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Best HA hardware for switches with no neutral


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#1 hagak

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Posted 31 March 2011 - 08:41 AM

So I am in the process of researching my Home Security system and at the same time planning ahead for integrating with Home Automation. I was leaning towards Insteon (have a bunch of old X10 hardware) until I saw that there switches required a neutral line to be in the switch box, I read about how you can use another insteon device to get around this limit but that option seems costly and not doable if you do not have the box space for it.

So I check a couple of the switches in my house and sure enough NO neutral line, I am going to assume non of the switches in my house have a neutral line. So Insteon is out. What other products would work for me, in my searches Z-Wave seems to a candidate, however do there Relay switches require a neutral? Are there any relay switches that do not require a neutral?

A different question. My house has many rooms where the light switch actually switches an outlet. Problem with this is that the outlet is not always one that I want switched. What I would like to do in those situations is not switch the outlet but just replace the switch with a controller that I can then use to control a lamp module. How is the best way to achieve this, also note that like above these switches do NOT have a neutral line.

#2 etc6849

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Posted 31 March 2011 - 09:49 AM

If you want a relay switch for a generic load, I doubt there are any options that are UL listed that don't require a neutral (maybe there exists some strange type of switch that uses a battery powered control circuit, but I doubt it's UL listed).

If you are controlling incandescent lamps only, there are many switches that don't require a neutral. It is obvious that these switches require control power. To get control power, any switch would require a neutral and they do. It turns out that these switches are designed to use the load line as a neutral so there is a small amount of current going through the load. This means you need a filament in the load to always complete the circuit, so incandescent and certain halogen bulbs are your only choice load wise. Unless you find a special switch with a battery powered control circuit or run extra wires, this is your only choice.

As mentioned above, you can use an incandescent only switch for your outlet too. However, I don't think it's a good idea as someone may forget and plug something else into it besides an incandescent lamp. If this happened, you'd most likely either fry the switch or have no control power to turn the outlet on. If the fuse in the switch failed, you could potentially cause a fire too.

EDIT: Forgot to metion this: don't use the ground lead as a substitute for the neutral. For one, this would trip a GFCI breaker or outlet on the same circuit; it also would not meet code. Also, as a disclaimer, I'm also not an electrician.

Edited by etc6849, 31 March 2011 - 09:55 AM.


#3 Rupp

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Posted 31 March 2011 - 09:57 AM

There are a couple of Z-Wave switches that work without neutrals.

Look for "Neutral not required!"

http://store.homesee...itches-C42.aspx

#4 etc6849

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Posted 31 March 2011 - 10:25 AM

Correct, however, these are only for incandescent lamps. From the OP, it sounds like hagak is looking for something more than just incandescent...

Forgot to mention to check out this free HA software for your project: http://www.cocoontech.com/wiki/Premise
Support forum is found here: http://www.cocoontec...hp?showforum=51

There are a couple of Z-Wave switches that work without neutrals.

Look for "Neutral not required!"

http://store.homesee...itches-C42.aspx



#5 hagak

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Posted 31 March 2011 - 10:33 AM

Ok so it sounds like if the switch does not have neutral wired to it I am kinda SOL for anything but an incandescent light control. I could not even replace the switch with a controller :(. My house is making everything very difficult. Why oh why do people pinch pennies so much on items that are going to be in place for decades!

Seems like trying to run the neutral back to the switch would be a massive undertaking.

#6 dave w

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Posted 31 March 2011 - 10:34 AM

Are there any relay switches that do not require a neutral?

A different question. My house has many rooms where the light switch actually switches an outlet. Problem with this is that the outlet is not always one that I want switched. What I would like to do in those situations is not switch the outlet but just replace the switch with a controller that I can then use to control a lamp module. How is the best way to achieve this, also note that like above these switches do NOT have a neutral line.


No, you can't have a relay switch or a controller switch without a neutral. At least not unless the switch has a separate power source like batteries. If you have X10 now, you could always use the X10 "Slim Line" switch which is a battery powered "stick on the wall" RF switch.

#7 etc6849

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Posted 31 March 2011 - 10:46 AM

I tried the X10 slim switches once, but wasn't impressed with their RF range. Many times when I hit the off button the lights would stay on. I ended up switching to a Leviton ViziaRF+ (z-wave) install and like it a lot.

#8 hagak

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Posted 31 March 2011 - 12:13 PM

No, you can't have a relay switch or a controller switch without a neutral. At least not unless the switch has a separate power source like batteries. If you have X10 now, you could always use the X10 "Slim Line" switch which is a battery powered "stick on the wall" RF switch.


