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I know this works electrically, so it’s more of an NEC question.

Can one light switch control power to another?

Here’s my use case. My basement (unfinished) consists of 3 rooms. I want the light switch at the top of the basement stairs to power the main room lights plus power a light switch in either of the other two rooms.

This way I can choose to have lights on or off in the other two rooms but then the switch at the top of the stairs will turn all the lights off.

Thank you.

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  • You should revise to clarify whether you're asking about doing this in general, or doing this in your specific case. The answer to those are "yes" and "no", for reasons outlined below in the various interpretations of your question. There's some ambiguity here between your question and your description.
    – isherwood
    Jan 20, 2022 at 22:48
  • you could use smart switches to allow such flexibility, and more, legally and in a way that won't deter future buyers.
    – dandavis
    Jan 22, 2022 at 2:34
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    Not going to put smart switches in a basement. There is some ambiguity because I guess I’m asking both. 1) Does NEC allow switches to power other switches. And 2) in my case, does NEC allow it. And then 3) does it even make sense to wire it that way. Which after reading what people have said, perhaps I should just wire all 3 basement rooms together with one switch. Or better yet a three way switch: one at the top of the stairs and one at the bottom. Thank you. Jan 23, 2022 at 3:56

3 Answers 3

5

Yes, that's fine, you're talking about zone control of the lighting, so you can shut off individual zones you are not using. There's no rule against it. It's no different than fitting pull-chain light fixtures fed from the switch.

There are a couple of exceptions.

First, the basement stairway needs a light switch at the bottom which can positively turn on the stair lighting. That's a Building Code requirement.

Second, if any rooms are finished to the point of qualifying as a "habitable room", they need to have a light switch in a normal/expected location which controls a light in the room (or have a motion sensor). It's not acceptable for this to be disabled by the top-of-stairs switch. Traditionally the answer here would be a GE RR7 type relay control, but today the answer is smart switches.

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  • 3
    And for a reason why: Someone is working downstairs in one of the "far" rooms and someone upstairs sees the basement lights on but nobody there and turns off the main switch, and it is at night so no light from the windows... Jan 20, 2022 at 21:50
  • Interesting. So how does "pull-chain light fixtures fed from the switch" meet the requirements for a "light switch in a normal/expected location" if the pull chain effectively disables the switch at the door?
    – P2000
    Jan 20, 2022 at 23:43
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    @P2000 In basements, pull chains are typically in unfinished areas. In a habitable room, it's a compliance fiasco, like a fan with a pull chain on the lamp. Chain should be removed. Bare-bulb fixtures with chain are $3, without are $2, so no excuse. But then you have switched receptacles with plug-in table or floor lamps which always have switches, to muddy the water further... Jan 21, 2022 at 9:37
  • Thank you. This answered my question best. Jan 23, 2022 at 3:58
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I would guess no, as I believe from other answers that every room needs to have a switch just inside the door that directly controls some sort of light (or outlet if there are no permanent lights in the room) in each room. Your use case would not allow that.

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Three-way Switches

At the top of the stairs:

  • Main Lights - 1
  • Far Lights A - 1
  • Far Lights B - 1

At the bottom of the stairs:

  • Main Lights - 2

At the entrance to Far Lights A:

  • Far Lights A - 2

At the entrance to Far Lights B:

  • Far Lights B - 2

This lets you take care of all the lights in all necessary and/or desired places.

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  • Only issue with this is that there’s only room for one switch. The house was built in 1908 and currently one very old switch at the top of the stairs controls all the very old basement lights (many of which are pull string as well). Jan 20, 2022 at 23:51
  • Can't get all 3 in 1. You can get 2 3-way switches in a single gang form factor. Jan 21, 2022 at 0:06
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    @Taketheword My house was build in the 1890's, yet I've installed single- double- and triple-gang boxes in a wide variety of locations because it had zero overhead lighting. Unless there is physically no room where the switch is located (between door openings?), you can certainly install more switches. If the existing switch box cannot be enlarged, you could put a new box on the opposite wall or other nearby, logical location (maybe just inside the stair well?).
    – FreeMan
    Jan 21, 2022 at 14:04
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    How about one above the other instead of side-by-side? Picture? Jan 23, 2022 at 3:59
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    Maybe a picture of the overall area where you're looking to install the switches, @Taketheword. Someone here might have some suggestions that you haven't thought of.
    – FreeMan
    Jan 24, 2022 at 13:25

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