Old Wiring: Z-wave or Zigbee? Or a moot point?

I bought a home that had been (mostly) extensively remodeled, and has new electrical service in most of it. All of my Z-wave and Zigbee devices work pretty reliably where the electrical service has been updated. Unfortunately, a small portion of the house still has the old wiring where neutrals are either nonexistent (I think) or the neutral is located at the switched device and not at the switch. I’ve been trying to use smart bulbs in the area of the house where the electrical hasn’t been updated and, as you can guess, the results have been dismal. All of these bulbs are Zigbee.

Does anyone know if Z-wave does a better job where the electrical service is old? Or if I’m going to get crappy results regardless? I’ve spent a lot on the Zigbee bulbs but it would be a lot cheaper to replace them with Z-wave bulbs than it would be to have an electrician run new wiring if Z-wave would be more reliable.


Could be that all you need is something to repeat the zigbee signal on it’s way to the bulbs. Can you describe the placement of your hub in relation to the z-wave and zigbee devices in your home?


The presence or absence of a neutral should not affect a smart bulb in any way, regardless of whether the bulb is zwave, zigbee, or Wi-Fi. :sunglasses: Neutrals are only an issue for light switches which are wired to the mains, and in that case, again, the communication protocol generally doesn’t matter, they all need a neutral except for Lutron Caseta ( which can work with LEDs or incandescents) and some of the older zwave switches (which only work with incandescents).

But for bulbs, no neutral is needed. They just replace any regular bulb.

So I would agree, the issue is almost certainly not having repeaters in the area.

If you want to look at having smart switches with dumb bulbs instead, look at the Lutron Caseta Line, assuming, of course, that you are in the US.

But if you want smart bulbs, you probably just need repeaters to strengthen the mesh.

What is the brand and model of the bulbs? I ask because the Sengled brand is unusual in that these bulbs don’t repeat for anything, not even each other. But most of the other brands will repeat for each other.

By any chance, is this an Adobe or Brick house? Or cement walls? Any of those may require special planning to get signal around as the walls themselves will be difficult to get signal through.


Another option is installing an in-wall (or in-ceiling) z-wave relay or dimmer like the ones made by aeotec (or a few other brands). If you installed smart switches, it’s not all that different. Though it can be a hassle to install at the fixture in the ceiling, compared to the wall at the switch I mean.

I don’t have neutral wires, so for some fixtures I installed these, and others I replaced with Lutron caseta switches.

Thanks, guys. I went with smart bulbs because the boxes are too small for z-wave switches. I did use a micro controller in one light where the neutral was in the ceiling instead of the switch, and it’s been rock solid. Based on the info @JDRoberts provided about bulbs being indifferent to the existence of a neutral, I’m going to get some repeaters and see what happens. These bulbs are all outside a brick home so that’s likely a big part of the problem.

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What’s the brand of bulb?

Osram/Sylvania Par38 LED outdoor floods, GE Links, and a Sengled. They all crap out regularly. At least one of the Osrams stops responding every day.

Definitely add a cheap Zigbee repeater like this