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Have An Older Home? Cync’s Smart Light Switches Are for You

A Cync smart switch installed in a kitchen.
Josh Hendrickson / Review Geek

Most smart homes would benefit from smart switches. They’ll control more lights for fewer dollars than a smart bulb (at the cost of color options). But smart switches often don’t work in older homes that lack neutral wires. Cync (formerly C by GE) Smart Light switches are the perfect solution for older homes.

Older Homes Don’t Have the Wiring

A light switch gang box with just two wires.
Josh Hendrickson / Review Geek

If you live in an older home (say fifty years or more) and you try to replace your light switch with a smart switch, you’ll probably run into a wiring issue. Most smart switches require three wires in your light switch gang box—line, load, and neutral.

Line and load form the circuit that leads to your light bulbs and back to the circuit breaker. Every home has that wiring. But neutral isn’t as universal. For your average light switch, that’s no big deal as its sole purpose is to complete or cut the circuit. But a smart switch requires power to run all the other electronics, and most get that from the neutral wire.

If you don’t have a neutral wire, adding one isn’t easy. Running a wire to your light switch gang box requires pulling neutral wires from other switches (if you have them) or adding them to your electrical system. You’ll want an electrician, and it will be expensive.

Instead, it’s easier to get a smart switch that doesn’t require a smart switch. But until Cync, it wasn’t that much easier.

Expensive Solutions That Require Hubs

If you want to install a switch that doesn’t require a neutral wire, your choices have been few and far between. The most well-known option comes from Lutron, under the Caseta brand. Lutron’s switch will typically cost $60, and you’ll need the $120 Lutron smart bridge. The smart bridge is effectively a smart hub solely used for Lutron products, which limits its usefulness.

You’ll only need to buy the hub once, but it’s still an expensive annoyance. It’s one more device to hook up, potentially connect to ethernet, and maintain. It’s easy to end up with several hubs, each for one or two smart gadgets if you aren’t careful, making for an expensive cluttered mess.

Lutron’s switch won’t work with every light bulb either. If you have the wrong type of bulb installed, it may flicker. You can go through a tricky trimming process to correct the problem, but the easier thing to do is switch to a bulb Lutron does support. That’d be 150W dimmable LED/CFL bulbs or 600W incandescent/halogen bulbs.

Worse yet, that’s the start and end of smart switches from reputable brands that offer a “no-neutral” option. At least until Cync’s switch came along. Now you have something more affordable.

Cync’s  Switch Is Affordable and Hubless

Several smart switches lined up in a row.

At an average price of $40, Cync’s On/Off Button Style Smart Switch undercuts Lutron’s offering noticeably, and that’s before the hub comes into play. Cync doesn’t require a hub at all, so you save some additional money there. Instead, like many other smart gadgets now, it uses your existing Wi-Fi system.

Installation is super easy. You’ll turn off the circuit breaker to your switch, then uninstall the old light switch. Connect ground, line, and load wires. You don’t have to worry about matching wires up correctly; Cync’s switches are bidirectional. As long as you don’t connect ground to line or load, you’re good to go. But if you aren’t comfortable, hire an electrician.

When you install the switch, there’s one more step. The kit comes with a bulb adapter that goes between your existing bulbs and the light fixture. Screw your bulb onto it, then screw the adapter into your lamp, ceiling, or whenever you have a light bulb. You only need one adapter per switch, even if you have multiple light bulbs controlled by one switch.

Cync’s switch works with incandescent, halogen, CFL, and LED lights, and if the load exceeds 150 W, you may not even need the adapter. In my experience, I only ran into flickering problems with one light bulb. But when I replaced the bulb with another from the same box, the flicker stopped.

Once you have the adapter and switch installed, you can turn on the power and set everything up with the Cync app (for iOS and Android). Better yet, you can connect the smart switches to Alexa and Google for voice controls and routine scheduling. With voice controls and automation, you have the full smart home package at a price much more affordable than the competition.

Cync’s smart switches come in several styles. You’ll save the most money on the push-button form factor, but you can spend more to get a traditional-looking paddle option. If you’re living in an older home without neutral wires, Cync is the perfect option to make your light system smart.

A Push Button Smart Switch

GE CYNC Smart Light Switch On/Off Button Style, No Neutral Wire Required, Bluetooth and 2.4 GHz Wi-Fi Switch, Works with Alexa and Google Home (1 Pack) Packaging May Vary

If you don't mind the push button look, this Cync 3 wire switch should work in every home, even if you do have neutral wires.

With a paddle

GE CYNC Smart Light Switch On/Off Paddle Style, No Neutral Wire Required, Bluetooth and 2.4 GHz Wi-Fi Switch, Works with Alexa and Google Home, (1 Pack) Packaging May Vary

Do you prefer a paddle switch? For a little more, you can have one. This switch still works in nearly every home, and doesn't require a neutral wire.

If your home has neutral wires, Cync offers a traditional smart switch option as well. Going that route allows you to skip the light bulb adapter. And if you have a room with a lot of bulbs, it’s often cheaper to get one smart switch than several smart bulbs. It also avoids the issue of someone flipping the dumb light switch and nullifying your smart bulbs.

Josh Hendrickson Josh Hendrickson
Josh Hendrickson is the Editor in Chief of Review Geek and is responsible for the site's content direction. He has worked in IT for nearly a decade, including four years spent repairing and servicing computers for Microsoft. He’s also a smart home enthusiast who built his own smart mirror with just a frame, some electronics, a Raspberry Pi, and open-source code. Read Full Bio »