How To Add A Neutral Wire To An Existing Light Switch
Adding a neutral wire can be a little daunting, especially if you’re dealing with a light switch that you’ve had for years. A neutral wire makes smart home creation easier and also better completes your electrical circuits. If you are adding a smart home switch box to your place, chances are that you might need to add a neutral wire to your current setup.
You can either add a new neutral wire to your switch box, or you can choose to extend your older neutral wires to the newer switch box. Both projects will require you to call an electrician due to the sheer complexity of it. However, there are some workarounds and it’s good to know the general steps that will be done.
We wish we could say that adding a neutral wire is a regular DIY project, but it’s really not. It’s something that should be done by a trained electrician and not a casual DIY enthusiast. If you really considering adding a new neutral wire, this guide will help you learn about your options.
What Is A Neutral Wire?
The first thing you should know about neutral wires is what they do, and why you might need them. In a simple electric setup, you will have energy that is led through a power source. The switch will either connect your appliance to electricity or cut electricity off.
This is great for old school inventions, but not if you want to have a smart outlet. Smart outlets need to have a constant stream of power. If they’re switched off, they can’t be programmed. A neutral wire is meant to carry voltage back to the power source, which means that your switches won’t entirely cut off from electricity.
Do You Need A Neutral Wire?
In many cases, outlets and other electrical devices will already come with a neutral wire that’s ready to be hooked up to the rest of your power circuit. However, not every switch box will come with a neutral wire. If you aren’t sure whether you need to install a neutral wire, look for these signs:
- You don’t see a white wire leading out of your outlet. This suggests that you may need to get a neutral wire for the smart outlet you’re looking to get. All homes have a neutral wire. It’s just a matter of whether your switch box has one.
- You’re already aware that you don’t have a neutral wire, but the fixture you want to install requires one. This is a good indicator that you either need a new fixture or a new neutral wire.
- You have consulted an electrician and this is the best solution they could come up with. If an electrician says you need a neutral wire in your switch box or item, then you need to get one.
Why Shouldn’t You Do It Yourself?
There are many awesome ways to improve your home on your own, but this is not one of them. When you’re working with electricity that you can’t usually shut off all at once, you’re dealing with a risk of an electric shock. Those are painful. With poorly-assembled electric outfits, there’s also a chance that you could turn your home into a fire hazard. If you’re lucky, you just might end up with a switch box that doesn’t work.
The overall mechanics of electrical circuitry should not be done by people who don’t know what they’re doing and haven’t been trained in electrical work. This is one of the very few DIY projects that we don’t suggest that you do on your own. If anything, you should use this guide as a way to educate yourself on what to expect.
Adding A Neutral Wire To Your Switch Box
There are three main options for people who need a neutral wire to be added for a smart home purpose. Here’s what you would need to know about each choice…
Adding A Brand New Neutral Wire
If you don’t have a neutral wire in your switch box and have no switch boxes nearby, this is going to have to be your solution. With this solution, your electrician will connect a neutral wire to your switch box and run it through to connect it to the rest of your house lines. This is usually the most complex option.
Connecting Your Switch Box To An Existing Wire
If you have a switch box that does have a neutral wire connected to it, this will be your solution. Your electrician will splice the existing wire and run it to your other switch box. This option is somewhat less complex and will most likely be cheaper as a result.
Using Equipment That Doesn’t Need A Neutral Wire
Don’t want to make a call to the electrician? You might want to consider using other options. These can include:
- Using A Dimmer That Doesn’t Require Neutral Wires. There are dimmers that can allow you to get dimming to happen without a neutral. They are rare, but they do exist.
- Use A Smart Switch That Doesn’t Require Neutral Wires. The Easton Aspire is a good example of a neutral-free smart switch box. Another good example would be the Lutron Caseta Wireless. Fans of smart switch boxes will probably need to choose this one until they can find other solution, if they even need one.
- Choose Smart Bulbs Instead. Smart bulbs have dimming functions, can be plugged into regular lamps, and can plug into regular outlets. Even Hue lightbulbs have a way to get the dimming action you want through their color-changing qualities.
- Opt For Ambient Lighting. If you’re looking for a way to up intimacy in your home, install ambient lighting through a regular light outlet. This is usually one of the cheapest ways to get the effect you want, especially if you choose to get a fixture with a dimmable switch built into it.
How Much Will Adding A Neutral Wire Cost?
A neutral wire installation is a relatively simple job. You should expect to pay $50 to $100 for two switches. A good handyman company will be able to do this, so technically, you don’t need a fully licensed electrician to take the job. That’s why the price is so low compared to other electrical projects for a similar time.
So, it’s important that you shop around before deciding on who you want to hire for this particular job. If you’re hiring an expert electrician, you’ll end up paying a lot more than if you just hire a handyman who is familiar with this type of work. When hiring an expert, the labor fees are much higher. However, a handyman may only charge you a flat fee to do this job instead of labor fees.
When searching for someone, ask them if they are familiar with this type of work. Then, get a per-switch cost estimate, and ask about any labor fees so that you can best be prepared. It’s a good idea to call at least three to five different places to get your quotes.
Can you add a neutral wire to a light switch?
If you decided to upgrade your home with smart switches but you don’t have a neutral wire to run from your switch box then you can hire a professional electrician to do it install the neutral wire from the switch to the light fixture.
Moreover, the electrician can also rewire a switch and light fixture. However, this project would be more expensive than just installing a new neutral wire.
Can you connect a neutral wire to a hot wire?
No, there is never a direct connection between neutral wires and hot wires. If you remove the load using a switch that breaks the connection or if you remove it completely then there is no power that flows through the wires.
What happens if the neutral wire is not connected?
If a neutral wire breakage or short circuit happens at the same time then the neutral point’s displacement point will be greater. Eventually, after the neutral wire breaks, you can get an electric shock because the shell begins to leak electricity.
Our Final Take
Due to the nature of DIY electrical work, we strongly advise against trying to do this on your own. If done improperly, it can lead to injury, fires, or just a non-function switch box. It’s a somewhat complex project that can easily lead to mistakes if you don’t have experience. You really should hire someone to do this for you, since it’s better to be safe than sorry.
That being said, you do have several options to ask for here. You can always add a new neutral wire if you need one, but in many cases, you can just run a nearby neutral wire to your new switch box. If you aren’t feeling calling an electrician, using a switch box that doesn’t need a neutral wire is usually your best bet. You can also use smart bulbs or a light fixture that has a built-in dimmer function.
Ossiana Tepfenhart is an expert writer, focusing on interior design and general home tips. Writing is her life, and it's what she does best. Her interests include art and real estate investments.
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