Monday, May 29, 2023

Mastering the Upgrade: Overcoming Challenges in Replacing Light Switches in Our Century-Old Home

Over the past few days, I've been immersed in the task of replacing the light switches in our century-old house with Lutron light switches and dimmers. As mentioned in a previous post, this endeavor has not been without its hurdles due to the house's age and multiple previous owners. In this article, I will outline the problems I encountered during the installation process and share the solutions I discovered.

Dealing with 3-Way Lights

In certain areas of our home, such as stairways or hallways, we have light switches located at both ends to provide convenience and ensure visibility while moving about. Although Lutron supports 3-way switch setups, there are a few important considerations to keep in mind.

Load-Managing Switch

Lutron's instructions for configuring 3-way switches assume a direct connection between the Lutron switch or dimmer and the load. When working on an installation where the circuit's wiring is uncertain, it becomes crucial to test the wiring during the installation process.

To tackle this, I removed the switches from the wall and used a voltage tester to determine which switch was linked to the power source and which one was directly connected to the load. Armed with this knowledge, I followed Lutron's instructions and replaced the switch that was directly connected to the load, successfully following the provided directions.

Identifying Traveler Wires

Our house's electrician employed traveler wires of the same color for the 3-way switches. This posed a challenge when it came to replacing one of the switches with a Lutron light switch or dimmer because Lutron's instructions specify the need to identify the traveler wire that connects to the blue wire of the Lutron switch.

Fortunately, I managed to overcome this obstacle by utilizing a wire tracer. This handy tool allowed me to identify each of the traveler wires, greatly simplifying the installation process. Once the traveler wires were identified, I was able to proceed with confidence, adhering to Lutron's instructions.

Dealing with Missing Neutral Wires

Given our house's age, not all of the light switch wire boxes contained neutral wires. This isn't an issue for Lutron Diva Dimmer switches, but it does pose a challenge when it comes to the Lutron Claro Smart Switch, which requires a neutral wire.

To address this, I am currently experimenting with alternative smart switches that do not require a neutral wire. Rest assured, I will keep you updated on my experiences and findings regarding these switches.


As I embarked on the journey of replacing light switches in our century-old house, I encountered a series of challenges. Through careful testing, wire tracing, and exploring alternative solutions, I managed to overcome these obstacles. Upgrading to Lutron light switches and dimmers has certainly been a rewarding endeavor, enhancing both the functionality and aesthetics of our home.

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