Wiring a nano dimmer with only a black wire?

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jachin99
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Wiring a nano dimmer with only a black wire?

Post by jachin99 » Fri Feb 14, 2020 6:18 pm

I grabbed an Aeotec nano dimmer so that I can dim my lights via EG, and the ZWave plugin. I though the installation of said dimmer would be straight forward enough having done a little bit of electrical works but its not as obvious as I had hoped. The switch I would like to place the nanodimer behind is a two switch box with one switch controlling two light sockets (These are what I want to dim via my nano dimmer), and the other switch controlling a ceiling fan. Instead of having a black, and white wire like most of the other outlets I have worked on, these two switches only have the black wire connected to them in what looks like one continuous loop. The box itself has one black wire, the ground wire (Which is disconnected for whatever reason), and a the white wire, which just runs through the box for future use I guess, and isn't connected to anything. I have attached a picture hopefully of what the wiring looks like, and I'm looking for any help I can get. This is the dimmer I'm trying to use. https://aeotec.com/z-wave-light-dimmer-switch/
IMG_20200214_125125.jpg

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Re: Wiring a nano dimmer with only a black wire?

Post by kgschlosser » Sun Feb 16, 2020 1:48 am

ok I need a better photo to see what is going on.

turn the breakers(s) off for these circuits and extend ALL of the wiring so it can be seen. leave the wiring connected to the switches.

from looking at the photo it looks as tho there is a hot (black) wire coming into the box it gets looped around the bottom screw on the switch on the right. then the wire goes to a wirenut to another black wire and then to the top screw on the left switch.

the switch on the right has a black wire coming off of the top screw and heads to the back of the box. I am making an assumption this is probably the ceiling fan. this assumption comes from a ceiling fan being a single fixture.

the bottom screw has a black wire also attached to it. except this wire comes in from the back of the box, loops around the screw and then heads to the back of the box again. This is the light that has the 2 fixtures, I am guessing


Now the wiring that I am seeing in there is from what I like to call a "hack" or "lazy" electrician. One that didn't see fit to cut strip and pigtail the wires like they should be.

Once all of the wires are pulled out so they can be seen and counted we will know 100% what is happening in there.. But from the wiring that I can see in the photo you will have electrical connections that look like this.

is wired.png
This is the right way... well not that the other is wrong. it's just lazy
should have been wired.png
once I have the better photos from you I will be able to make sure that I am correct in my wiring assessment and I will do another of my purdy drawings for you.

just so you can have some peace of mind with me knowing what I am doing (or at least doing a really good job at pretending :shock: ).
This is my load center in my house. I did all of this myself as well as all of the electrical wiring in my home.
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and this is what the original load center looked like.
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Re: Wiring a nano dimmer with only a black wire?

Post by kgschlosser » Sun Feb 16, 2020 1:52 am

in my drawings I forgot to label the "line" or incoming power wires. they are the 3 coming in from the bottom that are the right most ones. (black, white and copper) These come from your breaker panel or from another switch or outlet. but they are not switched and can only be turned off from the breaker panel. (hopefully)
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Re: Wiring a nano dimmer with only a black wire?

Post by kgschlosser » Sun Feb 16, 2020 4:57 am

OK so this is what it should be. Tho I am not sure how you would go about controlling the dimming from a Single Pole Single Throw (SPST) mechanical switch that only has 2 states, On (connected/closed) and Off (disconnected/open).

I am going to tell you with how crowded that box already is the chances of you being able to fit all of the wiring in there with 2 switches and now adding the Nano is not going to be an easy task. You will probably need to remove the box and put in a deeper one. This can be done without damaging the wall if you are extremely careful. You would need to get a deeper box that is an "old/existing construction" style box that has a screw on the top and a screw on the bottom and 2 flaps that can grab the sheet rock. It looks like you should be able to get that style box in so long as you do not damage the sheet rock around the box if the hole is to large the ears will not be able to grab the sheet rock. your local big box home improvement store should sell these style boxes.

The other option is to scrap the idea of using the Nano and get yourself a ZWave switch. You can purchase the switches both the decora style and the normal lever style. If you have a Lowes you can get a GE decora style dimmer for about 50.00 USD. you would need a decora/flip double gang cover.the cover should run no more then 5.00 USD for a screw-less cover or 3.00 USD for a normal one.

