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Wireless Add On SwitchesGuide Started By b.n. on August 2013 Last Updated on July 2014 | 17 Contributions | Comments
Adding a second (or third) light switch controlling an existing light may seem like an easy project, but beware. Tearing out walls to run extra wires can be costly and disruptive. This guide covers wireless switches usable for retrofits. There are a number of options to chose from, depending on the style of wiring you encounter.
Wireless is an option, but the available wireless products have been a big disapointment to many people. Issues of radio interference, limited range, intermittent operation and compatibility problems with CFL and LED bulbs have caused problems. Here's a rundown of the biggest issues:
Problem: CFL Compatibility
The traditional designs "leak" a little bit of electricity even when off, leading to flickering and reduced lifetime.
Problem: Radio Interference
Older units operate on the same frequency as garage door openers and equipment in other houses.
How Many Wires In That Box?
Before purchasing a unit, you'll want to check the incoming power connection to the existing switches.
3-Wire: a three wire cable supplies the box: hot, neutral and ground. This is common in all newer construction.
2-Wire: a two wire cable supplies the box: hot and neutral. The box may or not be grounded.
1-Wire: in Knob & Tube circuits there may only be a hot wire. The neutral runs elsewhere through the wall. Or the actual main power reaches the light fixture, and a two wire leg is run down to the switch. These 1-Wire circuits are the hardest to retrofit.
In any of the above cases a "3-Way" switch involves an extra wire called a traveler, which runs between the two active switches.