Okay you guys I have next question. And like all good questions this one begins with a story.

I was reading the post about a nick in a wire and read a couple of you mention that light switch in a closet is not to code. What's up with that? Why not? When I open a closet and it seems dark, I always reach for the nearest wall which is INSIDE the closet, find no switch, get frustrated, close closet door, find switch, flip switch, re-open closet door, stare blankly because after all that I forgotten what I was in there for.

My logic would tend to install a switch in a closet.

I have plans to install closet lighting in my wife's closet. I was considering LED source. The future is LED, and the fixtures are starting to get really good. Not only is the installation and fit and finish nice, but the design of the lights.

So here's the question; What if the fixture is low voltage? Can I locate a low voltage light switch in a closet? My source is 12v. I would like to locate the transformer in the attic and run low voltage down to the switch and the the lighting fixture. Would this scenario be up to code? would it be safe? ( I sleep perfectly soundly knowing my work is SAFE even if I know it doesn't meed code. ) I would probably use 14/2 romex to wire this all up. I was planning to indicate with a label that this is 12v. Is there code for labeling low voltage stuff? ( I would probably write '12V' on white E tape somewhere on the wire )

Does the tranny need to be in an enclosure? Or can I screw it to a joist? I know that I have to put a J box next to the tranny for all the connections.

What do you guys think?

  • Normally you should switch the transformer, not the low voltage side.
    – lqlarry
    Commented Feb 1, 2012 at 2:14
  • I would think so too, but I also found a low voltage dimmer. I purchased the stuff for a different project, since de-prioritized. Not that I seriously would put dimmer in closet, that would be overboard, but what's the difference between it and regular switch when planning out schematic?
    – Trout
    Commented Feb 1, 2012 at 2:19
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    This sounds like a bad idea. Lets take a 4" 12V potlight for example. To use in an attic with insulation, you need to use an IC-rated can which is basically a large enclosed box. This contains the transformer and the light as well as lots of space for heat to discipate. Compared to a random transformer in the attic, low voltage wiring in places with line-voltage, etc - no where near as "clean". And 12V lights can still get HOT so you need to consider this as a fire risk.
    – Steven
    Commented Feb 1, 2012 at 2:49
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    @Trout - Actually low voltage dimmers dim the transformer not the low voltage side.
    – lqlarry
    Commented Feb 1, 2012 at 3:12
  • 1
    Okay I'm getting the picture on the low voltage stuff. Remember though, I am looking toward LED not incandescent. Also, totally understand why we put the switch before the tranny. Makes sense when you think twice.
    – Trout
    Commented Feb 1, 2012 at 20:26

2 Answers 2


I was not able to find any sections in NEC that prohibit switches from being installed in closets, so until somebody can point to a specific section I'd say it's not a problem. There may be adaptations to the code in your local area, so you'll have to check with the local Electrical Inspector to be absolutely sure.

The NEC does, however, have a section on luminaires in clothes closets.

NEC 2011

410.16 Luminaires in Clothes Closets.

(A) Luminaire Types Permitted. Listed luminaires of the following types shall be permitted to be installed in a closet:

(1) A surface-mounted or recessed incandescent luminaire with a completely enclosed lamp

(2) A surface-mounted or recessed fluorescent luminaire

(3) Surface-mounted fluorescent or LED luminaires identified as suitable for installation within the storage area

(B) Luminaire Types Not Permitted. Incandescent luminaires with open or partially enclosed lamps and pendant luminaires or lampholders shall not be permitted.

(C) Location. The minimum clearance between luminaires installed in clothes closets and the nearest point of a storage space shall be as follows:

(1) 300 mm (12 in.) for surface-mounted incandescent or LED luminaires with a completely enclosed light source installed on the wall above the door or on the ceiling

(2) 150 mm (6 in.) for surface-mounted fluorescent luminaires installed on the wall above the door or on the ceiling

(3) 150 mm (6 in.) for recessed incandescent or LED luminaires with a completely enclosed light source installed in the wall or the ceiling

(4) 150 mm (6 in.) for recessed fluorescent luminaires installed in the wall or the ceiling

(5) Surface-mounted fluorescent or LED luminaires shall be permitted to be installed within the storage space where identified for this use.

  • this is cool. Nice to have understanding of physical limits on fixture placement, thanks. Happy to hear I can put a switch in closet. Thanks.
    – Trout
    Commented Feb 1, 2012 at 20:27
  • @Trout You may be able to put a switch in the closet. Make sure you check your local codes before installing the switch.
    – Tester101
    Commented Feb 1, 2012 at 20:30

While I cannot find any code limiting a light switch in a closet, I know that on the other side of the tracks they either install door-jam switches or motion detectors. These closets are bigger than my bedroom and sometimes have 12 downlights in them.

Clearance of the light fixture is in the code book. While this is from Alaska, and quotes NEC code from 2002, the clearance issue is probably still in effect.

Closet Clearance

While you talk about low voltage lights, remember that at 12 volts 14/2NM (romex) is only rated for 180 watts and 12/2NM is 240 watts. Big difference from 120 volts 1800 or 2400 watts, respectfully.

My suggestion would be to buy the 4, 5 or 6 inch IC rated cans, either new construction or remodel type. Then insulation will not be a problem. Then use LED lamps. This could be more money than what the way you intend to do, but way less of a headache. Also, LED's in a closet will probably last 100 years.

  • @Iqlarry Dicovery Channel series "How they do it" says a LED lamp can work up to 11 years, not 100 ;)
    – balexandre
    Commented Feb 2, 2012 at 13:28
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    @balexandre Is that 11 years continuous use? I think what lqlarry is saying is since the closet light will not get much use (how much time do you spend in the closet), it will last a very long time.
    – Tester101
    Commented Feb 2, 2012 at 19:32
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    @Tester101 - that is a big 10-4. Some company advertised that if you put an LED lamp in a newborns room, you would not have change it until they went to college. This is based on 8 hours a day, lamp life is 17-1/2 years by their calculations(supposedly 50K hrs). But that's advertising. How many hours a day will your closet light stay on? My son's stays on 24 hours a day :)
    – lqlarry
    Commented Feb 3, 2012 at 1:11
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    Actually, they're guessing. LED emitters have unlimited lifespan. The failure point is other stuff - RoHS solder crystallizing, cheap components in the power supply failing, etc. Many 12V LEDs use passive resistors for current control; those won't fail. With nothing to fail, 100 years is possible. Commented Nov 30, 2016 at 1:53

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