It would still be a tight squeeze But you will be able to remove some of the wire nuts if you use the GE switches. they have screws with clamps inside the switches that can grab 2 wires per terminal. so you can connect 2 hots, and 2 loads removing the need for 2 of the wire nuts. you would have the line (hot) go to the line screw and make a jumper to jump from the line screw to the other switch. and instead of having 2 load wires (out to the lights) pig tailed to a single wire you can put both loads to the single load screw. the neutrals and grounds would have to be wire nutted and pig tails connected to the switch. you can route those wire nuts to the back of the box behind the mechanical switch. the mechanical switch is not going to be as deep as the ZWave one.


If you want I can pull one of my switches out and take some photos to show you what I am talking about. It might also be wise for you to pick up a tick trace/non contact voltage tester (NCVT) they have them at Lowes as well for 15.00 USD. This is an easy way to test wires to know what is live or not and also which wire is live when you have a box as populated as the one you are dealing with.

Here is the wiring schematic if you use the Nano
Keep in mind This is still without better photos and also without testing the wires. so use this as a reference. You will still need to test to make sure.
should be.png
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Re: Wiring a nano dimmer with only a black wire?

Post by kgschlosser » Sun Feb 16, 2020 5:05 am

if you use the GE switches the wiring will look like this.
ge switch.png
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Re: Wiring a nano dimmer with only a black wire?

Post by kgschlosser » Sun Feb 16, 2020 5:14 am

OK I was studying those photos there is going to need to be a change made to the diagrams. it appears as there is the line wires coming into the box connected to a switch and then wire nutted with an orange wire nut connecting that to the next switch.. and then the wire exits the box. so the screws on the bottoms of the switches are your line (hot) wires and the wires on the tops of the switches are your load wires that go to the fixtures.
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Re: Wiring a nano dimmer with only a black wire?

Post by kgschlosser » Sun Feb 16, 2020 10:41 am

here are the updated schematics.


The way it is now
is wired.png
The way it should have been done.
should have been wired.png
with the nano
should be.png
with the GE switch
ge switch.png
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Re: Wiring a nano dimmer with only a black wire?

Post by jachin99 » Sun Feb 16, 2020 7:57 pm

Hey, I just want to say thanks for your help so far. I'm waiting on a good time to kill power to that room in order to pull all of those switches out and give you some good pictures. I'll look into getting some actual switches but I would rather not spend too much more money on it. I will say that replacing switches sounds much easier but I need to make sure they are compatible with my Zstick, and I can still dim the lights via EG. Thanks again.

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Re: Wiring a nano dimmer with only a black wire?

Post by jachin99 » Sun Feb 16, 2020 8:05 pm

One more thing I forgot to say, I believe the nano dimmer can only power 140 watts before it has issues. I'm not sure if that would be enough for both the fan, and the lights or if the fan will even draw power from it.

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Re: Wiring a nano dimmer with only a black wire?

Post by kgschlosser » Mon Feb 17, 2020 5:38 am

in order to power a fan you need to use a special switch. otherwise you will get a nasty hum from the fan. GE makes a fan switch and it is available at lowes as well.

a Zwave device is not going to have a compatibility problem with a zstick. It is the controller software that is not compatible. this is usually because of some oddity the manufacturer of the device has coded into it. Even tho there is the ZWave specification and the certification the devices are supposed to undergo it seems as tho there is no enforcement of the specification and manufacturers are allowed to do whatever it is they want.

So no matter what brand switch/dimmer you decide to go with it does not matter it should work without problem.

most zstick manufacturers are using the USB chipset from silabs. so they are basically identical. all the company has to do is wrap some plastic around it and slap their logo on it.. and it's ready to rock. silabs has already written the firmware so they do not even have to do that and most don't.

I know the GE devices work without issue I have a house full of them. I can save you some dollars and send you some switches and dimmers if you like. I removed a bunch of Zwave ones and replaced them with zwave +, I did this because my network was getting large enough where polling the devices was causing to much network traffic. I wanted to have less then 1 second events for state changes on the devices. I could have slowed the polling down and I would have been fine with the zwave devices but i decided to change out the most used switches and dimmers for zwave + so I would not have to poll those devices. well i wouldn't have to poll them as often anyway. sometimes the message from the switch doesn't make it to the controller. The other thing I wanted was the double tab ability I used that so I can turn on my backyard flood from the switch for my front yard flood and vice versa. those switches are located on 2 different floors of my house so it is more convenient to not have to walk down the stairs to shot off the backyard lights. I am going to do the same for my living room and dining room so instead of having to add a 3 ways switch and all of the extra wiring i can use one switch for each room

The Fan switches you will have to buy they run 50 bucks or so. I have 2 of them and they work. I do not care for how they operate i wish it was press once for low twice for med and 3 times for high.. But they are not like that. you have to press and hold the thing for a second to get to medium and press and hold it for 2 seconds to get to high. There are not many companies that make the fan switches.

