Do I have a neutral wire?

Here in Canada having the Neutral wire in the switch box was very optional and not in the code at all until 15-20 years ago, So it is something that is very hit and miss the older they get.

From what I hear, pretty much the same thing in the US also.

If you see a white wire with black tape on it, it usually is not Neutral, also if you have a white wire connected to one of the lugs of a regular non electronic switch with only one other wire (black or red), it is a traveler wire and it's not neutral.

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Ah, this is what I feared. I was happy when I saw the white wire, but from what I had been reading they shouldn't be connected to a dumb switch, so I was pretty suspect when they were connected to the switch already... :confused:

Zooz switches can do this as well.

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They don't look connected to the switch, they seem to only be connected together, this is usually the sign that it is Neutral, only way to be 100% sure is to use a multimeter to test them.

If you are unsure, please get the help of a professional (or at least a friend with knowledge), you can easily get seriously hurt.


I agree, the white wires don't look like they are not connected to your switch, so seems more likely they are neutrals. But you have to confirm...

If you end up not having a neutral, there are options to put in smart switches w/out neutrals, I haven't done that myself but folks who have may chime in.

Another option is to remove the dumb switch, tie the wires inside the box together so the light is always on, and then replace the dumb switch w/a smart button/switch.

I've done this w/a ceiling fan I wanted to control from the wall but didn't have the proper wiring in the wall to get separate fan/ligth control at the switch boxes. So I removed the dumb switches, tied the wires in the boxes so the fan always has power, put a couple Pico switches in the two switch boxes and programed them to control the fan.

If you aren't using Picos you could do the same w/another battery operated switch like the Zooz Zen34 (currently out of stock). And there are others.

The only sure way to check for neutral is.


  • Label all your wires.
  • Remove all the wires from the switch terminals.
  • flip your breaker back on. Don't kill yourself please.
  • Check for 110 VAC from ground to the black wire until you find the black wire with 110VAC.
  • look for a white wire in the conduit where the black wire with 110VAC is.
  • put your meter between that black wire and the white wire in the same conduit. 110VAC = neutral. Less than 90VAC = neutral somewhere else and whoever did your wiring was not qualified.

I'm curious... why do you want to have a smart switch and smart bulbs? If you have smart bulbs don't they do the work of a switch anyway? And if you have a smart switch why do you need smart bulbs?

i would imagine the white wire bundle i see in one of the pics is your neutral

Okay, maybe I need a better understanding of how smart switches and smart bulbs work together.

Currently I have only smart bulbs with dumb switches. This means I have to leave the switches in the on position permanently, which means that the household can't use the switches anymore.

I'd like to still retain switch functionality for ease of use (e.g. quickly going into a room, you flick the light on and then off when you leave).

My understanding is that most smart switches (when paired with smart bulbs) turn off the bulb when the switch is turned off. This is something that separates the Inovelli red from the rest. They keep power to the smart bulbs while also being able to turn them off.

I am also currently exploring just getting a separate smart dimmer or remote solution in this thread. :sweat_smile:

This is exactly why you need smart switches. Family turns off switch, smart bulb is dead.

This is a common issue to run into when folks first start automating their home - smart bulbs are easy to add quickly so they get added, and then the complications of using them w/dumb switches become apparent.

You could add a smart switch, replace the smart bulbs with dumb bulbs in those sockets, and find a better use of the smart bulbs - in a spot where there isn't an easily accessible switch that will kill the light.

I use both together for one simple reason- if I need to cut power to the bulbs, I can do so easily. My Zooz switches with attached smart bulbs are currently configured with manual and z-wave load control disabled (parameter 15 set to 2), which means they only act as z-wave button devices. A quick update to parameter 15 and I can cut power to the load, making it safe to mess with the bulbs... no need to go back into the wall to remove a wire nut if/when I have a need to cut power.

ya its annoying

i have 3 ways i use smart bulbs..

  1. in lamps so that if turned off i can easliy turn back on and tell everyone dont turn the lamp off.

  2. in celing strips where i put in a smart switch that works without a load like eaton switches and then wire the load and line together so the outlet always has power and then setup an automation on the switch to control the bulb(s)

  3. put in a smart switch and also bulbs and setup an automation to reset the switch and lights when the switch is turned off.

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in my opinion i twould be a nice feature to have smart bulbs have a little 3v battery and extend the zigbee spec to be able to use the battery and send a certain message if enabled that the power was turned off,, in that way you could know and take action with rules.

the lack of understanding is more likely at my end!

I get the issue of smart bulbs and dumb switches. Drives me CRAZY when the cleaning lady shuts off the light switch and my smart bulbs are dead. I have child-proof guards on them now.

A smart switch doesn't need to be paired with a smart bulb though. If I have a fixture connected to a smart switch I can turn the switch on and off either manually or through automation and power to the fixture will go on or off accordingly. It doesn't matter what kind of bulbs are in the fixture. The restriction is all the bulbs act in unison, so if I turn the smart switch on, all of the bulbs on the connected circuit come on. I can't control the bulbs individually with just a smart switch.

I have borderline dirty power service--not dirty enough to spring for a whole-home filter, but we do occasionally get spiked hard enough to kill mains-connected electronics. Maybe once every 2 years something gets blown by a spike, so all of my expensive electronics are UPS-protected. Can't do this with bulbs, so I made it easy to cut power when a bulb needs changing. The kids are old enough now that I can make them climb up on a ladder, but I have one that would find a way to zap himself. Problem solved :wink:

LOL OK. NOW I get it. Thanks for clarifying.

I have found one other real disadvantage to smart bulbs (except Hue). When the power goes out and comes back on, they ALL come on! The Hue bulbs can be configured with different power-on behavior.

The majority of my smart bulbs are in fixtures that do not connect to switches... table lamps, old closet bare bulb pull cords, etc. In the closets I disconnect the pull string from the fixture and leave only 2" of cord. You'd have to be damned determined to get up there and turn off my fixture. The closet bulbs are all controlled by motion sensors in the closet.

Where I have the option of turning the light on or off with a smart switch I put dumb bulbs in. I use Lutron dimmers, which do not require a neutral to work.

The Philips Wiz Wi-Fi bulbs I have also have a customizable Power Outage setting!

Good to know! When I lose power all of my lights go out for about 15 seconds as the generator kicks on. Then the smart bulbs A:: COME ON and I sit there with my computer and turn them all off. When commercial power is restored they all go off and then when the transfer switch returns to commercial power they ALL COME ON again :slight_smile: It's quite the show.

That would only happen exactly one time to me in the middle of the night before I ripped out 100% of the smart bulbs and threw them in the trash. But people say I'm biased and anti-smart bulb anyway. :wink:

In fact... That is exactly what happened that made me trash the 10 or so Hue bulbs I used to own (before there was a setting for what to do on power loss/restore on Hue bulbs).