Non-dimmable no-neutral switch for just on and off


(Joe) #1

Surprisingly my house mostly has neutral wires in the switches. 1 of the switches that I really want to have in my HA setup does not have one.
I’m not married to the idea of having a dimmable switch there for the LED light. Are there switches available that would work with SmartThings that could be simple On/Off without a neutral?


(Jason "The Enabler" as deemed so by @Smart) #2

You can use the GE dimmer switch. The older model doesn’t use a neutral. You just need to use an incandescent bulb with it.

I know, I know, it’s a dimmer… But it is a viable option.


(Todd Whitehead) #3

Depending on what the switch controls, you might be able to put a relay switch in the box where the thing is.

For example, if it controls a light, you could remove the light and put the relay module in that box. These modules talk to the zwave network and still respond to the switch flipping to change state. The switch works kind of like a 3-way in that when you flip it, it changes state. Up and down are no longer off and on.

Aron labs makes a switch module and a dimmer module. I haven’t installed a dimmer module. I would assume you could only dim it from ST, not from the switch.


(Joe) #4

I think I’m just gonna have them pull the wire. Given how important the location of this light it may be easier just to pay to get it pulled. It’s $250 to pull it for this location. Also, the light is an LED.

The other one I may be able to pull myself. I can save $175 that way.

Thanks for the prompt input!


(Todd Whitehead) #5

I’ve had good luck with these Aeon modules. Basically, if there is no white wire in the switch, then the white wire has to be up in the light fixture. Pull the fixture down and the Aeon module has six wires to be connected to it. White and black from the breaker panel, white and black to the light and the wire that runs down to, and back from the switch.

The Aeon module takes care of turning the light on and off. It can do that based on input from Smart Things (all of the things that can trigger a regular switch) or on a state-change on the existing switch. (It can tell that because it runs a low current through the wires that go down to the switch and back and can tell when the switch is flipped. That flip causes the Aeon module to reverse the setting on the light (If it is on, turn it off).

It only costs ~$35 to try it out. Might save you a coupe hundred if it works.

-Todd


#6

In the US, specific wire colors are not mandated by code. People can and do use any color, especially if it’s near the end of the day and there’s only one color left in the box.

So never assume that a white wire is anything specific–it could be neutral, it could be hot, it could be a traveler.

The first thing you need to do is to photograph all of the existing connections, including at the screws.

Then test every segment to make sure you know exactly what’s what. :sunglasses:


(Steve) #7

@jdroberts is there a link on how to perform the tests? I have a multimeter but I’m not sure which is neutral. My house was built in 1926 and I have had several rooms rewired a few years ago including a three way, but I’m not sure a neutral is present. Is that code now? And I’m not even sure there is a traveler in what is present. I need to have more wiring done at some point, just frustrating owning an old home sometimes. I was hoping to get more automation going without spending an arm and a leg.


#8

If you live near a Home Depot, many offer classes on how to replace a light switch. Although they won’t typically cover networked devices, it’s a really good place to start for learning how to identify wiring and work with the necessary tools.


(Steve) #9

I appreciate the suggestion, but I got my first switch in today. It just took poking around on various websites to see what was what. I was thrown off with the shared neutral which was not connected to the old switch and is ok as long as it’s on the same circuit breaker. The three way dimmer looks like a no go for now, there is no traveler wire.


(Todd Whitehead) #10

If you use linear switches and 3-way add-ons, you don’t need a traveler wire. You do need a minimote to associate them together.


(Steve) #11

Is the traveler just a wire that runs from one switch to the other? If that’s all it is I could probably run that up in the attic myself.


(Todd Whitehead) #12

If it is an existing 3-way, there should already be wires you can use as travelers.


(Steve) #13

After studying three ways some more and staring at these boxes I’ve concluded you are right. I’m proceeding carefully. I’ve replaced a couple switches and things are working well. As soon as I get another GE 12729 I will proceed. It looks like it does not matter which common is connected to the traveler terminal?


