Converting on/off switch to outlet


Old 10-22-00, 05:32 PM
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I just put a garage door opener in and pluged it into the garage light which is equipped with a 3 prong outlet. I want to convert the on/off switch, which controlls the light, into a 2 plug outlet. Can this be done and have the light and opener work? The light has a pull chain. The switch is connected by a ground wire, a black wire on the neg. screw, a black wire pushed into the bottom hole, and a black wire pushed into the top hole.
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Old 10-22-00, 06:54 PM
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Look in your switch box. If there are additional wires (white), then you can. Run a new cable from this switch box to a new one right next to it. Hook up the black wire on the new cable to the two that are connected together at the switch. You do this by removing the wires from the switch, making sure to keep the two that were connected together at the switch, and tie them to the new black wire, and also a 4th wire, about 6" long, which will run back to the switch. Use the screw terminal which you took the wire off of. Now tie the white of the new cable to the whites in your switch box together. Do the same with the ground wires. Use wire nuts, and push them all back in your switch box.

Now at the new receptacle box, you will have to install a GFCI type of receptacle. Just follow the directions that come with it, and make sure that the ground wire and the neutral (white) wire do not touch each other when you push the whole thing into the box. This GFCI is required in a garage.

Turn on you power, which you turned off before begining this whole project, and everything should work.

Good luck. RM
Old 10-23-00, 07:11 AM
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I believe you missed his point here. I don't think he wants to add an outlet next to the switch, he wants to replace the switch with an outlet. I also believe he has a 3-way switch because he states the switch has a ground, a "negative", and 2 hots.
Birdstx, I believe what you have is a 3-way switch. Can this light be controlled from 2 locations? If so you may need to repost your question with more detail. Look at your switch, is the "negative" you describe connected to a black screw on the top of the left side? If so it is a 3-way. A 3-way has a marked terminal on the left side, a ground screw (bottom left of frame), and two brass terminals on right side. You can still change this switch to an outlet, but the wiring will be more complicated.
Old 10-23-00, 07:29 AM
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My guess is that this is not a 3-way switch, but instead a switch with pass-through power to somewhere else. All three wires are black. I'm not sure where the white wires are, but perhaps they are there in the back of the box and birdstx just didn't mention them. I don't know why birdstx designated one screw as the "neg", or how he/she came to that conclusion, but I think this is a red herring.

Another question is what he/she means by having the light still "work". Does this mean that the light will be controlled exclusively by the pull chain and not any switch?

In any event, I think what birdstx wants to do is doable, but a little more information would help us give better advice.
Old 10-23-00, 11:16 AM
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Thanx for your replies. There are other wires in the back of the box. Three white wires are held together in a wire nut and two copper wires are twisted together off to one side. The switch is as follows; as you look at it on the left side there is only one screw. That screw is not connected to the switch itself, it is connected to the brackett that is screwed into the box at the bottom. This is where the third copper wire is attached. On the right side are two copper colored screws, the top one has a neg. sign where a black wire is attached and the bottom one has a pos. sign, like you would find on your car battery. The other two black wires are pushed into the back, top and bottom, of the switch. I hope this helps a little more.

Old 10-23-00, 11:33 AM
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I think I have it straight. What this person wants to do is eliminate the switch and replace it with a plug in the same recepticle box. There was no mention of a white neutral wire in this box. If there is a neutral wire there, then there should be no problem doing the change. If there isn't a neutral, new wiring will be involved. With the three black wires, it sounds like one of them is the power supply to the box, the 2nd is the continuation of power ddownstream to the remainder of the circuit, and the third is the switched power conductor to the light fixture. The use of the switch as a wire connector is not correct. There should be a wire connector here with a pigtail for power supply to the switch. You'll have to post more info if there is a neutral (white) wire in this switch box.
Old 10-23-00, 12:13 PM
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Sheetmet, I think your posts crossed in the mail with birdstx's. Clearly there is a neutral in this box. So there is no problem here.

Turn off the circuit breaker.

Attach a white pigtail to the three white wires in the box. You may need a bigger wire nut than you have there now.

Take off all three black wires. Connect all three black wires together along with a black wire pigtail, using a wire nut.

Connect all three copper wires together with a copper wire pigtail, using a wire nut.

Get your new outlet. Connect the black pigtail to one of the brass screws. Connect the white pigtail to one of the silver screws. Connect the copper pigtail to the green screw (would be nice to also connect to the screw in the box too).

Pack everything carefully back in the box, being sure not to short the copper wires to anything.

Turn the power back on. Your lights should be on unless turned off by the pull chain. You no longer have a light switch.

If you have any doubts, or you're not familiar with attaching wires to screws, or you're not familiar with wire nuts, or you don't know how to use a pigtail, or you're not sure which circuit breaker or fuse to turn off, then you should study a wiring book before proceeding.

Good luck.
Old 10-23-00, 04:08 PM
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Ya, I think your right about the post timing. Anyway Johns got it for you. Just follow his directions.
Old 10-24-00, 12:21 PM
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Hey guys

I think we got a problem. Gosh I always wanted to say that and not mean anything too bad.

I believe that if you check the NEC the switch is required at the service door of that garage.

If you will check 210-70-2 in the 99 NEC you should find that a switch controlled lighting outlet is required in a garage at the outdoor entrance. Remember that vehicular doors are exempt from this requirement but the service door for human use does require that switch controlling that light in all attached garages and in detached garage that have electricity to them.

It sounds like he can add a box to the side or next stud and bring power from that switch box but he can not remove the switch because it is required to be there.

Another problem then arrives when you try to add another Romex to that switch box. If this switch box is the normal 2 x 31/2 x 4 then the limit is three Romexes in that box with a switch installed in this box. 370-16

12 ga adds up to 9 current carrying conductors in that box counting the 2 conductors for the device and 1 conductor for all bares and each insulated conductor as one each multiplied by 2.25 = 20.25 cubic inches required in a plastic outlet box with no clamps. a 2 x 3 x 4 box = 24 cubic inch capacity. If you add another two current carrying conductors from one romex you would have a total required cubic inch of 25.25 cubic inch which would cause the box to be overfull as per the NEC.

IF he has 14 ga. in that box then he could add another romex to the box.

If this box is a metal box then we would have to add 2 cubic inch for credit of the clamps to the conductor count of 14 ga wire and 2.25 to the count on the 12 ga wire. Then the 14 ga is still just within the maximum fill of that box and the 12 ga would still be way over the maximum fill of that box.

I suggest that he add a box to the side and take the power out romex from the switch box and install it in the add box and run a new jumper of romex from the existing box to the new box and install the receptacle in the new box mounted to the side of the switch box. This will leave the switch where it is required by the NEC and allow the receptacle to be added.

Don't forget this receptacle must be GFI protected.

Hope this helps


Old 10-24-00, 04:05 PM
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Good catch, Wg. That's why it's great to have a bunch of us looking over each other's shoulders.

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