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Does a light switch have to be in the same room as lights?

Saturday, December 5, 2020

The National Electrical Code [NEC 210.70(A)(1)] states that “At least one switch-controlled lighting outlet shall be installed in every habitable room, kitchen, and bathroom.” Rooms other than kitchens and bathrooms are allowed to have a switched wall receptacle outlet instead of a light [NEC 210.70(A)(1)(Exception 1)]. Also, an occupancy sensor is an acceptable alternative to a switch if located in the usual location as a light switch and has a manual override that functions as a wall switch, or if the occupancy sensor is installed in addition to a light switch [NEC 210.70(A)(1)(Exception 2)].

    The purpose of this code requirement is to avoid having to walk across a dark room, and possibly stumble and fall, to turn on a light. But the code does not actually specify where the switch should be located, only that there should be a switch-controlled light for each habitable room. Ordinarily the switch is on the wall inside the room and near the latch side of the door, or sometimes on the wall outside the room near the door, although neither location is code-mandated.  

    As a practical matter, any light switch for a room that is not readily accessible near the entry door to the room is a safety issue that a home inspector would call out.

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Here’s links to some of our other blog posts about ELECTRICAL SWITCHES:

• What is minimum code requirement for switched lighting in a house? 

How can I figure out what a mystery wall switch does? 

Are wall light switches required be "up" for "on" and "down" for "off”?

Can you use a light switch for a water heater disconnect? 

Why is there a wall switch next to the furnace or indoor unit of the air conditioner in the garage?

What is the switch on the wall with two pushbuttons? 

 What is a three-way switch? 

 • What are those strange looking wall switches in houses from the 1950s and 1960s? 

 • Are light switches required to be grounded? 

 Why does the bedroom have a light switch but there is no light in the ceiling?

• How does a three-way switch work?

• Which rooms in a house require switched lights per code?

• What is a three-way switch used for? 

• What is the average life expectancy of a wall switch?

 What is the red switch for in my mobile home? 

Does a home inspector test all the wall switches in a house? 

• When are dimmer switches not allowed to be used?

    Visit our ELECTRICAL page for other related blog posts on this subject, or go to the INDEX for a complete listing of all our articles. 

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