I want to add a light to a closet below a staircase (not a walk-in). What
are the codes related to this?
An old post I found mentioned there can be no exposed light bulb, and that
the fixture has to be 2 feet away from the rack or closer if using
Considering code and ease of installation, what type of light fixture would
you recommend, and should I put it on the ceiling or the side wall?
Does the switch need to be outside the closet or can it be inside?
The light inside right now is a portable florescent I temporarily put on the
the actual code will depend on where you live. in ontario
we are supposed to mount the box on the ceiling or above
the entrance door. not above the shelving area. there is
no mention of flourescent vs incandescent and with the
new flourescent bulbs that fit into a regular socket, the line
is blurred. previously, i would have gone
flourescent for the additional safety. now i wouldn't.
they don't mention the switch, but stands to reason it should
be where it should be. walk up to the closet from
your usual direction. where would a stranger reach to
turn it on? inside? not likely.
Seems to me (and I do this) the 'automatic' place to look is inside any
door you open to enter the space.
There have been ads on the boob tube recently for "stick ups". Just
mount a bracket, insert light and you're done, no wiring.
I just went through this with my remodeling. In my area in Ohio, the inspector
wants the fixture on the front wall, or on the ceiling, but not over the shelf.
There must be a 12" distance maintained from the fixture to a vertical line
drawn at the front edge of the shelf, that can be reduced to 6" if using a
Here's what the 2002 NEC has to say, section 410.8, quick paraphrase:
No fixtures with bare incandescent bulbs or pendant fixtures. Other
fixtures may be mounted on the ceiling or on the wall above the door.
You have to have sufficient clearance between the light fixture and
"storage space". Storage space is defined as the volume within a
certain distance horizontally of the side and back walls. Between 0
and 6 feet high, the distance is 24". Above 6 feet high, the distance
is the greater of 12" and the width of any shelving.
Surface-mount enclosed incandescent fixtures must have 12" of
clearance to storage space.
Surface-mount fluorescent fixtures, and all recessed fixtures, must
have 6" of clearance to storage space.
These rules imply that no lights are allowed in a closet less than 3'
wide or less than 18" deep.
I just tried to read the 2005 NEC. I believe the rules are the same,
although the description is not as plain as your paraphrase. I just look at
However, I could not find any rules about where the switch can be placed
(outside or inside the closet) in section 404, so I guess I can put it
anywhere I want as long as it is under 6.5 feet high.
Someone suggested simple light bulb on a ceramic base. This would be allowed
if the bulb is fully enclosed, per NEC:
"Incandescent fixture with open or partially enclosed lamps... shall
not be permitted."
Now I need to find out how much the permit would cost :(
Granted, my house was built 22 years ago, but the simple porcelain
fixtures with bare bulbs and pull cords (string or chain) were installed
in three places; the garage ceiling (1), the basement utility room, and
above the electric panel in the basement (the electrical inspector used
it to check the panel). The code must have changed.
The only reason I mention pull cords is that there is no switch
installation involved, therefore less wiring and alterations to the
existing walls (burying wires). This would include small fluorescent
fixtures with pull cords (or built-in switches).
I added a closet light a couple years ago. I installed a round
plastic box (for the ceramic lamp base) just above inside the closet
door. At this location there is no glare and it shines on the closet
contents. I installed a square box just outside the close door
where I installed the switch. It doesn't matter if you install a pull
string inside the closet or outside switch, I like the outside switch.
I use an incandescent bulb as it is on for only brief periods.
How often do you need a light? The last time I did this, I saved my money and
just got one of those stick-on battery powered lights. You can buy a lot of
batteries for the price of a full install of a 120V light. With the new
LED-based battery light pucks, you won't need many batteries. These don't
provide much light, but they suited my needs.
I was just going to suggest the same thing. It's a closet, so get a ceramic
fixture and a screw-in motion sensor, then install a maxlite type
flourescent bulb. When you open the door the light will come on, and as
long as you're there hanging up clothes or whatever, it will stay on. It
will go off after the motion stops, like when you close the door.
Those screw-in sensors are expensive, but you get away with a dirt-cheap
fixture, so not too bad overall. Our closets have door switches, but after
40 yrs they don't work anymore, and replacements don't exist. I changed the
fixtures to the chain-pull type, but may just buy some sensors now just for
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