Changing a Switch to A Receptacle

Old 10-30-04, 05:44 PM
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Changing a Switch to A Receptacle

I live in an older home with no GFCI outlet in the bathroom or any other outlet for that matter. I have two side by side switches in separate steel boxes. One controls the overhead light and one runs to the exhaust fan. There are two wires for each switch and as best I can tell they run indepently. (one white, one black for each switch.) I would like to tie the light and fan to one switch so they both operate with one switch, thus freeing a black wire and a box. I would then like to install a GFCI in next to the switch. Any help would be greatly appreciated. I have a good idea of what to do already but would like some feedback as well.
Old 10-30-04, 05:59 PM
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Forgot to mention that both switches appear to be end of run.
Old 10-30-04, 06:01 PM
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You can't use the wires in either box for a receptacle because you don't have a neutral wire in either box. What you have are two switch loops. One of the wires in each box is hot and the other wire is switched, meaning that it is hot when the switch is on and not hot when the switch is off. The white wire is not a neutral in this case.

If you want a receptacle in this bathroom you'll have to pull a new cable from a nearby junction box or from your electrical panel.
Old 10-30-04, 06:03 PM
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What you have are four hot wires. Two are unswitched hots (should be the two white wires if wired to modern code) and two are switched hots (should be the two black wires).

It would be possible to use one of the unswitched hots to provide power to both switches, freeing up one of the unswitched hots. But to take advantage of this for a receptacle, you will need to go to one of the fixtures (either the light or the fan) and remake the connections to turn that unswitched hot into a neutral (as it is wired now, you have no neutrals at the switch box).

To be code compliant, you need to replace the metal boxes with plastic ones, and it is only legal if none of this wiring is in a metal box or conduit. Code requires wires in metal boxes or conduit to be run as matched pairs so that an unbalanced current does not induce excessive heat in the metal.

Post back with more information if you need more help.
Old 10-30-04, 06:40 PM
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There is another solution that might work, but it depends on the wiring at the exhaust fan and at the light.

If the overhead light and the exhaust fan are the same unit then my idea should be possible. If they are separate then my idea might or might not work.

My suggestion is to use one set of wires as a switch loop and have it run the fan and the light, and to use the other set of wires as a hot and a neutral for the GFCI receptacle.

Post back and let us know if the fan and light are one unit or separate units. Also let us know the wiring at the unit(s).

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