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Old 08-28-2009, 07:52 PM   #1
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Confused by switch w/indicator light install...


I'm installing a switch to control the basement lights from the upstairs; this is not a 3-way switch. What I want is a switch that has a light that glows when the basement lights are one, and is off when they're off. I bought one of these, http://www.leviton.com/OA_HTML/ibeCC...2:US&item=4261 but now I'm confused. I'd have thought the wiring for the switch would be like any other wiring, and the light would illuminate when the switch was on. However it looks like I need to run 14/3 wire from the switch.

What I expected is:

Line ---> Switch ---> Basement Light --> Neutral

But looks like I need

Code:
 
Line ---> Switch ---> Basement Light ---> Neutral
            \---->Pilot Light (on switch) ---> Neutral
I used 14/2 wire to grab power in the basement from a plug box. The black is hot from the plug box up to the switch and then when the switch is on power goes back down* the white to the light. Do I need to run 14/3 instead? Is there some sort of indicator light that would do what I want with 14/2?

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Old 08-28-2009, 07:59 PM   #2
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Confused by switch w/indicator light install...


D'Oh... I think I answered my own question. The pilot light _is_ a light. It needs the line->neutral voltage drop to light up. With the switch on there is no voltage drop from one side to the other, hence no way to light the switch. Oh well, it's not a long run, and I just grabbed 14/3 for the smoke setup.

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Old 08-28-2009, 09:54 PM   #3
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Confused by switch w/indicator light install...


Note: The description Line --> Switch --> Light --> Neutral-somewhere-else is encountered only with archaic (for example knob & tube) wiring. For modern wiring, if the hot feed (from say a plug box aka outlet box with receptacle) goes to the switch first, then the neutral will accompany it and will be available in the switch box for the little light in the switch to tie into using just 14/2 wiring.

Otherwise a so called "illuminated switch handle" style switch may prove satisfactory. It works the opposite way, lights up when the (basement) light is off. For most lights being controlled it works reliably and does not need a neutral. If you have difficulty making it work, have at least one incandescent light of at least 25 watts among your basement lights that the switch controls.
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Last edited by AllanJ; 08-28-2009 at 10:07 PM.
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Old 08-28-2009, 10:23 PM   #4
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Confused by switch w/indicator light install...


Quote:
Originally Posted by AllanJ View Post
For modern wiring, if the hot feed (from say a plug box aka outlet box with receptacle) goes to the switch first, then the neutral will accompany it and will be available in the switch box for the little light in the switch to tie into using just 14/2 wiring.
So do I understand that the "modern" way to wire a switch, where the switch isn't in the middle of the circuit, would be to run one 14/2 up to the switch and another 14/2 back down from the switch back to the same location, possibly the same jbox? The two neutrals would then be wire nutted in the box? Even when there's no pilotlight? I guess you're moving the switch to the middle of the run then -- electrically speaking. It this code or just convention?
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Old 08-28-2009, 10:41 PM   #5
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Confused by switch w/indicator light install...


Did you "read" the instructions that came with the switch? Does the switch need a neutral? Is there a feed (neutral) at the switch location? Does the switch have two screws jumpered together on one side?
If there's no jumper use the leads from the load conductors to create one.
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Old 08-29-2009, 06:18 AM   #6
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Confused by switch w/indicator light install...


Quote:
Originally Posted by WaldenL View Post
.... used 14/2 wire to grab power in the basement from a plug box. The black is hot from the plug box up to the switch and then when the switch is on power goes back down* the white to the light.....
First of all, this is miswired. When using a 2- conductor cable for a switch loop, the power feeds into the switch on the white wire, and the switched line feeds back on the black.

Quote:
Do I need to run 14/3 instead?...
Yes, this is better. The black could be your hot power in this case, the red could be your switched power back to the lights. The white is your neutral and a pilot light switch would work properly with this scenario.

Quote:
...Is there some sort of indicator light that would do what I want with 14/2?
Nope. Unless you installed more than one piece of 14/2 as you postulated earlier.
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Old 08-29-2009, 06:25 AM   #7
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Post script:

We would use this switch instead

While the picture shows a green switch, the description says it is red. But, you can get it in green if you want.

Or even clear.
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Last edited by kbsparky; 08-29-2009 at 06:27 AM.
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Old 08-29-2009, 09:02 AM   #8
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Confused by switch w/indicator light install...


Quote:
Originally Posted by WaldenL View Post
So do I understand that the "modern" way to wire a switch, where the switch isn't in the middle of the circuit, would be to run one 14/2 up to the switch and another 14/2 back down from the switch back to the same location, possibly the same jbox? The two neutrals would then be wire nutted in the box? Even when there's no pilotlight?
(Historical discussion follows)

What you described is technically and rigidly correct! (The neutral coming back is connected to the light being controlled.) But it is overkill, unconventional, and practically unheard of, and some inspectors won't pass it!

Normally the neutral accompanies its hot wire wherever the latter goes. But to avoid the overkill of what you described, the switch loop was invented. When the hot wire enters the light box and the switch is beyond, the actual correct way is to run just two wires or one two wire cable (the switch loop), non-white for the switched hot coming back from the switch.

With the advent of the switch loop, because premade two wire cables such as Romex usually have one of the wires white, we now have to make an exception to the rule that white is neutral. (White may not be non-neutral when conduit and individual conductors are strung.)

When neutral is needed down at the switch box, for example to daisy chain power from there to receptacles, we now run three wires or three wire cable, white for neutral, the other two for unswitched hot down and switched hot back. You may need this to provide this neutral for your little switch light.

Do not use the ground for the switch light in order to avoid having a neutral; that would be against code and can cause GFCI units to keep tripping.

It's strictly your choice whether to put the switch in the middle (power goes to switch).

OT: Speaking of GFCI units, when portions of a circuit protected by a GFCI and connected to its load terminals daisy chain on to the same junction boxes as portions of the circuit not protected by that GFCI unit, then two neutrals are still needed. One neutral is connected to the load terminal of the GFCI in question and the other connected to the incoming neutral and line terminal at that GFCI. These neutrals are not tied to each other anywhere.

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Last edited by AllanJ; 08-29-2009 at 09:31 AM.
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