Lighted - Light Switches


Old 03-23-05, 07:29 PM
Thread Starter
Join Date: Mar 2001
Location: Kansas City Area
Posts: 216
Lighted - Light Switches

It has been a couple years now since I have been on this forum, your help in the past was great. New house, and now a new basement project. Pulled permits a couple weeks ago, it only cost $52, and that is cheap piece of mind / insurance. Really cheap when you consider I will probably spend $8,000 on the total basement. Anyway, to the questions.

Code in my area says I need to follow 1999 NEC.

1. Are there any light switches that indicate that the lights are on vs off? This specifically applies to a 3 way or even 4 way switch. Basically I need to have a switch at the bottom of the stairs in the basement, but I also plan to 3 way it with switches at the top of the stairs. Stairs are U-shaped, thus I cannot see which lights the kids left on without going half way down. Believe me, the kids leave them on - way to often.

2. Do I need to have 4 way switchesdue to the door at the landing area? One set at bottem of stairs, one set at the middle landing area (FYI at this landing is a door seperating the currently finished landing area, from the unfinished lower stairs) and then finally a set of switches at the top of the stairs (this set the lighted set mentioned above).

3. What are your guys thoughts of mixing general lighting circuits with general wall outlets? I hope to use two circuits for the overall basement. That excludes bathroom & the shop. On the same theme, what about using the Sump Pump circuit for some of my lights or outlets? If I use the Sump Pump circiut, will it temporarily dim floresent lights everytime it turns on.

4. Shared neutral circuits. Can the above listed circuits go on a shared neutral? Nearly all of the rest of my house is wired that way. This time I have marked them all in my panel so that I do not get tickled again when I might be workig on a circuit. That scared the hell out of me.

Your thoughts & input is greatly appreciated. Thanks Mike
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Old 03-23-05, 08:04 PM
Join Date: Sep 2000
Location: United States
Posts: 18,497
(1) There are both kinds. Switches that are illuminated when the light is off, and switches that are illuminated when the light is on. For maximum flexibility, run your wiring such that there is a neutral in the switch box.

(2) Not quite sure whether it is required by code, but it's a good idea.

(3) I don't like to mix lighting with receptacles, if for no better reason than to avoid dimming lights when you run the vacuum cleaner. If you're spending $8K on the basement, trying to make it work with two circuits seems ill-advised to me. And you may not, by code, use the sump pump circuit. When I finished my basement years ago, I tried to figure out a way to do it with two circuits too. But I just couldn't come up with a reasonalbe design. When I gave up, installed a subpanel, and ran 7 circuits, it worked out so much better. Don't skimp. If you do, you'll regret it forever.

(4) You can use a shared neutral circuit for anything. But I see oh so many disadvantages, and so few advantages to doing so.
Old 03-26-05, 12:52 PM
Thread Starter
Join Date: Mar 2001
Location: Kansas City Area
Posts: 216
John, Thanks for the reply. I have found the switches, one is called a Lighted Handle switch the other is a Pilot Light switch. The Pilot Light appears to be twice as expensive as the Lighted handle. Can either one be used in a 4-way situation? Since I am running the wires as new const, I can run however needed to get the right combination. I was certainly planning on running neutrals into the swithc boxes. Probably will go with a 4-way set-up, bottom of stairs, middle stair landing, top of stairs. Do you know of a web site / diagram for a 4-way lighted handle or 4 way pilot light switch arrangement? That is not a set-up I would or could have memorized.

Sump Pump circuit. You indicated that I could not use it for other purposes. Does 1999 NEC prohibit that? The house is only a year old and when originally wired, the sump pump was wired on the same circuit as our Home Office just above it on the main floor. Of course we had the contractor come back out to seperate it because it was 'browning out' the office computer. It was good we have it on a battery backup & surge protector.

The more I think about it, two circuits is not enough for a basement of this size. I agree with you on that one. I will take it to 3 or 4. After I use two for my shop, that will leave 1 still open.

Thanks for your input. I look forward to seeing a 4way diagram. Mike
Old 03-26-05, 02:04 PM
Join Date: Sep 2000
Location: United States
Posts: 18,497
My advice about the sump pump was very general and left out a bunch of conditions and exceptions. The details depend on the amp draw of the sump pump and the size of the circuit. If the sump pump draws more than 50% of the capacity of the circuit, it may not serve other loads.
Old 03-26-05, 05:45 PM
Join Date: Sep 2003
Location: Central New York State
Posts: 13,973
I'm not sure you can find a four way switch that is bundled with a pilot light or a lighted handle. It would be difficult to put the two of them together, simply because with a four way switch the current path can be either of the paths. If you could find one, it would be expensive.
Old 03-26-05, 11:57 PM
Join Date: Aug 2004
Location: NA
Posts: 1,065
Fourway illuminated switches are quite common and used in exactly the way you want. Leviton decora and Hubbell make the best ones in my opinion. I would give Leviton the edge in residential applications. They are around 18 to 20 dollars.

Last edited by Roger; 03-27-05 at 12:24 AM.
Old 03-27-05, 09:23 AM
Join Date: Jan 2004
Location: Oregon
Posts: 1,219
If you get a lighted handle three way switch, illuminated 'off' (meaning that the switch is lit when the load is off), for example the Leviton 5503-LHI or LHW, then you simply wire it in like an ordinary three way switch. The light works by 'leaking' a small bit of current through the load even when the switch is off. This is easier to wire because you _don't_ need a neutral.

If you get a lighted handle pilot light three way switch, illuminated 'on', for example the Leviton 1203-PLC, the wiring is more complex. Each switch requires a neutral, and you have to wire the lamp in the switch to both the neutral and the _switched_ hot that goes to the lamp. The wiring is slightly more complex, and you may be forced to use x-4 wire rather than x-3 wire, because in some cases you will need to run switched hot, neutral, two travelers, and ground in the same cable.

Old 03-27-05, 10:19 AM
Join Date: Oct 2004
Location: Orlando, FL
Posts: 132
P&S makes a "hallway light" that is in the shape of a duplex receptacle (catalog #TMHWL-CC), if you want an indicator that came on when the light in the basement was on, you could use this.

You would make the switch at the top of the stairs a two gang box, put the light on one side, your switch on the other. From here you can wire your three way anyway you want, just come off of the basement light with a piece of 2 wire and feed the hallway light in the switch box. Now the small light will be on when the light in the basement is on.

Not sure if this would work for you, but it's an idea to consider.

Decorator Full Hallway Light (at very bottom of the last page).

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