Many older homes did not include neutral wiring due to the fact that older switches simply didn't need neutral wires. Unfortunately, things have changed and now virtually every Z-Wave switch out there needs a neutral.
Well, that's not entirely true. There are some Z-Wave switches that don't require a neutral wire, but they only work with incandescent bulbs. If you want to use LEDs, you're out of luck, unless you use a different form of light control! Read on to see what I mean...
Why Do Z-Wave Switches Need Neutral Wires?
Z-Wave switches all feature a Z-Wave chip in them, which is what the actual switch uses to communicate with a hub. Since this switch needs to constantly communicate with the hub, it needs a small trickle of power at all times, which is what the neutral wire does.
Without a neutral wire, the switch would not be able to communicate back to the hub.
What Options You Have in a Home with No Neutral Wires
Pay an electrician to install neutral wires
While most older homes don't feature neutral wires in their switch gang boxes, they do usually feature neutral wires in their outlet gang boxes. So, an electrician can usually run the neutral wire from the outlet to the switch.
If your outlets and your switches both don't feature neutral wires, they can still be installed, it's just usually much more labor intensive
This is by far the best solution for someone who wants to be able to use actual Z-Wave switches in their home, however, it would likely be very expensive.
Use Z-Wave bulbs to control your lighting
This is the "cheaper option" of the two, because it's usually much cheaper than wiring your whole house. However, buying 20+ Z-Wave bulbs for your home is likely more expensive than buying 5-10 Z-Wave switches, so it is what it is.
The advantage to having Z-Wave bulbs is that you can control each individual bulb and/or the whole room. So, if you wanted to just have one or two bulbs on in your living room, you could do that. Or if you wanted to have one bulb stay on at 5% in your bathroom at night, you could do that to!
You have a lot more flexibility with Z-Wave bulbs!
One important thing to note about bulbs, though, is that if someone manually turns a switch off, you won't be able to control your bulbs until that switch is turned back on.
The Best Z-Wave Bulbs
If you're like us, you opted for Z-Wave bulbs instead of rewiring a switch - But which ones are best? Here is a short list of the best Z-Wave bulbs on the market. Check it out:
GoControl Z-Wave Dimmable LED Light Bulb, LB60Z-1
The GoControl LB60Z-1 is by far and away the best Z-Wave bulb on the market. It's very affordable at roughly $25-$30 and it works quite well!
It features a soft white 2700k color, a 22 year life, and it only uses 9w of electricity! It's also compatible with virtually every Z-Wave smart hub out there, so it's hard to go wrong with this bad boy.
What makes this bulb even better is the fact that each one repeats your Z-Wave signal since they're all hardwired!
The one thing a few reviewers have had issues with using these bulbs is that some of them emit a light hum when below 100% brightness. This is usually due to a home's wiring, so it will vary from home to home if this hum is present or not.
GoControl Bulbz Z-Wave Dimmable LED LBR30Z-1
Just as the name may suggest, this is the the big brother to the LB60Z-1. The biggest difference between the two is that this one is a BR30 style floodlight rather than a standard E26 lightbulb.
The other difference between this and the LB60Z-1 is the wattage and lumens. The LB60Z-1 puts out 750 lumens and uses 9w, whereas this bulb puts out 650 lumens and uses only 7.5w of energy. That's not a huge difference, but it's something to be aware of if you plan to use both of these bulbs in the same room.
And the final thing to be aware of with this bulb is that it is 5000k in color, so it is a cool white rather than a soft white.
Enbrighten Z-Wave Smart LED Bulb 35931
This is virtually the exact same bulb as the LB60Z-1, the only difference is that it's made by enbrighten.
How similar you ask? Well, they're both 60W equivalents in brightness. They both feature 750 lumens at 2700k, and they 9w of power.
Basically the biggest difference is the form factor and price. Because of that, I would say get whichever bulb is cheaper at the time, as they're both great bulbs!
Comparing The Best Z-Wave Bulbs
2700k soft white
5000k cool white
2700k soft white
Instead of using a Z-Wave bulb, you could use a Zigbee bulb like Philips Hue as long as your hub supports it. Most modern hubs, such as Vera and SmartThings, support multiple protocols (ie. Z-Wave and Zigbee), so using bulbs like Philips Hue is just as easy as using a Z-Wave bulb!
The amazing thing about Z-Wave Home Automation is that you can accomplish virtually any task, in this case lighting, a number of ways (switches, bulbs, etc.). It's absolutely amazing how flexible a smart home can be!
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