Switch-controlled outlet prob


Old 04-07-10, 12:40 PM
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Switch-controlled outlet prob

I recently changed 6 outlets and 5 switches in my living room - piece of cake, right? Except now two are not working.

They're not on the same wall, but very close. I believe the culprit is the switch-controlled outlet.

Some history:
Previously, both outlets in the one problem receptacle were only hot when the switch was on.

The switch is in a bank of 3; the other 2 work fine and are both fed by two black wires + ground. The problem switch is fed by a white, a black, and a ground. (From what I've learned today, sounds like the white is functioning as a hot and should be taped or marked black.) The hot-white is at the top of the switch and the black is at the bottom.

The receptacle has two incoming bundles. Each bundle has a white, black, and ground. The two grounds are pigtailed.

Now for the fun stuff... I *think* this is the original connection, but like a dolt I didn't take a pix before I worked my magic.

A white from one bundle was connected to the upper chrome screw on the left and a black from the other bundle was hooked into brass screw on lower right. The other white from bundle A was pigtailed with the other black from bundle B. This pigtail wasn't connected to anything. Neither of the two whites is marked hot (but presumably one of the whites is packin' heat.) The grounds are correctly tied into the green screw.

I've swapped both the outlet and the switch with some new ones I know are working. I've tried using the old outlet, a new one with the little brass tab removed, one with both tabs removed, etc. Zilch. (The old outlet had both tabs.)

I've even tried multiple combinations of splicing the two blacks with a third black piggy and connecting the piggy to the brass screws (home depot book), but nothing works.

It's just a hunch, but I'm hoping this outlet's resolution will result in the other outlet coming back to life. Mr. Switch-outlet is right next to the front door and looks like he's the end of the run. Mr. TV outlet that's currently dead looks to logically be the 2nd outlet from the end... He's just around the corner.

HELP! I've tried close to 3 dozen combinations and feel like I'm
doing Chinese calculus. I've been on the net all morning and using my home depot 1-2-3 guide, but I can't figure out where I went wrong. Any assistance is greatly appreciated!!

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Old 04-07-10, 02:13 PM
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Did you have wires on the original switch both in the back stabs and on the screws?
Old 04-07-10, 02:22 PM
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It sounds like you may have an outlet that is attempting to be a switched receptacle through the means of a switch loop.

What I would do:
  • Get an electrical meter. The cheap $10 option will do just fine.
  • Turn off power and disconnect everything in the receptacle box.
  • With all wires connected to nothing, turn power back on and very carefully check voltage between all black and white conductors.
  • If you find a pair that reads 120v across them, they are your incoming hot and neutral.
  • Turn power back off.
  • Utilizing the continuity testing function of the meter, check the other black and white pair. Flip your wall switch and try again.
  • In the off position, these two wire should read open. In the on position they should read as a short. If this is true, these two are your switch leg. Tape the white wire black.
  • If all of this is successful, if you have two wires that are your incoming power and two that are a switch leg, connect as follows.
  • Black-taped white wire to receptacle brass screw. White wire to receptacle silver screw. Black wire to wirenutted to black wire.

If you get some other results, post what you find and we'll try to help.
Old 04-07-10, 02:34 PM
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With the power off , dis-connect the two wires at the switch , keeping them apart.

Dis-connect all wires at the receptacle, resulting in two Black wires and two White wires, all seperated.

Restore power.

With a simple lamp in a "pig-tail " socket , with say , a 60 -75 watt lamp, determine which Black / White cable pair is the "Feed-In" pair that iluminates the test-lamp.

Power Off.

Connect one lead of the test-lamp socket to the White wire of the "Feed-In" cable.

Connect the other lead to the Black wire of the other cable which is a "Switch-Loop" cable.

Connect the Black wire of the "Feed-In" cable to the White wire of the
"Switch Loop" cable.

Restore power.

With a second test-lamp socket with a lamp of equal wattage , test across the two loose , seperate wires at the switch ; the two 60 / 75 watt lamps should both be equally illuminated , however dim .

Connecting the two test-lamps "in series " places resistance in the circuit for a safe testing procedure.

Good Luck!!!

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