1 switch for 2 outlets

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  #1  
Old 04-03-07, 08:04 PM
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1 switch for 2 outlets

Hi, I have a question about a problem we can't seem to find the answer for. Our house is 15 yrs old and we have 1 switch that powers 2 outlets in our living room. We just changed the all the outlets and switches in the room as we were re-decorating and now the switch doesn't seem to power anything.
My husband is pretty sure he wired it all up the same as it was before the re-do. Both outlets are on the same wall, and both work fine. But the switch isn't powering them at all. He spoke to someone at work that knows this stuff and he told my husband to remove the little taps on the side of the outlets. This didn't work, or else my husband didn't get the tabs removed completely. Can someone help us figure this out?
Thanks, Debbie
 
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  #2  
Old 04-03-07, 08:58 PM
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Congratulations. You are the one millionth person to post this exact problem. The answer you were already given is the correct one. Your husband should have removed the tabs on all of the switched receptacles, on the brass-screw side only (not the silver-screw side). The tab is removed by bending it back and forth with pliers until it breaks off. The tab is between the two brass screws on the side.

If this doesn't lead you to the solution, post as many more details as you can. Especially, clarify the exact meaning of "this didn't work" -- did it change anything at all? Which tabs did he remove? Did he have a little piece of metal in his hand when he was done?
 
  #3  
Old 04-03-07, 09:05 PM
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John beat me to it but, as he said, there are two tabs on a standard duplex receptacle (an outlet with a top and bottom socket): one between the hot terminals (brass screws) and one between the neutral terminals (silver screws). Usually only the hot tab is removed.

Removing the tab from between the hot terminals will allow a duplex receptacle to have the top or bottom half switched and the other half always powered. (The tab between the neutral terminals is left in place.) Do you remember if the receptacles in question worked this way, or did the switch control the whole receptacle (top and bottom)?

Which tab(s) did your husband remove?

Did any other receptacles stop working when your husband removed the tab(s)?

If you post back with how many and what color wires are entering and leaving the switch box and the receptacle boxes, we can get a better idea of your situation.
 

Last edited by ddr; 04-04-07 at 11:42 AM. Reason: changed "plug" to "socket" - duh!
  #4  
Old 04-04-07, 05:26 AM
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You need to remove the tab on ALL the switched receptacles. One tab on any of the swithced receptacles will poewr all the rest of them. The switched receptalces will likely have a red wire and a black wire attached to them.

Note this only applies if the receptacles were only half switched. That is the top or bottom is switched and the other socket stays on all the time.
 
  #5  
Old 04-05-07, 05:47 PM
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Post More info for switch/outlet problem

Hi Everyone and thanks for the advice and help so far with this. I ask my husband about the wiring and receptacles and he told me the info below. I hope it helps to figure this out.
We recently replaced all the switches and outlets in our family room, and now the switch that no longer works, that used to control two outlets (we believe it controlled just the bottom of the outlets, but can't remember for sure now) . The outlets work fine and nothing we've done so far as changed anything. He tried breaking the tab on the side of both outlets (gold side) but this didn't work. Here are the # and color of wires I have connected.

Switch - 1 red (top) & black (bottom)

Outlets-
Receptacle 1 - 2 red (gold bottom)& 2 black(gold top), and 2 white, opposite side (silver)

Receptacle 2 - 1 red(gold bottom) & 2 black (gold, top), and 2 white, opposite side(silver)


When I replaced the outlets it is possible I switched the wires as far as red wires in on the top of the outlets and vice verse, but not sure if it makes a difference as long as the red and black wires were paired together. It is also a 15amp outlet on a 20amp breaker, but that shouldn't matter, since there is only a lamp plugged into each outlet. Do I need a three way switch, or should I try a 20amp outlet? Also when breaking the tab on the outlet, is there a way to tell if you have broken the tie? Can you ohm it and tell?
Also I don't know if it matters if I tell you the order of the outlets from the switch. But the switch is on a side wall, facing the wall the outlets are on, this house is very confusing with the wiring, but we do know for sure this switch used to control the outlets in question.

Thanks for any and all help. Debbie & Steve
 
  #6  
Old 04-05-07, 06:01 PM
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When you break the tab on the receptacles, it will come off, and you throw it away. You will be able to see that the two screw terminals are no longer connected by metal.

15 amp receptacles on a 20 amp circuit is fine. It does not matter if you switch red from top to bottom and black from bottom to top (or whatever). All you wiil do is switch whether it is the top or bottom half that is switched.

No, you do not need a three way switch, unless it was a three way switch you took out.

If the tabs are removed and the wires are properly connected, then you have messed something up somewhere else.

You have learned a lesson. Whenever you replace receptacles and switches, do one at a time and verify that everything still work as it used to after each device is replaced.
 
  #7  
Old 04-06-07, 06:47 AM
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If NM cable was used shouldn't the switch box also have a white wire? If it is only a switch loop no reason foe a three conductor cable which it apparently has. I'm wondering if the power comes in to the switch box and there is an unmentioned cable also. Could be somehow power is being supplied to both the red and black at the switch box.

To the original poster: If the above is true you would need the black side of the incoming power cable (black from a two wire cable with ground) tied to the switch and the black wire going to the unswitched side of the receptacle. The red would go to the other side of the switch. All whites tied together.
 
  #8  
Old 04-12-07, 08:44 AM
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Unhappy More confused then ever

We are still waiting to re-do our 2 outlets and not sure what the problem is. We ask at Home Depot when we again bought new outlets and the guys said, theres no way to completely break off the tab on the side, the metal is all one piece. He thinks its now against code to have a switch control outlets. We are MORE confused then ever. Not sure what to do. Thanks for any help or advice. Debbie
 
  #9  
Old 04-12-07, 08:59 AM
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Stop getting your advice at Home Depot or any big box store. Sometimes the people working there know what they are talking about, but often they have no clue and give flat out wrong advice, sometimes they even give out dangerous advice.

