Wiring Z-Wave Switches: Do’s and Don’ts

April 06, 2016 24 Comments

Get tip on how to troubleshoot and wire Z-Wave smart lighting switches and controls

Setting up my smart devices is usually fun, but I’ve always needed a bit more patience when it comes to wiring my Z-Wave switches. They include into your network like any Z-Wave device, but they also have different specifications. For example, unlike regular switches, your Z-Wave switches should be connected exactly as indicated in the manual and require a minimum load to function properly.

It’s worth mentioning, by the way, that after this initial set-up phase, my Z-Wave switches have made all the difference when it’s come to making my home more energy-efficient and convenient for me. That’s why I’ve compiled a short list of do’s and don’ts that will help you navigate and ease your Z-Wave switch installation process.

1. READ THE MANUAL, FOLLOW THE DIAGRAM

All Z-Wave lighting controls need to be wired exactly according to the user manual, with neutral, line, and load identified correctly on the first try. If you are not sure which one is load and which one is line, use a professional multimeter (your regular $10 multimeter will not be accurate enough) or better, consult a licensed electrician. Line and load are sometimes swapped in standard switch installations so it's best no to rely on original layout exclusively.

If you decide to hire an electrician to complete the installation, have them read the manual as well. We have found that professionals often approach Z-Wave equipment as if it was a simple electrical switch which may cause the device to malfunction. Remember to check for neutral connection in every gang box you plan to replace with a Z-Wave switch, especially if you live in an older house! 

2. CHECK FOR MINIMUM & MAXIMUM LOAD LIMITS

Most Z-Wave switches require at least 20 Watts on load and need to be connected to resistive load. So make sure there are no transformers along the way (common for low-voltage lighting), and preferable more than a couple of high-quality LED bulbs on the circuit. This is due to the TRIAC electronic component these devices are based on - it needs enough load to operate.

Don't forget that any motor loads like gas dryers will consume more power at start-up that mentioned in the specs. Always examine the specifications for each device carefully and compare it against the manual for your Z-Wave switch. Or ask The Smartest House support team!

3. MASTER THE 3-WAY 

3-way installation is different for Z-Wave switches than for regular electrical switches. When wiring two smart switches to control the same light, you have what we call a master switch which is connected to the load, line, neutral, traveler and ground and which also includes to your Z-Wave system. And then for additional manual control, you have the add-on switch which must NOT be powered up and connects to traveler, neutral, and ground only. That is the most popular configuration used by GE/Jasco or Zooz for example. I will go over different types of 3-way controls in a separate post soon.

If you have a set-up like that, you need to make sure none of the wires you connect to the add-on switch is hot, otherwise the switch may be damaged easily. The add-on does not include to the Z-Wave system but merely transmits any status changes to the master switch through electrical impulse communicated via the traveler wire.

Here is a great video from Jasco with a step-by-step guide on how to install a 3-way Z-Wave switch:

I hope this has helped answer some questions you may have had about wiring your Z-Wave switches. Feel free to share your tips, questions, and experiences in the comment section below!




24 Responses

Michael McNally
Michael McNally

February 04, 2018

Scott Bemis. In your description you say there should be 120V from load to ground. And 0 V from Line to ground. I believe you may be connecting those two cables incorrect as Line is 120V and load should be 0 volts.

