Okay, full disclosure: I know next to nothing about electronics. Just trying out my first little amateur diy project: adding lights to my vanity. So here goes my question.

I just bought 2 little clip-on "ETL-listed" lamps to clamp onto the top of my vanity, but they have rotary switches instead of in-line cord switches so it will be hard to reach up to turn them off easily. I'll need a longer cord for one of them anyway, so I was thinking to kill two birds with one stone and get a power strip/surge protector to use as an on/off switch as well instead of turning off their individual switches. My question: Would that be a bad idea??

Because I know you're not supposed to do that with computers, but I don't know if that applies to lamps too. I'm mainly worried about starting an electrical fire, not so much the cheap lamps. The 2 lamps take only one 60-watt bulb each if that's important (planning to use the SORAA A19 11-watt-usage, 60-watt-equivalent LED bulbs).

Oh and side note, it's a wooden (expensive) vanity- is it still okay to attach lamps if that's the case?? The lamps have rubber-coated clamps, and I'm using LED lights, but I'm slightly worried about it turning into a fire hazard. I have a 30-day return policy on these lamps. Any info/advice is appreciated!! Thanks!!!!

Update 1 (to address questions in comments): It's a bedroom vanity.

Update 2 (to address questions in comments): in TX, USA.

  • 4
    You mention this is a vanity, which immediately makes me think of a bathroom setting. Is this the case here? If so, we have to consider the interaction between a surge protector and a GFCI (surge protectors may have a capacitor that will cause the GFCI to trip). You can get a power strip without a surge protector, and if you do not have a GFCI outlet at your sink, you will want a GFCI power strip for safety. May 8, 2018 at 13:54
  • The GFCI protection needs to occur at the receptacle or prior to the receptacle. Having a GFCI breaker or deadfront feeding a plain receptacle is fine, I would not waste money on a GFCI power strip. May 8, 2018 at 16:06
  • 1
    @Harper All of this about GFCI is moot if this is a dressing room vanity and not a bathroom vanity. May 8, 2018 at 17:49
  • Where are you on this planet? May 8, 2018 at 22:38
  • @ThreePhaseEel I think ETL suggests Canada.
    – bib
    May 9, 2018 at 2:51

1 Answer 1


In most cases, simple switches are equivalent. They break the circuit and do nothing else. So switching (breaking the circuit) further down the line is usually fine.

There are some exceptions, such as dimmers, multi-position switches, and multi-pole switches, none of which seem in play here.

The computer is different because it need to be shut down (program exited) rather than simply turned off. And some computers never really turn off but keep a very low power program running to allow fast start or remote update or activation.

The use of LED bulbs in a socket that is properly rated for incandescent bulbs will likely not generate any dangerous heat when properly mounted. ETL seems to be similar to UL safety listing. You do need to check if the mounting instructions specify minimum clearances.

The only risk you may face is possible damage to the finish of the vanity after long term grip by the rubber coated clamps. Some rubbers and plastics break down or give off solvents over time.

  • 2
    To expand on why computers should not be unplugged: Files being written to become corrupted, and hard-disk drives perform an emergency shutdown procedure which shortens their lifespan through mechanical stress.
    – Fax
    May 8, 2018 at 14:07
  • 7
    @Fax This only explains why computers should not be unplugged suddenly. It's perfectly fine to unplug a computer after proper shutdown, eg to prevent power-on due to update or remote activation.
    – Agent_L
    May 8, 2018 at 15:32
  • 3
    modern computer operating systems lose little or no data on power failure, because the apps are designed to keep a "running update" on temp copies. You'll get some nasty notes when booting up about "this computer did not shut down correctly..." but will be able to recover most stuff. May 8, 2018 at 15:40
  • 3
    @Harper The code does allow extension cords and power strips. The OP appears to be using approved portable lamps that are rated for clamp on use. While serial extension cords, or use of non portable (or no extension allowed) devices on flexible cords are not proper, the proposed use does not seem to be excessive or dangerous.
    – bib
    May 8, 2018 at 16:05
  • 3
    That seems like an oversimplification. We just had a question yesterday on where flexible cords are, or are not, allowed. There's quite a list. 400.7 and 400.8 and vicinity, if I recall. I see where the cords from the luminaires would be OK. However, from their plugs to the building's permanent wiring is what I would want to have someone look at closely. May 8, 2018 at 16:18

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