Yeah I actually have a few of the slim line switches. Only concern is reliability of the signal. I had to abandon my X10 setup after I got married because it was not reliable enough for my wife, so any HA stuff I do needs to just work otherwise the person with the finances see it as a negative that costs money which is very bad for me.

#9 hagak

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Posted 31 March 2011 - 12:42 PM

Just had a thought. If I do NOT want the switch box to actually electrical switch the outlets anymore but just needed power couldn't I rewire the wire going to the switch box to have both neutral and hot by changing how it is wired at the switched outlet? Then the switched outlet would no longer be switched and the switch box would now have power so that I could use a controller there.

Any issues with this idea?

1. Issue I do see is someone could come along and replace the control with a standard switch not realizing that the lines are no longer Hot and Load, but are now Hot and Neutral and the switch would now be a quick way to test your circuit breaker :).

#10 Lou Apo

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Posted 31 March 2011 - 03:47 PM

Do you have attic above or basement/crawl space below? Truly your best bet is to get neutrals to your boxes and getting to the boxes is a PITA, but doable, especially if you have attic/basement access to the walls.

I really doubt you will like the other ways of getting around the lack of neutral.

#11 hagak

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Posted 31 March 2011 - 04:50 PM

Do you have attic above or basement/crawl space below? Truly your best bet is to get neutrals to your boxes and getting to the boxes is a PITA, but doable, especially if you have attic/basement access to the walls.

I really doubt you will like the other ways of getting around the lack of neutral.


Anything wrong with what I suggested above? Since I do not need the switch to be a switch but just to provide power to a controller.

#12 BLH

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Posted 31 March 2011 - 05:29 PM

I believe that is how the Insteon two Wire Kit works.
You rewire the switch loop to provide line and neutral in the switch box. To power a SwitchLinc with the load capped off. Then a InlineLinc fixture module is added in the fixture and linked to the SwitchLinc.

#13 etc6849

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Posted 31 March 2011 - 05:35 PM

Nothing's wrong with that as long as you relabel the wires. I'd use some white electrical tape to color one as neutral.

With z-wave, this is an expensive way to go: z-wave outlet + z-wave 2 button controller + primary controller + other 2 wire dimmers for the incandescent lamps.

Not all z-wave manufacturers make a wired secondary controller for your situation either. You'd have to pick a high-end line and the Leviton option is $100+ just for the wired secondary controller! With Leviton Vizia RF+, to make use of Leviton's added features such as status feedback, scenes, groups etc you have to buy Leviton modules, not the much cheaper GE modules.

Anything wrong with what I suggested above? Since I do not need the switch to be a switch but just to provide power to a controller.


Edited by etc6849, 31 March 2011 - 06:30 PM.


#14 hagak

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Posted 01 April 2011 - 08:24 AM

Nothing's wrong with that as long as you relabel the wires. I'd use some white electrical tape to color one as neutral.

With z-wave, this is an expensive way to go: z-wave outlet + z-wave 2 button controller + primary controller + other 2 wire dimmers for the incandescent lamps.

Not all z-wave manufacturers make a wired secondary controller for your situation either. You'd have to pick a high-end line and the Leviton option is $100+ just for the wired secondary controller! With Leviton Vizia RF+, to make use of Leviton's added features such as status feedback, scenes, groups etc you have to buy Leviton modules, not the much cheaper GE modules.


Yeah z-wave seems to be pricey all around. After thinking about it, Insteon might still be a decent solution for me. For the rooms with the switched outlet, I can just do what I described and use either an Insteon controller with lamp module(s) or even an Insteon "switch" and not connect the load wire. For the other locations where the switch actually controls a light fixture, it seems the Insteon 2-wire kit is a pretty good solution. Bonus part of that is they do make one that is a relay that would work with CFL if needed, z-wave does not have a solution for that. Only issue with 2-wire kit is if the fixture does not have the room to hold the fixture module.

Anyone here have experience with the 2-wire Insteon kits?

#15 johnboy

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Posted 03 April 2011 - 06:53 AM

Just had a thought. If I do NOT want the switch box to actually electrical switch the outlets anymore but just needed power couldn't I rewire the wire going to the switch box to have both neutral and hot by changing how it is wired at the switched outlet? Then the switched outlet would no longer be switched and the switch box would now have power so that I could use a controller there.

Any issues with this idea?

1. Issue I do see is someone could come along and replace the control with a standard switch not realizing that the lines are no longer Hot and Load, but are now Hot and Neutral and the switch would now be a quick way to test your circuit breaker :).


I rewired a switch and outlet like this recently - I was able to put a UPB controller in the wall and then used upb appplicance modules to switch the lights. Works well, but as you mentioned, if you ever sell you should probably revert the wiring change and put in a standard switch so you don't confuse anyone or cause a quick circuit breaker test :)




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