Do All Smart Light Switches Need A Neutral Wire?


do all smart light switches need a neutral wire

Have your electrician just told you that your home’s switch junction box doesn’t consist of a neutral wire? This probably is the case for you if your house isn’t new-ish and got its electrical wiring fixed before the National Electric Code (NEC) made it official for light switches to have a neutral wire.

Do all smart light switches need a neutral wire? Now answering, whether or not you’d be required to have a neutral for the installation of smart switches is dependent on a switch. For the vast majority of the smart light switches, they do need a neutral wire as the pre-requisite to function.

However, you will be glad to know that there are few smart switches I have reviewed below that don’t demand a neutral wire connection attached and can work without it. But there’s a catch, and for knowing what it is, you have to read through the next section.

Best Smart Light Switches that Don’t Require a Neutral

It’s true that there are some hardwired automated switches available in the market that don’t require any neutral wire. Still, instead, you’ll be needed to make an additional purchase for a bridge or hub to make the smart functions of the switches workable.

Without a secondary bridge or hub connected to the switch, you won’t be able to operate or control it remotely through a network connection. Hence, you’ll be limited to offline functions by having left with physical access.

The smart switches that work without requiring a neutral wire are generally dimmable smart switches. And the key functionality lies that make them a potential fit is a dimming feature. It helps to reduce the flow of power between the light and the switch to a trickle that also results in energy saving.

However, the power would not be sufficient enough to activate the light bulb, but the switch will remain in communication with the smart hub.

Moreover, before you make a buying decision, make sure that the dimmable switches should be compatible with your smart home bulbs; it may be LEDs or other energy-efficient lightings you are currently using or have plans to incorporate in the future.

Below are the reviews for the top smart switches you can install and make use of without having neutral wire attached to it.

Lutron Caseta Smart Lighting Dimmer Switch

If you aren’t just looking for a smart switch but a power-packed system to advanced your lighting experience, Lutron Caseta (see on Amazon) should be your go-to choice. It works well with dimmable LED light bulbs/CFL light bulbs or incandescent bulbs. You will have complete access to the switch with the help of the personalized app that lets you create rooms, scenes, zones, and automated schedules on the go.

Also, Lutron Caseta smart lighting switch comes with a tiny handheld remote known as Pico, which is easily mountable to the wall and tabletop pedestal. It can be used for turning the lights on and off and brightening or darkening them from sitting anywhere in the room.

You can also control the dimmer with the help of popular voice assistants (Alexa, Apple Homekit, or the Google Assistant) by still having it accessible in an old fashioned way.

Lutron Caseta also supports integration with other popular smart home systems such as SmartThings, Sonos, Logitech, Nest, and more. However, as mentioned earlier, you would additionally require Lutron Caseta SmartBridge Pro or a Wink hub (see on Amazon) to make the switch function – and that, unfortunately, makes the system a tad expensive.

For the smart home fanatics, it would certainly be a reliable and ideal choice one might not mind investing upon if they have further plans to include other Lutron devices to their home lighting segment because that would cut the cost for the smart bridge.

Since there are several kits available in the market, I recommend going for the starter kit to have it a bit cheap on your budget bar. And most importantly, regardless of the Lutron Caseta kit (see on Amazon) you opt for, make sure it includes the Lutron Bridge.

Insteon Smart Dimmer

Insteon (see on Amazon) is yet another veteran in the lighting control genre compatible with any light fixture that doesn’t have a neutral wire. It boasts the likewise features and is reliable as much as Lutron Caseta. But sadly, since it only supports incandescent or halogen lights, Insteon smart dimmer may not be the best smart switch for your needs.

Connecting the switch to the Insteon Central Controller Hub (see on Amazon) would enable you the smart functionalities viz, controlling the lights via Alexa voice assistant, creating customized scenes using its smartphone app, and more.

Insteon comes cheaper, including the bridge, but it’s a no brainer that Lutron Caseta surpasses the benefits in every aspect. If you don’t want to get restricted to a small segment of the smart lighting world, you should either resolve your neutral wire issue or without contemplating much placed an order to Lutron Caseta Smart Lighting starter kit (see on Amazon).

The Reason why Smart Switches need Neutral Wires

So now, when you know the popular choices available for the switch boxes having no neutral, you might also be interested in knowing why do most smart switches mandatorily require the light fixture to consist of a neutral wire.

That is due to the very reason; smart switches need to stay powered all the time to have a stable connection with the hub, the neutral is crucial. What a neutral wire does, it allows the switch to have power flowing onto the circuit even when you physically turned the wall switch off. It’s a sort of wire that completes the circuit by provides the path to carry the current back to the power source.

Why the standard smart switches don’t work when there is no neutral because such configuration exposed the circuit to break anytime, you turned the wall button to the off position, and as a result, it stops serving the wireless communication with the hub.

Therefore a bridge is recommended for the smart dimmers because the system programming such as lighting schedules, app login, and wireless details are saved and stored within the hub and not on the microcontroller inside the smart switch.

Wrapping up – the viable options

Lastly, the only possible options you’ll have to proceed with are as follow:

Run a Neutral wire

Logically the very first and permanent way would be to hire a professional electrician and ask him to pull out a neutral wire. The least hassle-free method by which it can be done would likely be rewiring an additional conducting wire between the light fixture and the switch.

But either way, pulling new wires through the finished ceilings of your home is significantly costlier and may cause you a severe headache.

Buy Smart Dimmer Switches that work without Neutral

This option has already presented to you with 2 popular products being reviewed. There is no room for any doubt that these switches are high-priced (including the cost of a bridge) than the typical smart switches available on the market. However, it’s an in-expensive feasible workaround over calling out a professional to run a neutral wire through your beautiful walls.

Furthermore, smart switches that do function without a neutral wire are very less in numbers by reliable brands. Having them in the minority, you get limited and stuck with only a few variants to choose from. Another important point to pay attention to while buying smart dimmers is to double-check its compatibility with your home lighting bulbs.

Also, the LEDs (if supportable with dimmer) at your home must be classified as dimmable; if not, then get ready to encounter occasional flickering. I’d suggest you should not go with smart switches, not offering adequate support for energy-efficient smart lightings because that would probably not worth to spend money on.

Go for Smart Bulbs instead of Smart Switches

It’s not a standard recommendation but an additional choice you might love opting for. Now you know that smart light switches don’t work unless it has provided with specific wiring, which is necessarily having neutral wires in switch boxes. Whereas smart blubs doesn’t have any such requirement and can work with any traditional light sockets.

Smart bulbs are easy to install and have widespread smart home compatibility with other smart appliances. However, determining which is best among smart bulbs and smart switches is a never-ending debate because it is hugely comparable in many aspects such as cost, flexibility, individual needs, and intricacies that come along.

So at the end of the day, choosing the options one wants to proceed with is eventually a choice of an individual. It’s not technically possible to refer an ideal way or particular product because the decision will always be influenced by several aspects like available resources, budget, etc.

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