Scott Bemis
Scott Bemis

January 25, 2018

This is for unsual results when wiring in GE/Jasco switches and also a Leviton Decora DZ15S on the same switch (same circuit); same gang box; single pole connection
After turning the circuit breaker on and off at the correct times, this what I have done.
With circuit live and all the wires (no switch)
Verify neutral (white wires) are neutral, 0 (zero) between neutral and ground (ground are the bare copper wires pigtailed)
Verified the load or hot, live circuit, 120 V between load and ground; 120 V between load and ground; 120 V between load and neutral
Verified the line is 0 (zero) volts between line and neutral, and line and ground
Checked for continuity between neutral and ground; there is continuity – neutral and ground are connected, hopefully back at the panel
Connected switches per the provided instructions
With the circuit off via the circuit breaker
Load/hot wire connected to load on switch (bk on the Leviton)
Line wire connected to line on switch (rd on the Leviton)
Neutral wire connected to Neutral on the switch (wh on the Leviton)
Ground wire connected to ground on the switch
Energize circuit
With the Ge/Jasco switch, nothing happens, locator LED always remains off with even after multiple resets of the switch (led should blink on the switch for resets); switch cannot be found by Zwave controller after following the instructions for inclusion mode (press paddle up or down once)
With the Leviton, locator LED is on (set to default of on when there is no load) when the circuit is energized
Turn Leviton switch, light controlled by switch turned on for several seconds, in the meantime, the switch locator LED flashes amber, then it flashes red about 5 times, the light controlled by the switch goes off, and the switch locator LED turns on, indicating no load (which matches the light as it is off)
Is there something wrong with how neutral is connected back at the panel? Or something else? As a side note, I BRIEFLY connected the neutral on the switch to ground, and then the switch works. For anyone reading this, in general, please do NOT do this. Use the neutral wire for neutral on the switch. I BRIEFLY did this only for troubleshooting AND made sure I did not touch any grounded device (ex. a metal computer case) . I have removed the ground wire from neutral; I re-connected the neutral wire back to neutral on the switch.
- end -

Jan (The Smartest House)
Jan (The Smartest House)

January 09, 2018

Hi Monica! If you only have black,red, and white on each side it means there’s no direct connection to power line in any of the boxes so none of the smart switches we’ve seen so far would work. BUT if you have access to the light fixture, you can always install a Z-Wave module there to get the whole circuit automated. Feel free to get in touch with our support for more details.

Monica Swed
Monica Swed

January 06, 2018

There is no edit button. That last comment was supposed to say black wires, not black switches, but you probably already knew that.

Monica Swed
Monica Swed

January 06, 2018

I am trying to install 3 way & 4way switches, but I only have 1 black wire ( also 1 white, 1 red, and a ground) in all my switches. As you know, smart switches require line AND load. (2 black switches).

John Randomme
John Randomme

December 02, 2017

What an awesome resource you have here — I have been looking for a site just like this one. Thanks for the tips. My question is actually about a Leviton lamp (dimmer) MODULE (rather than an in-wall installation). In the past with the APPLIANCE modules, I have connected 3-pronged power strips so that I can turn on/off several devices at once, such as the AV centre at home. However with DIMMER modules, am I able to do something similar, for example with a 2-wired “tap” such as the following ones: (example 1: http://bit.ly/2klV64t) or (example 2: http://bit.ly/2AQfaD2) ??

Any advice would be super helpful. For the actual context: By using a tap like the ones in the above examples, I am hoping to plug in 2 lamps (each with dimmable LED bulbs) into the same z-wave module (a dimmer module), just to save money since each module is expensive. During December, I’d also like to plug the Christmas tree into an available socket on the tap. The LED string of Christmas lights has an AC adapter block as the wall plug, if that is helpful info.

Again any advice here in this community would be so super helpful. Thanks so much for putting this great blog and resource site together!

Jan (The Smartest House)
Jan (The Smartest House)

July 11, 2017

Hi Keith! You’ll need a Z-Wave light switch for every set of lights you want to control. So basically if you currently now have one switch per room controlling all the lights, you’ll need to replace each one with a Z-Wave switch. If you have 2 different switches per room controlling 2 different set of lights, you’ll need to replace both of them with Z-Wave light switches. But if you have 2 different wall switches controlling the same set of lights, you’ll need one Z-Wave switch only and then depending on the product you go with, you may need a companion add-on switch to replace the “slave” switch (controlling the same set of lights). Feel free to contact our support with more detailed questions!

Keith
Keith

July 09, 2017

I have a question about how many Smart Control switches vs Add On switches to use. I want to control lights in 4 different rooms, so am I correct that I need a Smart Control switch in each room? Thank you

Jan (The Smartest House)
Jan (The Smartest House)

May 04, 2017

Hi Nick,

I’m afraid that if you powered up the load terminal, the switch has been probably damaged already. The electronics in these devices are very sensitive so you need to be careful, especially when identifying load and line since they’re usually both black.

Nick
Nick

May 03, 2017

You say you must have “neutral, line, and load identified correctly on the first try”. If I accidentally switched the line and load did I damage the switch.

I have a dimmer switch I cannot seem to get working in multiple location and unsure if It’s broken or I’m clueless.

