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

April 06, 2016 16 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!




16 Responses

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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