Since you are not seasoned in electrical wiring I am going to strongly urge you to get the GE ones from Lowes. because when you fry one (and you will fry one or 2 of them) you can simply put it back into the box and bring it back for a new one. you will not have to deal with shipping or the place inspecting the thing. you can tell Lowes it was DOA and they will not ask any other questions.

The GE fan controller is good up to 2.5 amps (300 watt) and the dimmers are good up to 5 amps (600 watts) and the switches are good up to 15 amps (1800 watts). the dimmers have tabs on them that need to be broken off when you use them in multi gang arrangements. there are 2 sets that can be broken off. each set that gets broken off drops the wattage it can handle by 150 watts. so the lowest the switch will be able to handle is 300 watts.

OH! one thing tho.. the dimmers and switches I have will NOT work on LED's or florescent. they do not have a neutral wire that needs to be attached to the switch. because there is no neutral wire current is not able to pass through the LED or florescent to complete the circuit for the switch to operate. So if you use LED's or florescent then the switches I have will not work for ya.

They are a few years old. but are in working condition. some have the tabs broken off. I would have to go and dig them out to see how many I have. I think i should have a few dimmers and a few switches. I may even have a couple of slave switches for 3 way switch setups. It's good enough for you to be able to get your feet wet working with them. If you are in need of the neutral wire you can go and get one from Lowes. put one without the neutral wire in the box and return the thing.
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Re: Wiring a nano dimmer with only a black wire?

Post by jachin99 » Mon Feb 17, 2020 4:54 pm

I appreciate the offer for your switches but I think I'll need the option to use LED bulbs. Not really because I think they're better but because it seems to be easier to find the bulb color temp I like in LED. Here are a few more questions I have though

-If I grab a GE dimmer for the lights, will I then HAVE to grab a GE fan switch or can I use my old toggle switch for a while longer?

-I'll likely grab one of those GE switches for the fan at some point and if I do that do you suppose I'll need a remodel box to house the two new smart switches?

-With a smart fan switch will the normal pullstring/remote adjust the fan speed?

-Could there be any other reason that you can think of that would explain why those white wires aren't hooked up? Could there be a practical reason why someone chose to only use black wires?

One more thing to consider is that the wall for these switches is an interior wall, and there is a stairway directly behind it so I have limited space behind these switches. I also took a few more pics, and hopefully these do a better job of illustrating how things are wired. The switch on the left is for the fan, the switch on the right is for the lights.
IMG_20200217_104533.jpg
IMG_20200217_104603.jpg
IMG_20200217_104551.jpg

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Re: Wiring a nano dimmer with only a black wire?

Post by kgschlosser » Tue Feb 18, 2020 8:47 am

It looks like what i said the second time around about the wiring. so follow the second set of wiring diagrams.

Make sure you buy a ZWave plus GE switch and not a standard ZWave switch. they are only a few bucks difference.

Look at the diagram below.. This is why you do not see a white connected to a switch.
switch.png
switch.png (6.17 KiB) Viewed 2674 times
You only need to be able to connect and disconnect ONE of the wires going to a light to be able to turn it on and off.
The reason why a ZWave switch needs to have both a white and a black connected to it is because it needs to be powered on in order to work. There are electronics in it that are in an always on state. the bunch of white wires in the back of your box there have the white wires that run to your lamps and fan. Neutral wires (white) electrically are identical to a ground. In fact in your load center (breaker panel) the neutral bus (the bar where all of the white wires are attached) and the ground bus (bar where all of the non insulated wires are attached) are connected together. a ground should have 0 voltage on it. you should never be able to get a shuck from it.. a neutral on the other hand is where unused electricity gets returned.