Jan (The Smartest House)
Jan (The Smartest House)

March 17, 2017

Hi Scott,
Qubino has a 0-10V Dimmer which seems should do the job for you: https://www.thesmartesthouse.com/products/qubino-z-wave-plus-flush-dimmer-0-10v-zmnhvd3
Feel free to contact our support team for details!

Scott Bradley
Scott Bradley

March 16, 2017

I want to replace a Lutron Diva DVELV-300P low voltage dimmer with GE Z-wave dimmer. The Luton has a neutral, used to power the night light in the paddle. However, it sounds like the GE Z-wave may not work because of the need for a minimum load, which I’m not sure a transformer provides. Is there a z-wave alternative?

Jan (The Smartest House)
Jan (The Smartest House)

February 03, 2017

Hi Patty, there’s always a wire connecting the 2 switches if they control the same light. If you’re seeing 3 wires only, it’s possible that there is no neutral. Colors are not always the best indicator of which wire is which so in this case, we recommend hiring an electrician to identify the wiring in each box and compare it against the wiring diagrams in the Z-Wave switches.

Patty
Patty

February 01, 2017

What if there is no traveler wire? I have lights controlled by 2switches, but my house has no red wires. 2 black, 1white.

Electrician Pros Phoenix
Electrician Pros Phoenix

January 30, 2017

Thank you for sharing, very easy to follow along with.

Jan (The Smartest House)
Jan (The Smartest House)

January 27, 2017

Hi Timothy,

If you don’t have a neutral, you can use Fibaro’s Dimmer just remember you’ll have to use incandescent bulbs and follow the diagram for 3-way carefully: http://www.thesmartesthouse.com/products/fibaro-z-wave-plus-dimmer-2-fgd-212

Timothy Blanchard
Timothy Blanchard

January 25, 2017

What is the solution if you don’t have neutral wires in your three way switches?

Jan (The Smartest House)
Jan (The Smartest House)

December 02, 2016

Hi Tim,
Thanks for the question! We’re not familiar with that particular product (we only deal with Z-Wave devices for now) but our understanding is that correct wiring is crucial to any electronic switch. It’s best to hire an electrician if you’re not sure how to identify the wiring in your switch box. From what you described though it seems like it may also be a range issue so it’s worth bench testing the device closer to your router to rule this out. Good luck!

Jan (The Smartest House)
Jan (The Smartest House)

December 02, 2016

Hi Brian, you can use the LTM-5 which can be a virtual control switch for any device in your SmartThings network: http://www.thesmartesthouse.com/products/wall-mount-accessory-switch-ltm-5
Good luck with the project!

Tim Sawyer
Tim Sawyer

November 25, 2016

This was an interesting article, and somewhat tied to my problem. I’m trying to install what I guess is a “z-wave switch” (or is that a brand name or something?) — it’s a TP-Link HS200 Smart Wi-Fi Light Switch. It just won’t work, and every 10 seconds or so the lights “blink” on and the switch itself clicks (simultaneously). (The signal meter never turns green, but stays yellow (amber) except for the “blink” times, when it goes off altogether.) When I called tech support, the acted like it was because there was only supposed to be one neutral (white) wire in the box, and I have 2, though they were already twisted and wire-nutted together. (Their own directions in their app show and describe two white (neutral) wires already in the box, but I think their tech folks don’t know that.) Can you help me with this?

Brian
Brian

November 20, 2016

I want to replace many of my switches with something that is seen as a button by my Z-wave controller, SmartThings. I just want power to flow permanently and use the button to send the on/off command. Is there anything that does this?

Jan (The Smartest House)
Jan (The Smartest House)

May 13, 2016

Hi Dale, that’s a good question! Do you mean installations without neutral and just hot and load wires present? Most, if not all, Z-Wave switches require a neutral wire. The older version of GE/Jasco dimmer switch (model number is 45612) did not require a neutral connection but due to growing demand for LED and low voltage bulb compatibility, their new model (12724), as well as all other Z-Wave switches, do require a neutral. The 45612 model has been discontinued for a while and is very difficult to come by no so I’m afraid we don’t have good news for you. Unfortunately, none of the Z-Wave switches we know of will function without neutral and ground.

Dale Goad
Dale Goad

May 12, 2016

What if you have an older home without ground wire? (2 wire 110 VAC).

Williamka
Williamka

May 11, 2016

Really enjoyed this article post.Really looking forward to read more. Will read on… Raudales

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