Retrofitting old lighting

I ordered a bunch of switches from GW Z-Wave Lowe’s and finally got around to installing one last night.  Unfortunately, I discovered that the standard switch requires a neutral wire, and the 1939 wiring in much of my house doesn’t have one.  Looks like I should have read the amazon reviews, where lots of people mention this.  With some basic googling, it looks like I’m kind of stuck, switch-wise, without a neutral.

I think these could be a possible solution:

But this would be for overhead lights, and those rather cryptically say that they’re “not recommended for base above bulb fixtures.”

Does anybody have any other ideas?


Oh, and the positive side of this discovery is that I can now focus my switch replacement efforts on the newly wired lighting in the house.  On to the recessed lighting dimmers!

I know I have seen lots of Z-Wave switches which don’t require neutral. The Lowes GE dimmers for example don’t even have a neutral. But, without neutral low watt bulbs is a no go.


To answer your question, I would guess it’s not recommended for down lighting because of heat.

Yeah, I don’t want a dimmer for these, just a switch.  Seems that a switch, or anything compatible with non-incandescent lights, would have to have a neutral to power the Z-wave.  Looks like my (for now) incandescent dimmers should be good to go, though those actually have a neutral.

I have the same issue at my house… If you’re going to use LED or CFL bulbs, you’ll need the neutral wire at the switch. Otherwise, these bulbs will flicker with one of the non-neutral wire light switches.

I’m thinking about pulling new electrical cable to fix this issue. In my opinion, that’s going to be the best option. Or, you’ll have to stick with incandescent bulbs which kinda defeats the purpose of having an automated (energy efficient) home.

Yeah, I think I’m going to end up doing the same thing at least partially, @mariojuestel.  Most of my legacy light switches control fans, so I can’t do much with them.

I’m trying to do some electrical re-working in the basement, and just need to decide how much new wiring is justified.  I think you’re right though, that if I’m going to go to the trouble of installing z-wave switches, I should fix the wiring so that it can be easily made to support a wider range of lighting.  Just not sure if I can justify the cost…


And there are still a couple of overhead lights in places that I’m not going to be able to get re-wired easily.  I hope I can find a retrofitting solution that can work for those, even if I am stuck with incandescents for a while.

The screw modules work really well. We have about 8 of them in use at the office. People have them at home as well.

@urman: That’s good to hear!  Can you shed any light on the warning against using them in “base above bulb fixtures”?  I can’t figure out if that means I shouldn’t use them for hanging or ceiling-mounted lights.

I probably don’t have a proper understanding of your situation, but could LIFX or Philips Hue bulbs etc. achieve the same result?  Probably cheaper than re-wiring in the short term, but might be more costly in the longs run??

Vapor is indeed costly :wink:

@gray not sure. I should probably find out. In the office we only use them on drop down lighting fixtures. No issue to report. It could be a issue with size and heat. Maybe a larger bulb confined area can cause it to overheat. Just conjecture though.

You are killing me Cory. It will happen, it will happen, it will happen…he mutters over and over to himself as he rocks back and forward, curled up in a ball in the corner of the room.  ;)

@saxnix, I think you’re right that those could be good solutions as well, though there is the major drawback that they don’t actually exist yet.  Plus at $70 a bulb even if I could buy it, I’m not sure that lifx would be a better solution here than the screw-in module.  Assuming that I can use these modules for my overhead lights…


In the slightly longer term, I’d love to see a bulb that is z-wave/zigbee/otherwise ST-compatible and reasonably priced, but even then…if I could get a compact screw-in module for cheap, why not just go with that and use my own bulb, given how often bulbs would need to be replaced?


That’s good to hear @urman!  I think I’ll go ahead and order a couple.  Hopefully I won’t burn my house down if I use them on overhead fixtures.

There is another wifi bulb (i think??), available but I can’t remember what it is called.  It comes in either a white bulb, or a colour bulb.  I think it is selling for about $20.  If I think of what it is called, I will post back.  Bloody bad memory.  Scratch that.  Googled it, it is the Limitless LED.  Might be another option…

I own the Limitless bulbs, and unfortunately I can’t recommend them at this time. The owner of the company offers great support, but the bulbs simply don’t offer very good lighting. The best way to explain it is it feels like you are looking through a haze. I ended up moving them to the laundry room where quality lighting isn’t as important.

Thanks for the feedback Cory.  Is light output level just too low?  They could have been a cheaper option than LIFX/Hue but possibly not for main living areas.  As you said though, they might be a cheaper option for areas where there light levels can afford to be less bright.

I took the plunge months ago with LIFX and am hoping they deliver as written about so far.

Light output is okay, you kinda gotta see it to understand, its kinda feels like you’re wearing a slightly off prescription.

To update: I ordered 2 of the Intermatic screw-in modules (HA05) for $36 and they arrived today.  I had to mess around with them for half an hour or so before they paired with the hub.  There were no instructions with them on how to do that, so I just kept trying combinations of pushing the button on the module and trying to add through the SmartThings app on the phone.  I tried them in sockets directly below the hub, but I guess the floor was enough to complicate that.

I moved one to a lamp that I pulled over next to the hub upstairs and kept trying various combinations.  In the end, right as I sent an e-mail to asking if they had any other ideas I could try, the first one paired to my hub.  The second one eventually worked too.

Once I had them paired, I brought them back down and plugged them in, then set them up to turn on when motion is detected in my basement.  So far they seem to be working well.

They add about 3" to the height of the lights, but given the placement of these (overhead) that’s not a problem.  They also claim to be rated for outdoor use, so I might check at some point to see if they fit in my outdoor lights.  If so, they could be an easy solution for those too!

Happy to hear you got it working.

I was recently in Lowes looking at their ever increasing Iris endcap. They were showcasing the Sylvania Ultra IQ LED Zigbee bulbs for $29.98.

I was wondering if these can be controlled by Smartthings. I assume the answer would be yes. Before taking the plunge and buying a few I wanted to see if anyone had tried to pair one of these with Smartthings?

Being zigbee i would assume no, until proven otherwise. So far all their zigbee devices are proprietary to the iris system.