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Light switch question


sepefrio
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Today I was out pounding the streets trying to get my name out there. On one of my stops, a Realtor quizzed me, apparently to test my knowledge. But one of her questions was very odd and I either blew it, or she had no clue what she was talking about in the first place. It started off with, my husband told me about this and I want to know what you think.

Regarding light switches on the wall. She asked if there is a requirement for the switch itself to have the words on/off on them. She continued that her husband said, any switch which was the sole switch to a light required them, and any switch, that also had other switches (like one switch at the bottom of the stairs, and one at the top for the same light) were required to be blank.

I told her that of course lights in stairwells should have a switch at the top and the bottom, but I have never heard that the switch itself should or should not have the words on/off on them.

Is there any such requirement? Was she confused with another requirement that I can't figure right now? Was she trying to set me up? Or was she, and or her husband just being dumb?

I've looked and looked and find nothing about the on/off markings on a switch. I did find the below however, so at least now I don't think it was a waste of time.

http://www.mypartypost.com/slideshow.ph ... hcover.jpg

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"General-use and motor-circuit switches and circuit breakers shall clearly indicate whether they are in the open OFF or closed ON position. Where single-throw switches or circuit breaker handles are operated vertically rather than rotationally or horizontally, the up position of the handle shall be the ON position".

John,

I found out that you only have a single switch for that office.

John's switch plate

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Originally posted by sepefrio

. . . Regarding light switches on the wall. She asked if there is a requirement for the switch itself to have the words on/off on them. She continued that her husband said, any switch which was the sole switch to a light required them, and any switch, that also had other switches (like one switch at the bottom of the stairs, and one at the top for the same light) were required to be blank. . .

She's got the general idea right, but she's garbled the details. Bill Kibbel posted the correct cite. It's from 404.7.

Single throw switches should be mounted so that when they're up they're on. They're also supposed to "clearly indicate" whether they're on or off. That's not quite the same as saying that they have to have the words on and off on them. They could say, "Let there be light" and "I shall smite you with darkness."

Double throw switches such as three-way or four-way switches can be on in either the up or down position. There's no rule that says they have to be blank.

- Jim Katen, Oregon

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Originally posted by chrisprickett

They're also supposed to "clearly indicate" whether they're on or off.

So, does that mean that all "rocker" type switches need to be marked as well. I've never seen one that had any indicator other the position.

After a more careful reading, I see that 404.7 only applies to general-use switches, not to general-use snap switches. (Of which, decora switches are one kind.)

Snap switches are covered under 404.9 and 404.10. There doesn't seem to be any requirement for them to be indicating or oriented with on in the up position.

I'd say that this is a dicey call. You could argue that 404.7 applies to snap switches because they're a type of general-use switch. Or you could argue that 404.7 doesn't apply because it just cites "general-use switches" and not "general-use snap switches."

Oh, one other thing. If the switch is being used as a disonnect for an appliance, it has to be of the indicating type. Decora switches can't be used as disconnect switches for furnaces, disposals, etc.

- Jim Katen, Oregon

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Originally posted by sepefrio

OK, so if you go into a bedroom with one general light switch that controls a single electrical socket and it is not labeled in any way, it needs to be written up?

In 99.9999% of the cases, that'll be a snap switch. As I read the code, snap switches don't need to be labeled.

Whether you write it up or not is your dilema.

- Jim Katen, Oregon

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Originally posted by Jim Katen

Or you could argue that 404.7 doesn't apply because it just cites "general-use switches" and not "general-use snap switches."

That would be a very weak argument in court.

This whole subject seems ridiculous. I looked around my recently built home and found that the switches are labeled correctly according to the rule.

BUT I had to bend over and look very closely to see the small raised lettering underneath the switch to see the word "on". The typical user is never going to see the word/symbol that is stamped there.

It's a well-intended rule without effective implementation.

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Originally posted by SonOfSwamp

If anybody asked, I'd just say, "Well, when the light's lit up, that's when the switch is on. When the light's not lit up, that's when the switch is off. If the light won't light up no matter what you do with the switch, put in a new bulb."

WJ

I thought the same thing, but probably wouldn't hurt, though, to know the switch is off/have the switch off when changing the bulb.

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Given the weakness of the markings, I would never assume the electrician/DIYer installed it correctly. The marking would mean nothing to me. I want to see my tester flash when the switch is on and then stop once the switch is flipped. That way I know my tester works and the switch is off. It is possible for the markings to do more harm in this case than good.

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Oh, one other thing. If the switch is being used as a disonnect for an appliance, it has to be of the indicating type. Decora switches can't be used as disconnect switches for furnaces, disposals, etc.

