No neutral to box? No problem

So I recently had our electrician out to finish up some things that we needed to be done. I got some Shelly 1’s that I wanted to have put in. I have a hall light, bathroom fan, and garage work lights that needed to be smartened up. After trying the Shelly Duo bulbs, I decided that maybe Shelly 1 would fit the bill. We had to get creative. The hall light was straightforward. I wanted it automated, but for the use case, I didn’t want to spend a ton of money on it and it was something that I could take or leave. We use it to light the hall when we open the closet door. I had smart bulbs in them, but my guests and cleaning lady would shut off the switch. Yeah… So that was an easy solution.
The bathroom fan is something that we want to be able to use and turn off, but don’t want it left on for long periods of time. Given smart switches don’t appreciate the load that hits it when it’s powered on, I opted for a Shelly 1 in that spot too. Problem solved.

Now, on to the garage lights. They proved to be difficult. No neutral to the box. Our house was built in 1994, so code required neutrals, but not to every box. My electrician spent a few minutes figuring out how to get a neutral to the switch as we had no idea which direction the wire came from or if we would be able to get a new wire into the attic from the switch. Then it came to me.

Shelly’s only need constant power, a neutral and to be on the same line as the device you’re trying to control. Change of plan. We ended up putting a box in the attic attaching it to the neutral and junctioning it to the switch. Who said it had to go behind the switch? Where there’s a will there’s a way.
Also, we had to get creative about lighting our hall. Seems that our heating duct runs through there and left no room for a conventional light and switch. Here’s a photo of what we ended up doing with some LED and a plug in the next room. This even proved difficult. It’s not exactly what I had envisioned, but it works. The hall is short, but it’s very dark in that area.

Have you had to come up with some interesting solutions? Love to hear them.


Curious could you not have used a shelly 1L which does not need a neutral?
I have one on order was going to try it for my furnace switch which doesn’t have a neutral.

i also happen to get an email today from GE Jasco that they have a new no neutral switch but it is zwave.


I could have, but I didn’t know that they made one. I always just assume that I’m going to need to find a way with a neutral to do the job.
I read about the GE. I’m looking forward to learning the limitations of that switch. It seems that there’s always something lost with a no neutral solution. Like consumption, etc.

The link is to a no neutral dimmer, which it seems is more common than a switch.

OK I’ll stick my neck out on this topic… I know the response I’ll get.

If I have a box with no neutral and need one… I just use the ground wire as a neutral. Now I am a guy who know’s what he is doing… so there is no problem with this fo rme-- none. In addition, at least a few of these “no neutral” devices do the same thing… they run a little bias down the ground wire- maybe a mA or two or something low like that. Apparently the NEC is OK with that… need to look into the code a bit- but I’ve seen it and measured it. I know people will have a cow about this… and I certainly am not recommending anybody do this… :slight_smile:

I have one or two switches hooked up this way. I get why it’s not recommended. I know the neutral does basically the same thing as a ground, so there’s no arguing that, but it’s the issue of getting that shock if something is going bad. Could ruin more than a circuit. My electrician explained it to me in dumbed down terms, so like I said, I get it. But the purpose of this was really for the Shelly’s. I’ve seen people hook these up terribly wrong and melt things. I don’t know that I would want to take that shortcut in that case. I love what I have for Shelly’s because they’re so flexible, but I don’t know if I’d be so quick to dismiss the neutral wire in these. Their setup is a bit different. Even my electrician had to read the instructions and he’s 10 years in.

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How about for those of us without even a ground wire to the switch? Gotta love original 1912 knob and tube electrical right? Is there any hope for us? Or is the only solution bulbs with a cover plate and a button of some sort?

I think you’ll be stuck in the 1912’s. Unfortunately I think you are right there, but the history and architecture of your house must be incredible.

Yup, second owners, built by the family of the first hardware store in Los Angeles with all Port Orford Cedar trim that was originally painted when we got it, but has since been stripped by hand and returned to its stained origins. We also have pictures of the house on one of those extremely rare snow days in Southern California.

It is actually rumored that there is treasure buried somewhere but we have yet to find it haha.