Electricians! I have a quick question

Discussion in 'Community Discussion' started by howard, Feb 2, 2006.

  1. howard macrumors 68020

    howard

    Joined:
    Nov 18, 2002
    #1
    I have a light switch that turns on all the outlets on two of my wall outlets. Is there any easy way to switch it to just on one of the outlets, or none?

    Thanks
     
  2. mkaake macrumors 65816

    Joined:
    Apr 10, 2003
    Location:
    mi
    #2
    only if you have another branch of power running through the room that you could tap in to. Of course, that would require being able to get that line to one of the outlets, which would require some fanciful pulling, or tearing the wall apart...

    unless you're asking to have the top of each outlet switched and the bottom not switched... actually, it ends up being about the same issue. If you want to have an outlet that is 1/2 switched and 1/2 not, you'd need power from the switch, and a second line. That's even more of a problem, because from the sound of it, the electric is running from one outlet to the next, and you'd need to add junction boxes to make all of the connections to have 2 1/2 switched outlets coming off of one switch.

    Was that more confusing than it was helpful?
     
  3. howard thread starter macrumors 68020

    howard

    Joined:
    Nov 18, 2002
    #3
    Well, i'm not very good with electricity wiring, so its all fairly confusing to me.

    When I moved in the guy who installed the cable said that if I wanted the wall switch to not control the outlet I just had to do ..something. That was a year ago and I don't remember what he said to do. It hasn't been a problem until now, but from how he explained it it seemed easy.
     
  4. Laser macrumors newbie

    Joined:
    May 10, 2005
    #4
    Pull the switch and wire the hots together ( probably a black and a red wire ) and the outlets will be hot all the time.
     
  5. jsw Moderator emeritus

    jsw

    Joined:
    Mar 16, 2004
    Location:
    Andover, MA
    #5
    Or, put another way:

    1. Buy a blank faceplate (the plastic cover that goes over switches, outlets, etc) - i.e., one the size of the one with the switch, only with no holes in it.
    2. Also buy electrical tape and some coupler caps - the things you twist onto wires to hold them together (in the store's electrical parts section), and wire cutters, unless you have these things.
    3. Turn off the circuit breaker (or unscrew the fuse) to the switch (verify this by making sure the outlets are off no matter how you flip the switch).
    4. Using a screwdriver, take the faceplate off of the switch.
    5. Unscrew the two screws holding the switch to the wall.
    6. Pull out the switch (if the wires are heavy guage, it might take a wee bit of effort), and you'll see two wires connected to it.
    7. Remove the wires from the switch (maybe by unscrewing a screw, maybe by cutting them).
    8. Strip the insulation off the top, oh, 1/2"/1cm or so of the wires.
    9. Hold them together (twist them together if you'd like) and twist on the cap.
    10. Use electrical tape to secure the cap and the wires, ensuring no metal is uncovered.
    11. Repeat with the ground wires (should be bare copper, and one should be attached to the switch) if they are in there (i.e., make sure they're connected).
    12. Tuck the wires back into the hole/utility box.
    13. Put on the blank faceplate.
    14. Turn on the circuit breaker/screw in the fuse.
     
  6. jsw Moderator emeritus

    jsw

    Joined:
    Mar 16, 2004
    Location:
    Andover, MA
    #6
    Think of electricity as you would water pipes. While home electricity is AC (alternating current), in effect it flows from the black (or red) "hot" wires to the white "neutral" wires. The ground wires (usually bare copper) offer an alternate path to the ground (literally - to the actual earth around your home) should there be a problem with a device plugged into the outlet.

    But, to simplify, just think of the black and white wires (red and black are interchangeable, except when you get to higher voltages, where you have one of each, plus a white, at least here in the States).

    Pretend the black wires are water pipes, and the white ones are drains.

    Switches always are connected to the black ones, because you want a faucet on the incoming water pipes, not the drains, right? Outlets always have a black side and a white side, because "water" can flow "into" what you plug in via the black and back out through the white.