Jim, can you cite that? The reason I ask is, if that is the case, there are about 30,000+ homes that use Decora (rocker) switches for disposals, in my area. (big surprise, here in the land of "Slam & Scram")

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Chris,

If the switch controls a receptacle under the sink that the disposal is then plugged into, then the plug/receptacle is the disconnecting means. But...even if it was hard-wired, I'm just not going to get excited about (or report) it not being labeled unless it was upside down. Same thing with single light switches.

BTW...all light and receptacle switches are down for on in New Zealand (all receptacles have a built-in switch).

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Originally posted by ozofprev

Originally posted by Jim Katen

Or you could argue that 404.7 doesn't apply because it just cites "general-use switches" and not "general-use snap switches."

That would be a very weak argument in court.

Why? The NEC has different definitions for the two types of switches. 404.7 only cites general-use switches. A few paragraphs down the page are the requirements for snap switches. The NEC isn't shy about using correctly defined terms.

This whole subject seems ridiculous. I looked around my recently built home and found that the switches are labeled correctly according to the rule.

BUT I had to bend over and look very closely to see the small raised lettering underneath the switch to see the word "on". The typical user is never going to see the word/symbol that is stamped there.

It's a well-intended rule without effective implementation.

If 404.7 isn't intended to address snap switches, then it makes perfect sense and it doesn't conflict with the lack of marking on decora switches.

-Jim Katen, Oregon

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Originally posted by chrisprickett

Oh, one other thing. If the switch is being used as a disonnect for an appliance, it has to be of the indicating type. Decora switches can't be used as disconnect switches for furnaces, disposals, etc.

Jim, can you cite that? The reason I ask is, if that is the case, there are about 30,000+ homes that use Decora (rocker) switches for disposals, in my area. (big surprise, here in the land of "Slam & Scram")

There's a difference between using a switch as a disconnect and using a switch to control the disposal. If the switch is the disconnect, it's got to be of the indicating type. The cite is 422.35.

In many cases, the switch isn't the disconnet though. If the disposal has a cord & plug connection, that is the disconnect. If the disposal circuit breaker has a lockout on it, that can be the disconnect. In either of those cases, decora switches are fine.

- Jim Katen, Oregon

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Jim,

I just looked at 404 to see the definitions. I thought the definitions were for "General use switches" and "Snap switches". I see that the latter is "General use snap switches."

I sit corrected and thank you for the education. And I agree with your comment about making sense of the application of the rule as well. You are amazing.

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Originally posted by ozofprev

Jim,

I just looked at 404 to see the definitions. I thought the definitions were for "General use switches" and "Snap switches". I see that the latter is "General use snap switches."

I sit corrected and thank you for the education. And I agree with your comment about making sense of the application of the rule as well. You are amazing.

Why thank you. Would you explain that to my wife?

- Jim Katen, Oregon

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Originally posted by Jim Katen

Originally posted by chrisprickett

Oh, one other thing. If the switch is being used as a disonnect for an appliance, it has to be of the indicating type. Decora switches can't be used as disconnect switches for furnaces, disposals, etc.

Jim, can you cite that? The reason I ask is, if that is the case, there are about 30,000+ homes that use Decora (rocker) switches for disposals, in my area. (big surprise, here in the land of "Slam & Scram")

There's a difference between using a switch as a disconnect and using a switch to control the disposal. If the switch is the disconnect, it's got to be of the indicating type. The cite is 422.35.

In many cases, the switch isn't the disconnet though. If the disposal has a cord & plug connection, that is the disconnect. If the disposal circuit breaker has a lockout on it, that can be the disconnect. In either of those cases, decora switches are fine.

- Jim Katen, Oregon

Gotcha-thanks!

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Originally posted by Jim Katen

Originally posted by ozofprev

Jim,

I just looked at 404 to see the definitions. I thought the definitions were for "General use switches" and "Snap switches". I see that the latter is "General use snap switches."

I sit corrected and thank you for the education. And I agree with your comment about making sense of the application of the rule as well. You are amazing.

Why thank you. Would you explain that to my wife?

- Jim Katen, Oregon

Jim, Jim, Jim...need I tell you that you are in danger of damaging (if not outright losing) your facade of "amazingness" simply by asking us to inform your wife that you are amazing? Shouldn't it be obvious to her?

Admittedly, my wife doesn't see me as amazing. However, I'll admit the problem could be me...

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Originally posted by AHI in AR

Jim, Jim, Jim...need I tell you that you are in danger of damaging (if not outright losing) your facade of "amazingness" simply by asking us to inform your wife that you are amazing? Shouldn't it be obvious to her?

Admittedly, my wife doesn't see me as amazing. However, I'll admit the problem could be me...

At the risk of seeming even less amazing. . .

Wife: Jim, come down here & take out the trash.

Jim: Just a minute, I'm looking up information about indicator switches.

Wife: Well I'm indicating that you need to switch what your doing and take out the trash.

Jim: Yes dear.

- Jim Katen, Oregon

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