The bedrooms in our house in California each have a light switch that controls power to an outlet in the room. The switches are the single-pole type, interrupting the black/hot wire. Is it acceptable to use lighted switches in this situation? (E.g., a Lutron single-pole switch with indicator light.)

I replaced the switch with a lighted one, and it seemingly works, but the outlet reads as open-neutral when I plug in a receptacle tester when the light switch is in the off position. I guess this is because the indicator light inside the switch probably draws current from hot and ground. What I don't know is if this arrangement is a problem or against code.

UPDATE: I tried replacing the lighted switch with an otherwise identical non-illuminated switch, with no other changes made, and lo and behold, the tester does not read open neutral when the switch is in the off position.

FWIW, the tester that I'm using looks very similar to this: enter image description here

Also, because my description was unclear about the switch I mean, here's an image taken from a Leviton website (not the same brand but same idea):

enter image description here

  • 3
    That indication should mean that there is voltage H-G but not N-G. I’m just concerned that things are miswired so that the neutral is switched. I’d try putting the normal switch back and make sure the indications are normal then.
    – DoxyLover
    Commented Dec 17, 2018 at 7:10
  • Can you post photos of the insides of the boxes involved? Commented Dec 17, 2018 at 12:39
  • @DoxyLover Thanks for your concern. I think my original posting was unclear about the fact that I replaced the switch myself. I can absolutely guarantee that I wired the black/hot to the switch, and not the white/neutral. The only way things could be that screwed up is if the neutral and hot were switched somewhere else. While I can't guarantee that's not the case, we have been living in the house for years without anything blowing up, so I think the probability is low.
    – mhucka
    Commented Dec 17, 2018 at 17:17
  • Do I understand correctly that the switch doesn't have any connection at all to neutral? That would mean that the switch can only light up if a suitable load is connected to the outlet. That would be extremely annoying, at least to me.
    – mrog
    Commented Dec 17, 2018 at 17:23
  • @mrog That's correct, no connection to neutral. It's true that you don't see the illumination when nothing is plugged in, but speaking from experience, when you do have a light plugged in, it's very useful for finding the switch in the dark.
    – mhucka
    Commented Dec 17, 2018 at 17:30

3 Answers 3


I see no problem with installing an indicator type one pole switch to control a receptacle.

  • 1
    He doesn't mean that. He means a switch which lights the switch by leaking current through the lamp. Commented Dec 17, 2018 at 10:30
  • @Harper Can't be leaking current through the lamp because this is with a switched receptacle. Assuming it lights up even when there is nothing plugged in, that is. Commented Dec 17, 2018 at 14:52
  • This is not the kind of switch I mean. I'll add a clarification to my posting.
    – mhucka
    Commented Dec 17, 2018 at 17:21
  • @mhucka I see your clarification. So it is going through the load, rather than through ground. So it is perfectly safe. But be careful about what type of bulb you use - with some LEDs the leakage will result in either a low glow (which may be OK or may not, depending on your preference) or flashing (which I am sure you don't want). Commented Dec 17, 2018 at 17:47
  • 3
    @manassehkatz it's perfectly safe for lamps. But didn't you must say that's a general use receptacle? What keeps someone from plugging in a non-lamp? That is why dimmers are not allowed on receptacles. I extend that to any "powered switch powered through the load" deal. Commented Dec 17, 2018 at 19:58

That type of tester will not be reliable with a lighted switch which lights by placing the switch's light in series with the lamp. This is an archaic design method, which depends on the load being an incandescent light. It can also work with a CFL/LED that is designed to tolerate such leakage current. You certainly should not do this trick with any other load, so change the receptacle socket to one which is keyed so only lamps will fit. Lutron makes such special sockets and plugs.

Generally, these "magic 8-ball" testers suck for one of two causes:

  • for the simple ones, their legends suck, hence the name "magic 8-ball" tester. You would get more coherent answers by rubbing an actual magic 8-ball against the receptacle 3 times. However, for the simple type with yellow yellow red, the lights are fantastic. The center yellow connects hot-neutral, the end yellow connects hot-ground, and the red connects neutral-ground.
  • the ones which do not have 2 yellow lights have embedded computers inside. They make things much worse, because they deny direct access to the lights. They are usually wrong but sometimes like "Rain Man", at the end of the troubleshooting we go "could that computer have detected that?" But this thing is not J.A.R.V.I.S., to be sure. Its silly indications, like the other's legends, are more likely to misdirect.
  • Actually, it's Lutron that makes the funny plugs/receptacles for lamp-only duty Commented Dec 17, 2018 at 23:53
  • @ThreePhaseEel oh! Well that explains my failed Google search, then. Commented Dec 18, 2018 at 0:05

I believe your outlet tester is not able to detect the wiring properly when there is not full voltage available. These are a crap shoot at best. YES it is ok to have a lighted switch on an outlet. Many switches that use electronics and no neutral do this exact same thing and they are listed and safe to use. As long as your outlet test good when powered up I see no problem. Note the outlet testers are usually correct when they think the circuit is correct but if there is a fault detected I find them wrong much of the time for the actual fault they show.

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