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I know this has come up before and I have done a quite a bit of reading around stealing a neutral from another circuit, and I understand why this is bad.

So, here is my situation:

I want to add a zwave switch to my front driveway lights. The house was built in 2005 and the electricians have a 3 gang unit for the entry, garage and foyer lights. On another circuit in a single gang is the switch for the driveway lights. I have a neutral into the 3 gang, but it looks like they tried to save money or take the easy route as the single gang for the driveway is switch loop with no earth or neutral.

So, how do I get a neutral there? The driveway lights are about 300ft away and the circuit box is about 25 feet away. What would an electrician typically do in this case to add the neutral? Run it from the circuit, or from the fixtures 300ft away. Either one seems like it would be expensive.

Thoughts?

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  • The neutral into the 3-gang is not a neutral for your driveway light circuit. It might as well have 4800 volts on it, for all it matters to you. Apr 8, 2018 at 15:25
  • What wiring method was used here? NM? Armored cable? Conduit? Apr 8, 2018 at 15:27
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    Have you looked in the back of the junction box for any wires pushed into the back? Have you followed the cable from this box? There must be more to this circuit, a switch loop on lights 300' away simply makes no sense. Apr 8, 2018 at 15:28
  • @Harper it does if it was built in another era and there is a big load. A relative has driveway lighting that originally consisted of 24 60watt light bulbs. They have the same situation doubled— the 3-way switch loop doesn’t carry neutral to the multi-gang boxes that contain the 3-way switches. We located the smart switch at the panel, the circuit goes directly outside and underground from there, remote switches took the place of the original switches. The circuit also now only needs about 60 watts total instead of 1440 watts before LED.
    – Tyson
    Apr 8, 2018 at 15:49
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    @Tyson I mean you don't run power to a light 300' away and then run a switch loop 300' back. Ergo if it is a switch loop, there must be a third junction box quite near. Apr 8, 2018 at 15:53

2 Answers 2

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If you're going to run a neutral after the fact, you'll pretty much have to trace out the circuit, and run a new wire / cable. This could be a real project.

As mentioned in another answer and the comments, you could put the wireless switch in the circuit somewhere ahead of the lights where the neutral is present, and just splice the wires from the driveway switch. There are battery-powered switches such as the Lutron Pico that you can install in a cover plate - you could mount that in the driveway switchbox, and things would operate as they always have, along with other wireless control.

Of course Lutron makes some Caseta wireless switches that do not require a neutral. They "bootleg" their neutral return on the ground wire, which is generally verboten, but UL allows it for the tiny currents these devices draw.

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One approach is to put the ZWave switch out at the front driveway lights, where there is a neutral based on the way it appears to be wired. Then replace one of the switches in the 3 gang box with a multi ZWave switch (i.e. one “physical” switch that directly controls a load, and another “virtual” switch that just transmits a signal to another switch somewhere else). Tie it into the neutral that is already in the box. Link the signal output of the new “virtual switch” to the ZWave switch at the lights. You can terminate the long run of wire on both ends and abandon it in place.

This will also give you ZWave control of one of the three loads currently switched in the 3 gang box - so install the switch on the one that would benefit from automation.

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