If you see a ZWave switch that does not have a need for a neutral wire that is because it uses the light bulb to make the connection to neutral for it. because the switch uses such a tiny amount of current to operate it does not light the bulb. this is the reason why you CANNOT use LEDs or CCFL's with a ZWave switch that has no neutral wire. LED's and CCFL's have a power supply in them that converts the 120 volts to the voltage needed by the bulb. those electronics cause problem when trying to power a device through them. where as an incandescent bulb has a filament which is a really tiny wire that glows when current flows through it, no electronics involved.

I am going to be very specific on this If you are using a dimmer you are almost always going to want to use an incandescent bulb or a halogen bulb. LED's and CCFL's only have 2 states.. On and Off there is no in between. It is impossible to "dim" either of these bulbs. how the switch is able to simulate dimming is using PWM (Pulse Width Modulation). for the sake of simplicity what the switch does it turns the thing on and off really really fast. 10's of thousands of times a second. This does not allow the emitter to get to full light output before a loss of power occurs. I can see the flickering it drives me crazy. I can also see the flashing caused by cheap manufacturing of the drivers (power supply built into LED bulbs), This is easily seen in LED Christmas lights.

The inherent problem with this approach is that not all drivers are built the same. they are going to operate in a very different manner. I have not found a single one where I am able to dim the light output as low as an incandescent or halogen. I have seen as much as the bottom 50% of the switches dimming ability lost. so you have to turn the level up to 50% before the light turns on and when it does it really is not all that dim.

Now.. that being said.. Take that same principal and apply it to a fan. I do not know if you have ever heard a fan hum. this humming is because the fan is not getting the proper voltage needed for it to operate properly. More often then not someone has decided to put a rotary type of dimmer used to control a light as the switch to operate the fan.

There are specific power modulations that can be used with fans that do not cause the humming. This is the reason why you really only see fans having 4 speeds. High, Medium, Low and Off. that is because of the known modulations that do not cause humming. the fan controller from GE has 4 speeds.
I am not saying that using 2 speed controllers will not work. because of the math involved and the dividers being a factor of 3 there is a pretty high probability that the controller inside of the fan is going to divide the modulation to a factor that the fan is not going to have an issue with. I have done this many times and have only had a single fan produce a hum. It is not something that is going to hurt the fan unless it is humming and not actually turning. It may reduce the life of the fan due to excess heat IDK, the humming was annoying enough for me to not use it that way. All you would need to do if the humming occurs is you would have to turn the fan on high at the fan or from the fan remote.

Here is a diagram for a dimmer and also a fan switch..
2 zwave.png
I will set up a demo for you tomorrow and record it on video so you can see exactly how to do it and what you will need to get the job done.
It is not hard you have to be patient. I will make an identical setup as what you have and show you how to dismantle it and how to install a single ZWave switch. and also how to install 2 ZWave switches.

One other funny thing about LED bulbs and what the manufacturers do is the warranty. Read the fine print. They will warranty an LED for 12 years or more. the thing is it's never the LED that goes bad. It is always the power supply. I know you have gone into Home Depot or Lowes lighting department and see all kinds of lights flashing on and off. Well guess what.. they are not supposed to be doing that. and sure as shit we all know those bulbs have not been installed into the lamps for anything greater then a year maybe a year and a half at best. the warranty the manufacturer provides will ONLY cover the LED for 12 years. not the driver for it. You can always tell what bulbs are going to burn up fast. they are the ones that look like normal light bulbs. they have no way of properly dissipating the heat generated by the power supply. they are also made from smaller components that are just enough to power the LED properly when it is first new. As electronic devices age they become less efficient and draw more current to operate. this is why the LED will flash like you see in Lowes or Home depot. a half way decent LED bulb is going to have a current limiter. so the LED turns on draws to much power. the power supply protects it's self and turns the LED off. the current draw drops below the limit and the power supply turns back on.

Most power supplies will just cook because they do not have a limiter. But if you really think about it all the limiter does is drive the price up. the end result is still the same, you have to buy a new bulb.

I do not know what color temperature it is that you like, between incandescent and halogen that covers most of the typical light bulb color spectrum see inside of a home.
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Re: Wiring a nano dimmer with only a black wire?

Post by jachin99 » Tue Feb 25, 2020 4:27 pm

I went to a few hardware stores over the weekend and looked at bulbs. I didn't find much at lowe's that wasn't LED but home depot had a pretty good selection of incandescent bulbs. In particular the ecosmart bulbs in a blue box had a few different color temps, and wattages and I was able to find my cool bulbs like that. I just wanted to put that out there in case any one else is having trouble finding the right bulb.

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