I currently have the following circuit in a room:


I plan to add a ceiling light and was going to tie the light switches black and ground to the new ceiling wires black and ground, and then use a wire nut to cap the ceiling wires neutral and leave it in the box not connected to anything.

I know the NEC 2011 says a neutral should be in the box, but is a neutral even required in a lighting circuit? Is leaving the capped neutral from the ceiling wire in the box a problem? Or is a neutral absolutely required here?

In the diagram, the neutral in this circuit comes from the outlet, and a neutral used as a hot wire is connecting the single pole switch.

  • Can you post photos of the insides of the actual boxes involved? Nov 28, 2020 at 18:59
  • You realize current flows in loops, right? Power has to go from generator to lamp, and then, it has to go back. The "go back" is what neutral is all about. You are not clear whether you are wiring the new light cable from the receptacle or the switch. Please clarify that. Nov 29, 2020 at 3:50

2 Answers 2


you have to come off of the Outlet.

the Light will need a neutral

install your 2 wire with ground from the plug to the ceiling location.(14 or 12/2 nm-b)

at the outlet wire the black from the switch to the ceiling light black. and the Neutral to the ceiling light White.

get a new outlet and install to have direct power.

also tie all the grounds together.


Neutral is required at the celing light box. You can't wire up a celing light with just the hot and ground from the switch. It will work, but is dangerous and violates electrical code.

Your best bet here is to fish a new /2 cable from the box with the switched outlet up to the celing since this box has the required neutral, (switched) hot, and ground. If you don't want half of the recepticle to be switched also, you will need to replace it with one without the broken tab or pigtail the unswiched hot wire to both halves of the recepticle.

You still won't have neutral in the switch box, but this should be ok since you are not changing that part of the circuit and it can still be grandfathered.

  • So why does the light need a neutral if the switch does not? Is that because the switch is just a “break” in the hot line and extends the outlet circuit?
    – pstatix
    Nov 29, 2020 at 0:42
  • 1
    You must have a neutral at the load, which is the light. Nothing is consuming power at the switch. The reason code now requires neutrals at switch locations is because of the recent popularity of smart switches, which actually do use power and therefore require a neutral. You can't put most smart switches at your switch location in the future because of the lack of neutral, but your old "dumb" switch will continue to work just fine and be safe.
    – bigchief
    Nov 29, 2020 at 3:24

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