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Short version: Could I hook up a remote indicator light that is lit when a simple on/off light switch is in the on position?

Long version: I've got an exterior motion light on a switch which is typically left on so the motion light is energized. The light and switch are in an out of the way location and not always noticed if it is left turned off.

Is it possible to add some small indicator light that is lit when the switch is on? It doesn't matter to me if the indicator light is LED or not, just want something small that remains lit up while the switch is on. This instructable (nothing to do with light switches) gave me the idea. https://www.instructables.com/Garage-Door-Open-Position-Indicator-Light/ It adds a remote indicator light when the garage door is left open. I have same scenario for this light switch, and I have a place where I could locate the indicator light and see it easily.

The motion light is controlled by a single garden variety on/off light switch with hot, switched-hot, and ground. No neutral. 1983 house in USA (California).

Thank you for any help and ideas.

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  • Seeing there is no neutral at the switch, would probably need to go to the light itself for the power connection. After that it will depend on the type indicator light.
    – crip659
    Aug 10, 2022 at 21:45
  • What would you recommend I use and what would I do? I do not know how to approach this. Thank you for your help.
    – Kat
    Aug 10, 2022 at 21:56
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    Would prefer some of the others to answer, but probably can add an outlet on the side connected to the hot and neutral of the light. the outlet will only have power when the switch is on, and then could probably do the same as the garage. Use a 12 volt wall wart/transformer to power the remote light.
    – crip659
    Aug 10, 2022 at 22:17
  • I had not thought about using a switched outlet, that is food for thought. Thank you for this.
    – Kat
    Aug 11, 2022 at 4:40
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    Does thre light have to be visible from a remote location? If not they make switches with a built in indicator that lights up when the switch is closed.
    – SteveSh
    Aug 11, 2022 at 12:27

3 Answers 3

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Not with the wiring you have - no. That is a switch loop and there's nothing you can do with it. As has always been true, you cannot power things from switches. It is best to stop thinking you can.

I mean, if you already know the switch wiring does provide a netural, great. But it's a fool's errand to assume it, given the large number of classic switch loops extant.

The problem is the motion sensor. There used to be tricks you could do with incandescent bulbs to allow a lighted switch to illuminate when the switch was off (e.g. to help you find the switch). However those tricks are extremely marginal with LED and won't work at all with a motion sensor.

Generally there is no earthly reason to cut power to a motion sensor. In fact, it can make the motion sensor forget what day/night looks like in that location. (usually not a problem since the default is reasonable, but you can have edge cases like a well-shaded location, or that catches lots of splash lighting from street lights.)

If you need a "do not shut off this switch" locks or semi-locks (which discourage casual or accidental turn-off, but can be easily overridden), those are readily available. However they might require switching from Decora (large rectangle) to standard (small slot).

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    If OP still wanted a remote light, instead of a switch lock, could they add a switched outlet powered from/at the light to run a remote light(maybe low voltage)? Light is on, so outlet plus motion sensor is on.
    – crip659
    Aug 11, 2022 at 0:09
  • Sorry for asking, the switch switches the power Hot) on/off. The light bulb needs neutral to complete the circuit. It wont work without neutral, or will it ?
    – Traveler
    Aug 11, 2022 at 0:14
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    @Ruskes the light bulb needs neutral, the switch does not. Normal switches are not powered, except by the human. Aug 11, 2022 at 5:03
  • @Harper-ReinstateMonica We do have reason to turn the switch off (infrequently) so we don't want to lock it out.
    – Kat
    Aug 11, 2022 at 12:16
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    "You cannot power things from switches." Would you explain the comment?
    – SteveSh
    Aug 11, 2022 at 12:29
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I am not sure if this will pass code but it works. You can connect a small pilot across the switch terminals. It will light if the switch is off. We use to do this with neon lamps as they took almost no power. I have done this with switches that have a built in pilot light, just connect the "ground" to the other terminal on the switch. It is just the opposite of what the OP wanted but maybe it will do what he wants and let them know if it is on or off and is simple to accomplish.

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  • Thank you. Can you elaborate and give some specifics? I have experience replacing switches, outlets, ceiling fans, wall sconces, and so on as a homeowner but that's the extent of my experience. I was hoping for an easyish DIY but perhaps it cannot be.
    – Kat
    Aug 11, 2022 at 4:33
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    That might work on an old fashioned incandescent light. But it's not going to work with a motion sensor. It doesn't "leak" enough current. Aug 11, 2022 at 5:15
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I have switches at my home that should not be turned off.

To prevent that, I simply use the blue masking tape (for painting), and put it across the switch in ON mode.

Now no one will accidentally or on purpose turn it off.

The switch is still fully functional and you can use it, but you will be reminded by the Tape.

It is not remote indicator, but simple alternative.

As for reminders, I set it up on my phone. as easy as talking to it, set reminder on "date" at "time", name it

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    We aren't trying to lockout the switch as we do have reason to turn it off.
    – Kat
    Aug 11, 2022 at 12:14
  • @Kat it is not a lockout at all, just a strong reminder, it has been turned off. That is what you want, a reminder
    – Traveler
    Aug 11, 2022 at 17:11
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    Sorry No, that's not it at all. We don't need a reminder not to turn it off. We need a reminder to turn it back on when done :-) It might intentionally be off for several days even. But it needs to be turned back on and that ends up forgotten.
    – Kat
    Aug 11, 2022 at 19:05
  • For that I just set a reminder on my phone !!!
    – Traveler
    Aug 11, 2022 at 19:07
  • Haha then someone has to remember to set their phone. Might as well just remember to turn it back on :-)
    – Kat
    Aug 11, 2022 at 19:08

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