Anyone here knowledgable on electrical outlets??

bigpoppamac31

macrumors 68020
Original poster
Aug 16, 2007
2,280
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Canada
So one of my standard two plug wall outlets has only one of it's outlets working. The top one does not work but the bottom one does. I plugged in one of those 6 outlet wall mounts and only the bottom three worked. I then tried the top outlet on the wall itself and sure enough it did not work. Does anyone know why that would be? Could fixing it be as simple as replacing the outlet? Any help is much appreciated.
 

Jbenn425

macrumors regular
Nov 16, 2013
164
0
New Jersey
So one of my standard two plug wall outlets has only one of it's outlets working. The top one does not work but the bottom one does. I plugged in one of those 6 outlet wall mounts and only the bottom three worked. I then tried the top outlet on the wall itself and sure enough it did not work. Does anyone know why that would be? Could fixing it be as simple as replacing the outlet? Any help is much appreciated.
The first thing you should try is replacing the outlet, it's VERY easy to do yourself and costs practically nothing. Obviously turn the power off first. If that doesn't work call an electrician. May as well try it yourself first before spending the money on an electrician.
 

snberk103

macrumors 603
Oct 22, 2007
5,503
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An Island in the Salish Sea
First things first. Some outlets are partially switched by a wall switch. If there is a wall switch in the room, make sure it is turned on and then test again.

Partially switched outlets are commonly found in bedrooms. It allows you to turn a table lamp on from the door to get into bed, and then you turn the lamp off using the lamp switch once you are in bed. I've got one in my house.

Otherwise, just change it out yourself. Easy to do... absolutely make sure the power is off.
 

Roric

macrumors regular
Sep 29, 2005
176
35
WI
First things first. Some outlets are partially switched by a wall switch. If there is a wall switch in the room, make sure it is turned on and then test again.

Partially switched outlets are commonly found in bedrooms. It allows you to turn a table lamp on from the door to get into bed, and then you turn the lamp off using the lamp switch once you are in bed. I've got one in my house.

Otherwise, just change it out yourself. Easy to do... absolutely make sure the power is off.
I have pair of outlets on my living room wall where the top outlets are o the switch and the bottom outlets are not.

Make sure the power is off at the breaker box. Remove the wall plate, then remove the top and bottom screws holding the outlet into the wall. Pull out the outlet from the wall. Here is a picture of a typical outlet.

If your wiring looks the same, replace the outlet, connecting the wires to the same screws on the old one. If your wiring looks more complicated than this, don't panic - it could still be a simple DoItYourself job to fix.
 

bigpoppamac31

macrumors 68020
Original poster
Aug 16, 2007
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Canada
Okay so I just kind of solved my own issue. One outlet is connected to one of the light switches in the room while the other is not. Same for my bedroom. Meaning one is always on and the other is on only if you flick the light switch. But I'm still curious about something. Why would they have one of two outlets be powered by a light switch but not both? Or why would they have any outlet connected to a light switch? A person may not have a light plugged into that outlet. It could be your TV or computer. If that light switch is flicked off accidentally it would then turn off an electronic device you don't want turned off.
 

elistan

macrumors 6502a
Jun 30, 2007
997
443
Denver/Boulder, CO
Okay so I just kind of solved my own issue. One outlet is connected to one of the light switches in the room while the other is not. Same for my bedroom. Meaning one is always on and the other is on only if you flick the light switch. But I'm still curious about something. Why would they have one of two outlets be powered by a light switch but not both? Or why would they have any outlet connected to a light switch? A person may not have a light plugged into that outlet. It could be your TV or computer. If that light switch is flicked off accidentally it would then turn off an electronic device you don't want turned off.
That's why there's one of each. The computer plugs in to the always on one, the desk lamp plugs into the switched one.

Also, FYI, the sockets with a switched outlet are likely upside down compared to the rest of your outlets.
 

DeltaMac

macrumors G4
Jul 30, 2003
10,275
2,701
Delaware
I have a few receptacles where upper and lower receptacles may not be controlled by a switch, but could be on completely different circuits. I see this in kitchens. Be sure to check in your house circuit breaker panel, to assure that no breakers are tripped.
 

snberk103

macrumors 603
Oct 22, 2007
5,503
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An Island in the Salish Sea
Okay so I just kind of solved my own issue. One outlet is connected to one of the light switches in the room while the other is not. ....
That's why there's one of each. The computer plugs in to the always on one, the desk lamp plugs into the switched one.

...
I will just add that it is not a big deal to change your partially switched outlet to a non-switched mode. But if you have never done this before pay a friend who knows what they're doing a couple of beer.

The short version is that you connect the half of the outlet that is currently connected to the switch to the always on circuit. Then you have to cap the wires from the switch inside the box. And of course you now have a wall switch that doesn't do anything.

For a couple of extra beer... perhaps a whole dozen... you could get your friend to turn the single pair into a quad (4 outlets). You could put your splitter on one pair of outlets, and still have a switched outlet.

Or you could just get a power bar and plug that into the working outlet. Same effect as the wall mounted version.

Or you could take the switch out, connecting the wires together (essentially turning the switch on permanently) and then just put a flat wall plate over it. Then you get both outlets back.