    You can figure out three-way and four-way switches if you just use this analogy and draw it all out.

    But, for you, getting rid of the switch is all you need to do.

    Heck, you could even add an outlet where the switch is, if you want... but that's more effort (not much, at all, but maybe more than you want to tackle now).

    Edit: Some people work on wiring without having a clue. If such a person worked on yours before you moved in, it is possible that your black and white wires are reversed. You can get relatively inexpensive testers to plug into your outlets to verify that they're wired correctly.
     
  7. howard thread starter macrumors 68020

    howard

    Joined:
    Nov 18, 2002
    #7
    hate to be annoying with more questions, but this is pretty valuable knowledge...

    if I have 2 separate outlets controlled by this switch, is there a way to keep one of them controlled by it, but just have constant electricity through the other?

    thanks all of you, this has been a big help
     
  8. jsw Moderator emeritus

    jsw

    Joined:
    Mar 16, 2004
    Location:
    Andover, MA
    #8
    Not without adding another wire somewhere, and that's a pain. The switch is between the power coming into your house and the outlets - "upstream" as it were. There's no way to cut power off to one outlet without also cutting it off to the other - unless you add another wire that bypasses the switch and goes directly to the outlet.
     
  9. emw macrumors G4

    emw

    Joined:
    Aug 2, 2004
    #9
    This may or may not help, but here are a couple of illustrations to show what jsw was talking about.

    From what I can tell, this is what your current setup looks like (obviously simplified) -

    [​IMG]

    If you want to just go to no outlets switched, follow jsw's instructions and you'll get this:

    [​IMG]

    It's not necessarily best to just re-use the "switched' wires due to confusion to the next guy, who might think they're switched due to the color difference from a standard "hot", but it all depends on your setup. Plus it's a hell of a lot easier no to have to fish wires.

    If you want to be industrious and connect just one to a switch and one unswitched, the setup is a little more complicated, assuming that there isn't an existing "hot" line in the outlet box. If there isn't, then you need to run one, potentially from the switch box:

    [​IMG]

    If there is a hot wire in the outlet box, then the setup will look like the one above, except the hot will come from inside the outlet box, which is actually pretty easy to do.

    As others have mentioned, make sure to shut off the breaker/pull the fuse!
     
  10. jsw Moderator emeritus

    jsw

    Joined:
    Mar 16, 2004
    Location:
    Andover, MA
    #10
    emw brings up a good point, one I'd forgotten, having spent too much time in an old house where the color on the wires never necessarily means what it should. ;)

    In ~120V households, copper is ground, white is neutral, black is hot, and red is switched-hot. Properly wired houses. Of which there are few around here.

    But, if you're lucky and the outlets themselves have copper, white, black, and red wires coming into them, with the black wired capped off and the red wires running to the outlets, you could indeed simply open the outlet box, remove the red wire going to the outlet, and connect the black wire, being sure to use electrical tape to ensure no metal is exposed (except for the ground wires). You could even run black wire to one of the outlet plugs and red to the other - in the same outlet - if you cut the metal tab running between the two "hot" areas on one side of the outlet (if you keep them connected, both plugs will always be hot).
     
  11. KingSleaze macrumors 6502

    Joined:
    Feb 24, 2004
    Location:
    So. Cal
    #11
    Similar to the answer above, turn of the power going to the SWITCH. Remove the cover to the switch and remove the switch from its box. Remove the faceplate to the outlet you are desiring to have on all the time. Unscrew the two screws holding the receptacle into the box. This is where it really begins to get tricky. Feed a "fishtape" up along the wiring (fairly easy if the wiring runs in conduit) until it comes out at the switch box or you will need to have someone keeping an eye out for it in the attic above. If there is no conduit (most likely) attach the wiring to the fishtape and pull the wire back down to the outlet- run the fishtape up from the switch, attach the other end of your wiring to the fishtape and pull it down to the switch.


    Faster answer, get the helpful book at Home Depot. Hire an electrical contractor.
     

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