Switch on wall but no wall outlet is switched

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  #1  
Old 11-23-04, 06:26 AM
clietz
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Switch on wall but no wall outlet is switched

We moved into a seven year old house where two rooms have switches on the walls but none of the wall outlets function as switched. So I've got to believe that the electrician didn't finish the job and that the prior owners didn't know any better.

I read in another thread that we can pull off the plastic tab on the outlet. I went to do that on the outlet of choice, but see that it's in the middle of the circuit, so I didn't know if I would mess up other outlets down the line. Can someone advice.

Per the other one, it's on a two-way switch, so it may (or may not) be more complicated. But on that one, we're not sure if it's intended to switch a wall outlet or the ceiling fan. At one wall switch there are two plugs and one of them does work the ceiling fan/light (together). So what would we look for to see if it was intended to switch the fan and light separately vs. fan/light and wall outlet.

Thanks so much for your time,
Carol
 
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  #2  
Old 11-23-04, 07:19 AM
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1) Get a book on electrical wiring and read it. You will find this site much more useful if you have a basic understanding of electricity, electrical wiring, and electrical safety. There are many details to a proper electrical installation, many more than can be written in a short bbs post. Instead you should read the book to get the big picture, and then ask here about the details that you don't understand.

2) Duplex receptacles have _metal_ tabs that connect the two halves. If you break off these metal tabs, then the two single receptacles will be electrically disconnected. If the receptacle is in the middle of a run, and used to connect power to the next receptacle, then breaking off the tabs will break the circuit, and the 'downstream' receptacles won't work. If the receptacle is wired properly as a switched receptacle, but the tab on the hot is not broken off, then the tab will bypass the switch and the receptacle will always be on. So the use of these tabs depends upon how the rest of the system is wired.

3) After reading the book, you should turn off the power to the circuits in question. Test that the power is off with a 'tic' tester, and then open the boxes. You should map out what is in each device box; this will give you a good idea of what the circuit _should_ be. If you see a receptacle with a single white wire on one side, and a black and a red wire on the other side, this is a strong _hint_ that the receptacle _should_ be switched, but without more information even this is not certain.

-Jon
 
  #3  
Old 11-23-04, 07:38 AM
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Carol, I'm a little confused, but will give this a shot:

In the room with the ceiling fan, with power off at the breaker, check the electrical connections of the fan at the ceiling. If there's a red or black wire that isn't connected to anything, it's probably meant to be connected to the fan and the switch is meant to control the fan and light separately. From the fan there should be black, white, blue and possibly green wires. Right now the black and blue wires are probably connected together to a black or red wire in the ceiling box. Remove the wire connector that holds the 3 wires together, separate the black wire from the fan out of the bunch, put the connector back on the 2 remaining wires, connect the black wire from the fan to the spare wire in the ceiling box. Put everything back together and switch the breaker back on. The second switch should now control the fan while the first controls just the light.

In the other bedroom, the switch is probably set up to control only half of an outlet somewhere in the room. Be sure you've checked both top and bottom of all the outlets. Also, make sure there isn't a box in the ceiling that might have a cover on it. If the switch really doesn't control anything, chances are someone has replaced the outlet that it used to control and forgotten to remove the metal tab that connects the 2 halves of the outlet together. You need to find that outlet and remove the tab. You aren't going to be able to do this on just any outlet. With the breaker turned off, remove all the outlet covers and look for 1 outlet that has a red wire on it, or a red wire in the box that isn't connected to anything. When you find it, assuming there is a black and a red wire connected to the brass screws, break the metal tab on the brass side of the outlet between the screws. Do not break the tab on the other side of the outlet. Put everything back together and turn on the power.

If anything looks different than what I've guessed, come back to the forum and tell us. We'll go from there.

Doug M.
 
