How high to mount a light switch?
The height of electric sockets are regulated by various codes. These codes regulate the maximum height of electrical equipment such as lights, plugs and outlets. Electric sockets have different heights depending on their size and shape. Some electric sockets are very tall (like a few feet) while others are quite short (such as two inches).
Electricity must reach all parts of the house at least 15 feet away from any electrical appliance or device that could cause a fire. The minimum safe distance between an outlet and anything else is 2 1/2 feet.
Some states require that electrical devices be installed no higher than 12 inches above the ground, but most do not. If your state does not require a certain height, then it is up to you to determine the safest place for your electrical equipment.
If you have a light switch with a metal base, it will probably need to be mounted higher than the 2 1/2 foot rule because of its weight. A standard wall outlet may also be too low if there isn’t enough room under it for everything.
You need to place your light switch from the floor at least a few inches away from the nearest wall. You should also keep it at least 2 feet away from any large, heavy furniture pieces or appliances that may be in the room.
The best way to determine the right height for a light switch is to stand in the room and reach up with your arm fully extended. In this position you should be able to comfortably turn on the light.
If you can reach it more than 2 feet above the floor, then you need to place it higher. If you can’t quite reach it from the floor, then you need to mount it lower.
You should always stand a few feet from the wall and extend your arm outward to turn on the light. When you have to move closer to the wall in order to reach for the switch then that’s probably not the right location.
It’s better to err on the side of caution because it is better for your eyes to strain a little bit more to find the light switch than to constantly be in danger of turning it on or off by accident.
As an example, if the height at which you can comfortably turn on the light is 2 feet from the floor, then you should place your switch at least 3 feet 6 inches (2 feet + 6 inches) from the floor.
In some situations you may have to place it even higher. If the closest surface is a wall, then you should place your light switch as high as the wall + 2 feet.
A good rule of thumb is to add 6 inches to the height of any nearby furniture or appliance in order to get a reasonable switch height.
You should mount your electrical outlet at about the same height as the light switch, assuming that they are both on the same wall.
If your outlet is on a different wall then you should place it at a reasonable height compared to the normal usage pattern of that room.
For example, if a couch in the room is within 5 feet of the outlet then you should place it somewhere between 24 and 30 inches from the floor.
A lamp, on the other hand, might be anywhere from 36 inches to 48 inches so you could place the outlet up to 42 or 45 inches above the floor. If you don’t have anything within 5 feet of the outlet then you could place it lower.
Outlet boxes come in a standard size so you shouldn’t have a problem finding one big enough to fit your needs. However, it’s important that you mount your outlet at the proper height and that the screws on the outlet are not longer than the box is deep.
You need to leave enough room for wires to be pulled into and out of the box.
Some people like to place outlets behind doors so they don’t have to look at them. In this situation you should mount the outlet high enough that a plug will still reach a wall socket and leave enough room for the door to open and close.
You need to leave at least 3/4 inch between the top of the doorway and the bottom of the outlet cover. If you have a wall switch in that room then you need to add 2 1/4 inches instead.
These measurements are important to keep in mind when you’re placing your electrical boxes. They are generally not a problem to achieve unless you have an oddly shaped room or furniture that gets in the way.
If you have tall furniture near your outlet then you may need to place the outlet on top of it or just leave some space around it so there is room to work with the mounting screws. Typically, people try to keep at least 3 inches of space between furniture and any fixture that is fastened to the wall such as this.
When you visit the store to buy your switches and outlets, take a measuring tape with you. You should also have some painter’s tape so you can mark the locations where you want to place your boxes.
You will be very thankful if you take these simple steps because it will save you a lot of time and frustration in the long run.
You can save even more time and frustration if you are already familiar with your wall’s layout before you start drilling holes and mounting boxes. Most people’s homes have a standard layout so it should be fairly easy to figure out where things should go. You can visit this website to find the standard layout of your home.
If you do not have a standard layout then you will probably have to do some rearranging before installing your new light switches and electrical outlets.
Do you have a home theatre room or a large closet? Do you have a hallway or a nook in your kitchen?
These are all great places to install new boxes.
Wherever you decide to place your boxes, draw a rough sketch first so you can visualize what you’re going to do and how the layout of your boxes should be. Always make sure that your lights and plugs will be easy to access and that they will not be cramped in already crowded areas.
Outlets and switches are your gateway to power in your home so you want to make sure that they are easy to get to and in the right location for your needs.
Once you’re done with your layout, take your sketch with you when you go to buy your new electrical boxes, switches, and outlets. You should also buy some 14-2 wire, wire connectors, wire nuts, a circuit tester, and a multi-meter.
Sources & references used in this article:
- Automotive high mount brake light improvement (RP Host – US Patent 5,847,513, 1998 – Google Patents)
- Energy efficient infrared light switch and method of making same (BE Elwell – US Patent 5,142,199, 1992 – Google Patents)
- Illuminated light switch plate with LED and oscillator circuit (MH Jester – US Patent 4,514,789, 1985 – Google Patents)
- Electronic control mount with switch support and light guide (AJ Doberstein, JH Zyduck – US Patent 7,573,701, 2009 – Google Patents)
- Optical switch having an analog beam for steering light (TH Lin, PA Congdon, GA Magel, JM Florence… – US Patent …, 1997 – Google Patents)
- Finger mount assembly for control switch (S Samuel – US Patent 3,226,501, 1965 – Google Patents)