(Jason "The Enabler" as deemed so by @Smart) #14

Oh, this matters a whole lot! Normally the hot line (always on voltage wire) is known as the common. You must NOT connect that to the traveler. It will most likely blow out the master switch.

The traveler should only be connected between the aux and the master


(Steve) #15

Ok, Thank you I appreciate it. I’m in an old house, some of which I had rewired. I do have a neutral wire in this location but the rest of the wires aren’t color coded. The old switch was non standard as well. I’m going to test with a multi-meter carefully before proceeding. I have no desire to blow out a $40 dollar switch. I am learning some of the terminology as well, some of which I don’t think I have quite right yet. I thought traveler and common were the same but I need to do some more studying, I really want to have a better understanding of 3 ways.


#16

I’d suggest bringing in an electrician, taking a class, or choosing a solution that doesn’t require wiring. There are many different ways to wire things to code, and all too many ways to wire things not to code that you may have inherited in an older house. Some of the advice you’ve gotten in this thread is good, some of it is good only if you’re both using the terminology in identical ways (which I suspect you are not) and some of it is flat out wrong.

I myself don’t give advice on specific wiring setups based just on online conversations because of all these complications, but I will just say that the term “common wire” has different meanings in different contexts.

As far as solutions that don’t require wiring, is using a smart bulb an option for this location?


(Steve) #17

I have brought in an electrician before, part of this 1926 house is rewired, with a new main electrical panel. I’ve got all three standards, knob and tube, the wiring that has the metal casing around it, and I had several rooms rewired a few years ago. I’m focused on the areas that are rewired. I’ve always lived in an old house. Before this, the house was built in 1906. So, I consider this an education in new wiring standards and I’m trying to learn something. Never lived in a house that had a three prong outlet, but now I’ve got some. Lol. If I get totally stumped I will call them in, no question. There is a guy coming to fix my washing machine. I don’t have any desire to learn that. I’m not ready to call for help just yet, but I have no problem doing so.


(Steve) #18

As a follow up, today I got my three way going after carefully studying my wiring vs all the diagrams and posts. Sweet! I’ve learned a lot in the last month. Now I know what “line” “load” “neutral” “traveler” all do and how to identify them. Im psyched, but I still need to stuff these GE’s back in my dinky wall boxes. Next challenge is a 4 way but I’ll need an electrician for that one. I believe the switches are on knob and tube.


(Karl Flaig) #19

So final score what exactly will work with Smart Things that is a non-dimmable switch without a neutral and can use LED?

We switched to LED last year and we’re going automated throughout but we’re finding our home built in the 70s doesn’t have a neutral in many boxes.


#20

There isn’t anything on the official compatibility list. In the US with the exception of Lutron who have their own patented technology, pretty much all switches using a radiofrequency technology to control dumb LEDs have to have a neutral so that the switch’s radio can be powered when the switch is “off” so that it will be able to hear the next “on” command from the network.

So if your US house does not have neutrals at switch boxes and You want to use LEDs , your main choices are:

  1. use smart bulbs instead of smart switches

  2. have an electrician “fish up” a neutral from somewhere else in the wall, typically where an outlet is

  3. use an Inwall relay like the Aeon micro relay somewhere on the circuit where there is a neutral, typically at the ceiling fixture

  4. use Lutron Caseta switches and get indirect integration through
    Ifttt, Harmony, or SimpleControl. The main problem with this is potential lag. It can work great for things like lights on a timed schedule. The wall switches will also work very quickly. And The lag is usually acceptable if you just want the lights to come on when you come home. The biggest problem with the lag is if you want to have motion sensors controlled by SmartThings trigger Lutron light switches. Then it may be too big of a noticeable delay for many households.

Some people do get the GE or Cooper switches which do not require a neutral and are not rated for LEDs and try them with LEDs and see how it goes. It’s not typically unsafe, but the usual problem is buzzing, flickering, etc. Whether or not it will work depends on many different details, including the fixture itself, the exact bulb used, the number of bulbs being used, and the switch. So there are some people who have this approach working, but there are no guarantees.