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Author Topic: Non-Dimming Switch without a Neutral  (Read 9459 times)

solpo

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Non-Dimming Switch without a Neutral
« on: July 07, 2008, 01:28:21 PM »

A quick search didn't find an answer to this question.....  I have 6 recessed florescent lights controlled by a single wall switch WITHOUT a neutral wire.  Is there any way I can use an X10 module to replace the regular $0.97 wall switch to switch these lights on and off?  I realize that I cannot use a dimmer, and I also cannot use any of the non dimming switches due to the lack of a neutral wire.

Any ideas?

Thanks.
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dave w

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Re: Non-Dimming Switch without a Neutral
« Reply #1 on: July 07, 2008, 05:04:15 PM »

1. Pull a neutral to the wall switch box.
2. Use Socket Rockets in each fixture.
3. Use a "wire in module" (XPFM) at the first fixture and feed the other fixtures from that (observing XPFM max current ratings, of course).
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solpo

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Re: Non-Dimming Switch without a Neutral
« Reply #2 on: July 07, 2008, 05:46:38 PM »

Thanks for the feedback....  How do I pull a neutral wire, though?  I don't have a great deal of knowhow and don't want to die....

Socket Rockets aren't an option here, since the CFL's aren't screw ins, they're the ones with 4 prongs.  I'll look into XPFMs, though.  I assume they're pretty easy to wire in.
« Last Edit: July 07, 2008, 05:49:06 PM by solpo »
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Brian H

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Re: Non-Dimming Switch without a Neutral
« Reply #3 on: July 07, 2008, 06:16:08 PM »

The Instruction Manuals for the X10Pro devices are on their web site. In the manuals tab.
http://www.x10pro.com/
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Walt2

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Re: Non-Dimming Switch without a Neutral
« Reply #4 on: July 07, 2008, 08:30:51 PM »

I just have to ask, are you REALLY sure there isn't a neutral already in the switch box?  I was VERY surprised to find I had neutral wires in my wall switch boxes.  The electrician wired the power to the wall switch box first, then from there, to the light/outlet.

If you don't have a neutral wire, another option is to do a bit of re-wiring.  If you don't have a neutral, you will have two hots; constant and switched.  You re-wire those two wires to be a constant hot and a neutral.  Then replace the 0.97 switch with an X10 controller; the type that looks like a decora wall switch.  Then, for your lights, use option 3 from Dave.
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Jsnlong

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Re: Non-Dimming Switch without a Neutral
« Reply #5 on: July 07, 2008, 09:03:49 PM »

I would think there is a neutral wire in the box most of the time the romex wire used has it but maybe not. . If you don't already know it is the white wires maybe wire nutted together in the back of the box.
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steven r

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Re: Non-Dimming Switch without a Neutral
« Reply #6 on: July 07, 2008, 11:31:41 PM »

Anyone have an idea when having a neutral wire became a standard?
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KDR

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Re: Non-Dimming Switch without a Neutral
« Reply #7 on: July 08, 2008, 05:40:01 AM »

It probably varies across the nation but here in the Cleveland, Ohio area they were still doing Knob & Tube wiring in the early 60'.

I'm going to guess that it took city areas longer to change over then smaller comunities. The reason I say this is that here in Cleveland the electrician unions were against the change over because it took more workers on a job to install K & T then it did Romex.

If you have romex coming into the switch box and there is only one romex cable, then there is no usable neutral. There are a few ways to wire a light, switching the hot side, switching the neutral side, bring in power at the light first or bring in power at the switch first. Your best bet if your not sure is to have an electrician look at it and make recommendation on how to get you what you need. You don't want to get hurt or cause a fire by guessing wrong.

Understand that there are right ways and wrong ways to do things and even some electricians take short cuts though most take pride in their trade and do it right.

