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About Switched Outlets

Problems with switched outlets, and how to resolve them.  In this post I will answer three questions on switched outlets with a common theme.

Question #1:

I have a problem.  I’m fixing what someone already has tried to fix. I have two switches and two switched outlets in between and I can’t get the correct wiring for the outlets to work . They are on all the time and switch will not
control the switched outlet.

Question #2

I have replaced my receptacles in the family room with new decorator style receptacles.  I was careful to write down exactly how the old outlets were connected, and hooked up the new ones the same way. Now the top half of the outlets that used to turn on and off with the wall switch are hot all the time.  What did I do wrong?

Question #3

I have switched outlets and I would like to remove the switch and make all
outlets hot all the time.  Is there an easy way for doing this or do I have
to run new wire?  Thanks in advance!


In both question #1 and question #2, the answer is most likely that the tab between the 2 brass terminals on the hot side of the receptacle has not been removed.

The purpose of a circuit like this is to provide an outlet that has 1/2 of the receptacle controlled by a wall switch, and the other 1/2 of the outlet hot all the time.

A good example of this would be in a bedroom, where you would have a table lamp and a clock radio plugged in to the same duplex receptacle.  You want power to the clock radio all the time, and the table lamp to be controlled by the switch.

Here is one way that a circuit like this can be wired.

Simple switched outlet circuit

It is a common trade practice to indicate that an outlet is a ‘switched outlet’  by mounting the receptacle upside down (or opposite) to how the unswitched outlets are mounted in the outlet box.

Looking at this simple circuit, you can see that if you replaced the receptacle, and forgot to remove the tab, then the outlet would be hot all the time, regardless of the position of the switch.

If you wanted to change the wiring so that all the switched outlets in a room are both hot all the time (as in question #3), the simple solution would be to remove the switch, splice the red and the black wires (in the example above) together with an approved wire connector, and then put a blank cover on the outlet box.

Remember – Safety First!

Terry Peterman, the Internet Electrician

This entry was posted in Home Electrical How-To, Q & A and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.
  • Trevisan

    i was looking for this for a long time, thank you. Very clear!

  • joe nonelectric

    forgot to to break the tab- works again

  • monkey

    very nice sir…thanks..:D

  • sara

    Please help. can i eliminate 1 of the 3 way switches that control the outlets by pigtailing the wires on that switch I want to eliminate?


The Basics of Household Wiring DVD

"If you're looking for a good reference to help you understand simple home wiring, I personally recommend 'The Basics of Household Wiring' DVD".

Terry Peterman, the Internet Electrician
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