutral. I ordered them from Best Buy. I installed one in a box with a neutral wire, and it works well. I bought the other one for a box that doesn’t have a neutral but it turns out the box is way too small to accommodate anything other than an old-school switch. You can only use them with incandescent and halogen bulbs, though. Model number is shown on the second photo.
See where it says “incandescent lamps only”? That’s one of the older generation models that won’t work with dimmable LEDs. Some people still use them, particularly with halogens. But note that the minimum load says “40 W.” if you use less than that, you may either get flickering, ghosting (where the light stays on even when you’ve turned it off) or buzzing.
Yup, as noted in my reply to OP, only incandescent or halogen. I’m using it to control a boatload of recessed cans in my kitchen, and it’s nice when I’m cooking to tell Alexa to turn the kitchen lights up (or down). The only problem I have lately is forgetting if I’m talking to Siri or Alexa and wondering why I’m not getting a response when I’m saying “Hey, Siri” to my Dot.
Yeah that’s what I thought
From what I understand is that the switches that work without a neutral only work with the halogen or incandescent because there is a small trickle of power, even when the light is off. This is enough to power the radio.
I have been very happy with the Leviton Z wave plus models. I especially like that they look and function the same as a regular Leviton Decora switches, so anyone that comes over does not need to know how to work the lights. I usually get more when they go on sale on Amazon for 39.99, which is not bad considering how much the Lutron equipment is. I also like not having to need two hubs or proprietary equipment for the lights, My goal is to try and simplify as much as possible, 1 hub and all standard Zigbee & Zwave products. I figured if Smartthings ever goes away (hopefully not) at least it would not be hard to find another hub that supports my devices.
The one problem I found with the Leviton dimmers is that they need a hot lead on both the master and remotes dimmers. The GE ones only need a hot on the master.
Guess I’ll rewire the ones that need a smart switch or smart outlet. This house is super old, it dont have either ground or neutral.
For most switches and dimmers that’s true, but not Lutron. Certain models of their switches and dimmers work great with LED bulbs and don’t require a neutral. @JDRoberts can explain why better than me. I’d prefer not to have another bridge plugged into my router, and I don’t even like the form factor of the lutronn switches that much. But without neutrals in the switch boxes my options are very limited.
The following is an old thread, but the information is still good:
If that is the case you could always go with smart bulbs, its not as efficient and simple with recessed lights, but it would be much less work then re-wiring. I use the bulbs for a couple of table lamps, most of my house has recessed though. The Osram Lightfy ones are cheap and work well if you need A19 bulbs, not sure if they make Par/BR for the recessed cans.
Pretty sure its the patent that Lutron has on the design, that is why there are so few switches that work without the neutral.
I am resurrecting this old thread to share a discovery, just in case someone else stumbles across this. I have a bunch of these no-neutral GE Z-wave switches around the house because it was built in the 1920s and much of the boxes are just two cloth-wrapped pieces of copper (can’t even tell line from load; it’s crazy). The problem is that they don’t support LEDs or CFLs, and incandescents are getting hard to find.
Anyway, I took a gamble based on a CNET review and discovered that the new Philips dimmables (specifically, this 100W-equiv. “soft white/warm glow” model) seems to work fine on a dimmer switch with no neutral that was not expressly designed to support LEDs.
Apparently, there’s some new circuitry in these Philips bulbs designed to handle older loads without causing the LED bulb to sputter, flicker, or buzz. They’re great. They run about $10/bulb, or $7.50 if you get a 4-pack, but I was just happy to get rid of the old incandescents.
FYI, should anyone else be in the same boat.
New member post here! I just tried to install a GE Z Wave switch that requires a neutral connection. When I opened up my duel gang wall plate to replace the light switch (the other switch is for a ceiling fan) I found the 2 white neutral wires nutted together. I tried connecting one and then both of the neutral wires to the GE switch but without any success. The switch would not manually turn on and I was not able to discover the switch via the SmartThings app.
Does anyone have any idea what might be the cause of the problem here? Why would the two neutrals be nutted together? Is it possible that the neutrals throughout the house are not wired correctly, at least as far as the switches are concerned.
Any help would be greatly appreciated!
How do you know they’re neutrals?
While there are general conventions for coloring of wires in the US, there’s no code or other legal requirements that enforce such conventions.
In other words, just because the wire is white doesn’t mean it’s a neutral.
Did you map out your circuit, using a multimeter to confirm what’s what?
I did not map the circuit I don’t have much experience with doing that. Do you have a recommendation on a guide on how to do this?