----------------KDR
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Brian H

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Re: Non-Dimming Switch without a Neutral
« Reply #8 on: July 08, 2008, 06:43:38 AM »

My home has two wire Romex and not even a ground wire in both outlet and switch boxes. Two prong plugs that is it.
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Walt2

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Re: Non-Dimming Switch without a Neutral
« Reply #9 on: July 08, 2008, 07:04:37 AM »

Anyone have an idea when having a neutral wire became a standard?

IMHO, it is more a matter of wiring style, and not  a standard. 

One technique is to run power directly to the outlet or light fixture, and from there, run a wire to the switch.  With this style, there will be no neutral wire in the switch box.

Another technique is to run power to the switch box first, and from there, run a wire to the outlet or light fixture.  With this style, there will be a neutral wire in the switch box.
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Walt2

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Re: Non-Dimming Switch without a Neutral
« Reply #10 on: July 08, 2008, 07:06:25 AM »

My home has two wire Romex and not even a ground wire in both outlet and switch boxes. Two prong plugs that is it.

Don't confuse a neutral wire with a ground wire.  They are two very different things.

If you have two wire romex, one is load (black) and the other is neutral (white).  But not always.  :D
« Last Edit: July 08, 2008, 07:14:10 AM by Walt2 »
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Walt2

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Re: Non-Dimming Switch without a Neutral
« Reply #11 on: July 08, 2008, 07:10:30 AM »

If you don't already know it is the white wires maybe wire nutted together in the back of the box.

It is not always the white wire.   In some wall switch wiring styles, the black and white wires could be constant load and the other switched load.   One has to understand the style used in their particular home, in that particular room, to know the function of each wire.  Do not assume anything simply by wire color.
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solpo

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Re: Non-Dimming Switch without a Neutral
« Reply #12 on: July 08, 2008, 08:57:24 AM »

Thank you all for your feedback.  I'll go back and dig again for a white neutral wire, although I didn't see it the first time.  We do have a bare ground, though.

The house was built in 1959, so my gut is that it's a 50/50 shot for having one.  Worst case, I can have an electrician just bring a wall switch into the room.

You'd think that this would be a good product for X10....  An appliance module in wall switch form with only 2 wires.  Anyone listening?  You'd sell me one.  (actually, you'd probably sell me a lot).

Thanks again.
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dave w

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Re: Non-Dimming Switch without a Neutral
« Reply #13 on: July 08, 2008, 12:10:16 PM »


The house was built in 1959, so my gut is that it's a 50/50 shot for having one.  Worst case, I can have an electrician just bring a wall switch into the room.

You'd think that this would be a good product for X10....  An appliance module in wall switch form with only 2 wires.  Anyone listening?  You'd sell me one.  (actually, you'd probably sell me a lot).


Having an electrician pull a neutral to your wall box might not be difficult, especially if the wall switch can be accessed from a basement or attic.

As far as a two wire wall switch "appliance module"; unfortunately it just ain't possible. There is electronics in each X10 module that requires it's own powerpower. In a two wire, wall switch, a triac (electronic switch) supplies current to the incandescent bulb. There is always a small voltage drop across a triac in the ON state and that small voltage drop powers the electronics in the wall switch. When the switch is OFF the internal electronics gets power from the hot lead through the incandescent bulb (how the power gets back to neutral).  A wall switch made for fluorescent bulbs or other non incandescent loads,  requires the additional neutral because the switch uses a relay to power the load instead of a triac and there is "no" voltage drop across the relay to power the internal electronics when the switch is ON.

That basically is a blathery, gassy, wordy way of saying "don't hold your breath for the "appliance module" wall switch.  :)
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Brian H

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Re: Non-Dimming Switch without a Neutral
« Reply #14 on: July 08, 2008, 12:16:21 PM »

Yes I have found that white in many cases is not Neutral. I have some switch loops with Hot on the White.
My outlet boxes only have two wire Romex in them and not even a bare third wire for a safety ground. Boxes are just floating  ::) Outlets are two prong; no ground pins.

I even had a few where the outlet is upside down so wall warts with the wide prong are upside down. That was corrected
« Last Edit: July 08, 2008, 12:22:10 PM by Brian H »
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