Why Do Smart Switches Need a Neutral Wire?

Smart switches are one of the most seamless ways to upgrade your house lighting and can add to your home automation. A smart switch allows you to control the lighting intensity from your wall and more benefits like using a remote to control the lights.

Why Do Smart Switches Need a Neutral Wire?

Smart switches are designed for automation and more capabilities which differ from regular switches; the neutral wire is required to power the smart switches and make them able to deliver their smart capabilities. If no neutral wire is connected to the smart switch, it will become a regular one.

If your home has been built after 1985, it will mostly have a neutral wire; however, if your house is older than 1985, it will have no neutral wire. Therefore, it’s a great idea to run a neutral in your house to ensure when installing a smart switch; it will run correctly with its full capabilities.

Neutral wires are essential for your smart switches and other electrical components in your house as LEDs. The neutral wire protects your LEDs from damage, and without a neutral wire, your smart switches will be limited; for example, you will not be able to connect them to WIFI.

Seven Reasons Why Smart Switches Need Neutral Wire

Without Neutral Wire Smart Switch is Limited

Smart switches have many features and options, many of which depend on the presence of a neutral wire. Therefore, when buying a smart switch with a neutral wire, you can use any smart switch in the market. Determining which smart switch to buying without having a neutral wire can be exhausting.

The smart home platform you use can increase the challenge if you don’t have a neutral wire, as some platforms have less compatible smart switch options than others. For example, Google Home and Amazon Alexa have more compatible options than a platform like Apple Home Kit.

Equipment Can Cost More

When you decide to buy a smart switch but you don’t have a neutral wire, you will also need to buy a smart home hub or a switching hub to have the ability to communicate with the light switch. In addition, you may need to buy a low-power adapter or a bypass resistor to ensure the lights work correctly.

The smart switches that can run without a neutral wire cost more than the ones that run on a neutral wire. Therefore, before you buy a smart switch without having a neutral wire, you need to check if it would cost less if you ran a neutral wire in your house.

Neutral Wire Protects LEDs from Damage

The neutral wire is the power supply provider to the smart switch, which needs a constant power supply so that you can control your switch anytime. The hot wire provides the power to the switch, and the neutral wire carries the power back to the electrical panel.

If you don’t have a neutral wire, the current will run through the switch’s wire, through the LED, into the ceiling’s wire, and then return to the electrical panel. The low current flowing through your LEDs can damage them over time, decreasing the lifespan of LEDs lights.

Smart Switches Need Neutral Wire for WIFI Connection

If you don’t have a neutral wire and decide to install a smart switch, you will also need to buy a hub. The hub uses a proprietary RF frequency later converted into WIFI commands. You control the switch through an application on your phone using these WIFI commands.

Another technology that smart switches that don’t need a neutral wire use are Z-Wave; it’s a repeating network where each device on the network communicates and broadcasts through the hub. Therefore, you will need to ensure your hub is working and your router is working to control your switch.

If you are installing a WIFI smart switch, you will not need a hub to control it; instead, it is directly connected to your WIFI. This gives smart switches that work on a neutral wire an advantage and lower installation costs.

Limited LED Bulbs Selection

When installing a smart switch without a neutral wire, you will have a limited collection to select from. It’s the same case for LED bulbs because the switches that do not require a neutral wire are incompatible with every LED bulb model. The switches need a bypass resistor to work with LED bulbs without problems.

If you prefer LED bulbs over incandescent bulbs, you will face many problems if you don’t have a neutral wire. The solution is to either run a neutral wire in your house or search for a compatible LED bulb with your switch, which can be challenging.

Protects The Switch from Faulty Currents

Most homes are powered by an alternating current, which means the current travels forth and back. The hot wire brings the current into the switch, where the circuit begins. The neutral wire carries the current back to the electrical panel precisely to the ground wire, which completes the circuit.

Any faulty current passing through the circuit will not reside in your switch, as the neutral wire carries the current to the electrical panel. Therefore, when having a neutral wire protects your circuit, and if something happens to it, the circuit will stop working, giving you an alert.

Neutral Wire Smart Switch Helps You Save Energy

Smart switches that use neutral wires work with their full capabilities, which can help you save energy; for example, smart switches allow you to set up schedules for your lights, so you can ensure that your lights are off when not in need. Also, smart switches allow you to access and control lights when you are away.

This will ensure that you don’t forget your lights working when you are at work; in addition, smart switches that work on a neutral wire give you access to your LED bulbs allowing you to control the intensity of your lights which can decrease your energy consumption.

How to Check for Neutral Wire for Smart Switches?

When you are planning to install a smart switch, it’s recommended that you check your switch box for a neutral wire. Because not all smart switches can work without a neutral wire, it’s better to know what model you should look for to ensure everything works correctly.

The easiest way to check for a neutral wire is to look inside your switch box; before you begin, you will need to turn off the main power supply to your switch. Next, using a voltage tester, check that there is no electricity passing through the wire to protect yourself from electrical shocks.

Using a screwdriver, unscrew the switch’s faceplate and remove the switch from the junction box; this will expose the wire connected to the back of the switch. Next, you need to look for a white wire among the wires connected to the switch; if you cannot find a white, then your switch doesn’t have a neutral wire.

How to Install a Smart Switch Without a Neutral Wire?

If you have found out that you don’t have a neutral wire in your house, this doesn’t mean that you can install a smart switch. You can install a smart switch but must go through more steps than usual. Many smart switch models don’t require a neutral wire; you can choose from them.

Unfortunately, these models have limited features and cost more than those that use a neutral wire. You will need to buy more components than usual; for example, you will need to buy a bypass resistor for LED bulbs and a hub for WIFi features. These smart switches are considered a temporary fix until you run a neutral wire.

Adding a neutral wire to your home electrical system will save you from many exhausting steps and costs. You can extend a neutral wire from another box or add a new one to the required box. Of course, you should hire a qualified electrician to do any of the above services for your safety.


To summarize, smart switches provide you with greater convenience and comfort than regular switches and improve your house automation experience. Most smart switch models need a neutral wire to work correctly with their full capabilities, as the neutral wire provides constant power to them.

The neutral wire is essential for a smart switch for many reasons; for example, without a neutral wire, the switch selection is limited, the neutral wire saves you from many costs, protects your LEDs and circuit from damage and faulty currents, enables WIFI features, and save your energy.

Installing a neutral wire to your house can seem exhausting, but once you install it, you can benefit from the convenience and comfort of smart switches. You can utilize your house’s energy and ensure that your smart home devices are connected and working correctly.

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