Options Options Options
 

samiwas

macrumors 68000
Aug 26, 2006
1,595
3,574
Atlanta, GA
But I'm still curious about something. Why would they have one of two outlets be powered by a light switch but not both? Or why would they have any outlet connected to a light switch? A person may not have a light plugged into that outlet. It could be your TV or computer. If that light switch is flicked off accidentally it would then turn off an electronic device you don't want turned off.
Well, the answer is, why not? Making the change later so that you do have a switched outlet is very difficult, and could require tearing out drywall to run new wire. Making it that way in the beginning solves that issue.

If it is that way, and someone doesn't want it that way, it's literally under a dollar, and 5-10 minutes to change it.

Also, it's pretty simple to not use the switched outlet, and put a power strip on the unswitched outlet.

The reason someone would want the switched outlet is to be able to control a table lamp at the back of the room from a switch at the front of a room. I'd prefer this in bedrooms, as I never, ever use ceiling lights.
 

notjustjay

macrumors 603
Sep 19, 2003
6,050
157
Canada, eh?
Glad you figured it out. As you surmised, the reason they give you one of each is so you can choose. What I did was connect a power strip to each of the outlets on the switched box in my living room. One power strip powers stuff you don't want to be switched, like my PS3. The other power strip goes to a couple of light fixtures in the living room that get controlled by the wall switch.
 

Huntn

macrumors demi-god
May 5, 2008
19,110
20,719
The Misty Mountains
Okay so I just kind of solved my own issue. One outlet is connected to one of the light switches in the room while the other is not. Same for my bedroom. Meaning one is always on and the other is on only if you flick the light switch. But I'm still curious about something. Why would they have one of two outlets be powered by a light switch but not both? Or why would they have any outlet connected to a light switch? A person may not have a light plugged into that outlet. It could be your TV or computer. If that light switch is flicked off accidentally it would then turn off an electronic device you don't want turned off.
That is just a choice that the builder/electrician/whomever, made, usually for use with a lamp. Of note on the diagram that was included in Roric's post, you see the two silver screws on the side of the receptacle? The default configuration for a receptacle is to have a metal band that connects the top and bottom plug for both the hot side and the neutral side. And besides the screws on the side, receptacles also have quick connect holes in the back where the wires can be pushed in (no screw). For a normal receptacle one set of wires will power both the top and the bottom. But in your case, to use the switch configuration on a single plug, those metal bands are broken, separating the two plugs. Now each will need their own wires. The top hot top wire would go to the wall switch and the bottom hot wire is direct wired to the power source.
 

Gregg2

macrumors 603
May 22, 2008
6,051
499
Milwaukee, WI
Usually the top plug is the one the switch will supply or deny power to. Rarely I suppose they might switch both plugs in the same box, but I've never seen that. When I had my house built, I specified which outlets I did NOT want to be switched. It might be a code requirement for rooms that do not have ceiling lights. But I know that it's NOT required if there is a ceiling light.

Well my simple solution would be to just tape the light switch in the "on" position so it doesn't get turned off by accident. That way the outlet is always on.
There's a more "elegant" solution. Your hardware store sells a plastic cover. You place it over the switch you do not want anyone to accidentally flip. The cover is "hinged" (it's made of plastic) so you can open it and flip the switch, should you want to, without having to unscrew the plate again and remove the cover. It snaps shut.

Now, here's another scenario a family member is dealing with:
Newly purchased condo. No ceiling lights in the Living Room or either bedroom. Not a single plug is switched; they've all been tested. One switch you would suppose to be tied to an outlet has been replaced. No joy. The original switch must not be defective. Next step? ...maybe replace an outlet?
 

Tomorrow

macrumors 604
Mar 2, 2008
7,155
1,336
Always a day away
Why would they have one of two outlets be powered by a light switch but not both? Or why would they have any outlet connected to a light switch?
NFPA 70 (National Electrical Code) requires a light switch near each entry into (and out of) a room. If the switch doesn't activate an overhead light, it can activate a wall outlet (receptacle). You can then plug a lamp into this receptacle.

It's cheaper and easier to do this than to put 3-way switches at multiple entries into the same room; put a switch to the overhead light at one entry and a switch to the receptacle at the other.

And the reason why it's only one and not both is because code doesn't require two lamps in this case, only one.
 

bigpoppamac31

macrumors 68020
Original poster
Aug 16, 2007
2,280
330
Canada
Usually the top plug is the one the switch will supply or deny power to. Rarely I suppose they might switch both plugs in the same box, but I've never seen that. When I had my house built, I specified which outlets I did NOT want to be switched. It might be a code requirement for rooms that do not have ceiling lights. But I know that it's NOT required if there is a ceiling light.



There's a more "elegant" solution. Your hardware store sells a plastic cover. You place it over the switch you do not want anyone to accidentally flip. The cover is "hinged" (it's made of plastic) so you can open it and flip the switch, should you want to, without having to unscrew the plate again and remove the cover. It snaps shut.

Now, here's another scenario a family member is dealing with:
Newly purchased condo. No ceiling lights in the Living Room or either bedroom. Not a single plug is switched; they've all been tested. One switch you would suppose to be tied to an outlet has been replaced. No joy. The original switch must not be defective. Next step? ...maybe replace an outlet?
Does this cover replace the light switch panel cause the light switch in question is one of three on the wall by the living room??
 
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