  #4  
Old 11-24-04, 07:58 PM
clietz
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Doug and Jon,
Thanks for the replies. We've been busy painting the room so we didn't get around to looking at the wiring until now. Looking just at the bedroom right now, here's the scenario: First outlet after the wall switch is black/white, black/white. So it's not a candidate. Next one is black/white, black/white/red, with the red and two whites going into the back of the receptacle and the blacks hooking together and then going into the receptacle. I'm thinking this isn't the one we want based on what I see next. Next one has three wires in it: black/white (#1) , black/white (#2) , black/white/red (#3) . With that, the all the whites hook together and then they go into the receptacle. #1 black goes into the receptacle. #2 black hooks with #3 red and terminates. #3 black goes into the receptacle. So I'm thinking that this may also the one, but am not really sure. Note, it would be fine if both the second and third receptacle worked together on the switch, doesn't it's certainly not a requirement.
Also, none of these use the screws on the side, but go directly into the back. And I see no metal tabs on any of them.
Hopefully this all makes perfect sense to you and the solution is obvious to those more knowledgeable than us. Thanks for your help and Happy Thanksgiving!

Carol
 
  #5  
Old 11-25-04, 11:54 AM
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Carol, Can you tell us what wires are at the switch?

Doug M.
 
  #6  
Old 11-25-04, 03:33 PM
clietz
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Doug,
Good question. I should have thought to add that important detail! There are two B/W pairs coming in and one B/W/R set coming in. With that, the three whites are all connected together and terminate. The three blacks all connect together, then taken into the switch. And the red goes directly into the switch.

i.e.
W - W - W : together and terminate
B - B - B : together ---> switch
R: --> switch

Thanks!
Carol
 
  #7  
Old 11-25-04, 05:18 PM
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At the receptacles with the red and black wires check the tab on the gold side. It needs to be removed on all the receptacles with the red wire attached to them. Then the 1/2 of the receptacle with the red wire will be switched. It is common practice to turn these receptacles upside down to the rest in the room to indicate switched.
 
  #8  
Old 11-25-04, 07:13 PM
clietz
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Joe,
Two questions before we proceed: (1) what do you mean by "the gold side"? The outlets have two unused brass screws on each side, but neither side appears different from the other. (2) we have two "candidate" outlets that have red wires in them, but they are configured a bit different. Does it matter on which I break the tab?

First candidate outlet
--------------------------------
#1 B ---> receptacle (joining first with #2 black)
#1 W ---> receptacle

#2 B ---> receptacle (joining first with #1 black)
#2 W ---> receptacle
#2 R ---> receptacle

Second candidate outlet
-----------------------------------
#1 W ---> receptacle (joining first with #2 and #3 white)
#1 B ---> receptacle

#2 W ---> receptacle (joining first with #1 and #3 white)
#2 B ---> joins with #3 red and terminates

#3 W ---> receptacle (joining first with #1 and #2 white)
#3 B ---> receptacle
#3 R ---> joins with #2 black and terminates

Thanks,
Carol
 
  #9  
Old 11-25-04, 08:02 PM
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Sorry if this sounds like '20 questions', and unfortunately there isn't enough to be certain about what is going on.

IMHO it is _almost_ certainly the case that what you name the 'first candidate receptacle' is the one that is supposed to be half switched. However there clearly is at least one more red wire that goes somewhere, and you've not yet found it.

If you look at a receptacle, you should see on one side that the screws are brass colored. On the other side, the screws are supposed to be plated so that they look silver or white. On each side you should see two screws, each sitting against a brass plate. There will be a plastic strip sitting between the two plates on each side, and a little brass tab should bridge between the two plates on each side.

In the 'first candidate receptacle', both the black and the red wire should terminate under brass colored screws (or in the holes on that side) and the white wire should terminate under the silver colored screws. My guess is that if you remove the tab between the two brass screws, then half of that receptacle will end up switched.

You can test this by disconnecting the black wire from this receptacle, and capping it off with a wire nut. If my guess is correct, this will render the entire receptacle switched.

-Jon
 
  #10  
Old 11-25-04, 08:24 PM
clietz
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Wonderful! I did as Winnie suggested and it did the trick. Many thanks to ALL of you for your help along the way! I have another room to tackle and will see if it's has the same pattern and I can do the same thing. If not, I'll be back for some add'l guidance.

Many thanks again to everyone.
Carol
 
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