The person you spoke with dopes not know what he is talking about.

The metal tab breaks off by bending it with pliers. Go to the store, pick up a duplex receptacle and look at it. You will see what I am talking about.

There is no prohibition in the NEC on switching a receptacle. It is true that you cannot use a dimmer as the switch, but a simple toggle switch is allowed. In fact, the NEC requires either a switched receptacle or a switched light in many rooms of a house. Many builders switch a receptacle because this is cheaper than installing an overhead light.

If you are still having a problem after breaking the appropriate tabs, then your husband did not get the wires put back the way they were or he made some other mistake.

This is not rocket science. Take your time, recheck all connections at the switch and at the receptacles. If necessary use a tester and investigate thoroughly.
 
  #10  
Old 04-12-07, 09:09 AM
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racraft

Hi, We have looked at the outlets tab, this is the second outlet we've purchased for this job. Maybe we have the wrong outlets, but these are the only ones that fit the wires, theres more wires coming into these 2 outlets then anyother in the room (please see post above concerning how many the colors of wires) also these wires are larger around then the other outlet wires in the room.
Anyway when we look at the tabs on the side of the outlets they look like 2 tabs, one metal piece close to the plastic of the outlet and connected to the other metal piece on each side. Which looks like it could be broken off (which my husband did) but then it still stays connected on the metal piece closest to the plastic of the outlet.
I sure hope this makes sense. We know the big box store don't always have people that know what they are talking about, but we are getting desperate to fix what should be a small problem and is why we came here to ask for help.
 
  #11  
Old 04-12-07, 09:24 AM
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Two thoughts:

If you have a multimeter (available at the big box store for about $15), you can set it on the ohm scale (the Greek letter omega) and test for continuity between the two brass screws. This will confirm whether or not you broke off the tab correctly.

If you have a digital camera or camera phone, you can take a picture of the side of a receptacle. Then post the picture on one of the many free photo hosting sites on the web, and we'll take a look at it to see if it looks like you did it correctly.

Try to remember the name of the guy who you got your last advice from at the big box store, and be sure to talk with someone else next time.
 
  #12  
Old 04-12-07, 11:33 AM
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Here's what to look for.

Picture of a receptacle with tab intact:
http://www.cartertools.com/relay-photo2.jpg

Picture of a receptacle with tab removed:
http://www.cartertools.com/relay-photo3.jpg
 
  #13  
Old 04-12-07, 11:42 AM
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That is exactly like a tab on and tab off is supposed to look.
 
  #14  
Old 04-12-07, 12:26 PM
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Nice pictures Ben.
 
  #15  
Old 04-12-07, 12:55 PM
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Thanks, but they aren't mine. I found them with Google Image Search. The original source is: http://www.cartertools.com/tbbrb.html
 
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Old 04-12-07, 03:21 PM
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Definitely not an expert here but would like for you to list all of the individual wires in your switch box. Do they appear to be in distinct plastic or cloth cables? If so how many cables? Do some cables have just black, white and ground and others also have a red wire? If you have an analog voltage tester it might be good to test for voltage between the the black and white of any two conductor cables. (Two conductor cable is one with only black, white, and bare ground.)
 
  #17  
Old 04-17-07, 05:40 AM
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Wire info

We have tryed everything, bought new outlets and no matter what we do or don't do, nothing changes.
Never does the switch even effect either outlet, top or bottom.
Here are the # and color of wires in boxes, also these wires are bigger in diameter then any of the others in the other outlets in the room. All wires are plaster coded, not cloth. This is very frustrating to say the least.

Switch - 1 red (top) & black (bottom)

Outlets-
Receptacle 1 - 2 red (gold bottom)& 2 black(gold top), and 2 white, opposite side (silver)

Receptacle 2 - 1 red(gold bottom) & 2 black (gold, top), and 2 white, opposite side(silver)
 
  #18  
Old 04-17-07, 07:03 AM
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Use a meter and verify that you have power properly at the proper locations.
 
  #19  
Old 04-17-07, 07:21 AM
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Thanks for the connection information. I think that this information points out the problem. But the information is incomplete, so we can't be sure.

I assume that you broke the tabs off the brass screw side of each receptacle in which there is a red wire in the box. Right?

I assume that there are other wires in the switch box that you didn't mention. Right? Tell us about them.

But the solution is almost certainly as follows: At receptacle 1, connect both red wires to the top, and both black wires to the bottom (rather than one of each on top and one of each on bottom as you have it now).
 
  #20  
Old 04-17-07, 09:35 PM
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Answer to questions

Yes, we did break off the tabs on the brass side, the side where the red and black wires are.
There are 3 switches in the switch box. The one that controls the outlets we are having problems with. The other 2 switches are for the porch light and foyer light. (the last 2 switches are on a different breaker then the one that is supposed to control the outlets) All switches only have a red and black wire on each.

As for the wire placement, I believe you misunderstood my listing of the wires on my above post. We do have them on the outlet as you are saying to do. We don't have one of each on the top and one of each on the bottom.

Your suggestion from above post----But the solution is almost certainly as follows: At receptacle 1, connect both red wires to the top, and both black wires to the bottom (rather than one of each on top and one of each on bottom as you have it now).

Thank you for the help.
 
  #21  
Old 04-18-07, 07:33 AM
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I asked you to tell us about the other wires in the switch box. You did not. You merely repeated the earlier information about what wires are connected to the switches. Tell us how many cables enter the switch box, what wires are in each cable, and where each of those wires goes and what each is connected to. It's a lot of information. Present it in an organized manner so we have enough information to draw it all out on paper, and to essentially see what you see.
 
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