Lighted Switches: Electronic Reminders

Can't remember to turn off an accessory? A switch with a LED indicator will remind you.

Installing a Lighted Toggle Switch

An illuminated marine toggle switch will remind you that an accessory is energized, and a clear boot will help waterproof the switch.Jim Hendricks

A switch that illuminates a small LED indicator light provides a reminder that an on-board marine accessory is still on. Perhaps it’s an item such as a livewell pump or overhead anchor light that you might otherwise forget to turn off. Most new boats have these indicator lights on the switch or switch panel, but older models might not have this feature.

This was the case with my 1986 saltwater fishing boat. As a result, I have habitually forgotten to turn off the on-demand wash-down pump, which is energized by a breaker in the cabin. Shutting it down is a good practice in case the system springs a leak belowdecks downstream from the pump. If that happens, it can fill the bilge with water.

So I decided to dash-mount a switch with an indicator light. There are a number of types of switches with built-in indicator lights, including rocker switches, rotary switches and toggle switches from companies such as Blue Sea Systems, Cole Hersee and Sierra.

I chose a lighted on/off toggle switch from Cole Hersee, part no. 54109BP ($22.99, for its simplicity of installation. It requires just one half-inch hole in panels up to an eighth-inch thick.

This 12-volt switch can handle up to 25 amps. Not only does the dash location make it easier to turn the pump on or off, but the red-glow reminder in the up/on position, makes it hard to miss. However, you need to wire it correctly.

There are two ways to wire it, but I chose the “dependent” mode, which illuminates the switch only when it’s on; otherwise there’s no illumination. You can also wire it in the “independent” model, which adds a white illumination in the down/off position so you can more easily locate the switch in the dark.

Directions that come with the switch explain how to connect the wiring to the four poles on the back of the switch, including the need to create a “jumper” between the bottom two poles in the dependent mode. You will also need to connect a ground wire to one of the upper poles to complete the circuit for the LED indicator.

While this switch is moisture repellent, I wanted to create a truly waterproof installation by covering the toggle with a rubber boot. Yet, an opaque boot would have defeated the purpose of having a lighted switch, so I ordered a clear toggle boot, part no. 73101, from Del City ($1.95, The indicator light shines nicely through the clear boot.

Now it will be really tough to forget to turn off the wash-down pump.