Installing a new switch to control an outside socket.

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Old 04-11-10, 03:58 PM
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Installing a new switch to control an outside socket.

Looking for some general advice on putting in a brand-new light switch to control the outside sockets I have. I'm no stranger to replacing switches and sockets at this point, but I've never installed a new one entirely.

Setup:
Bought a new bug zapper (Flowtron 40W unit), and got all the gear to wire that thing up. But after talking with my father, he thinks I should install a switch to control the outside socket(s) so that I can cut the unit off if I know of an inbound storm. The unit should be weather-proofed enough for the average storm, but in the event of high winds and such, I didn't need some other oddity causing the thing to short out.

So I was analyzing the placement of the two outdoor sockets (one front, one back), and the good thing for me is that they should be easily accessible from the inside walls. But this is where I'm not sure how to proceed. I know the rough location on the inside walls of where they'll be, but not where the wires themselves will be running. I don't have access to a line tracer/toner right now (at least one for electrical usage), so are there other suggested methods for pinpointing where one should start cutting holes into the wall?

I figure if I can get that, it should be easy to plan out where I can put a switch, and properly splicing the existing wire to feed into the switch and back out to the outdoor socket.

Also, are there any code things to worry about, outside of getting the right switch for the rating? I discovered that both outdoor sockets are on the same 20A line as my living room lights/sockets and dining room lights/sockets, which bugs me a little. Unsure if I should look at getting an electrician to wire me in a new breaker circuit for the outdoor sockets in case I need to ever plug in hefty electric lawn equipment to them.

Thanks!
 
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Old 04-11-10, 04:25 PM
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Simplest is to drop a cable to it for a switch loop. That would put the switch on an inside wall directly above it.

1) Shut off power to receptacle.

2) Open receptacle and mark all wires and diagram current hook up.

3) Disconnect all wires and remove box. Easiest way is to cut the nails that hold it with a Sawzall.

4) Drill or punch a small hole 1/8' or less through the inside wall from the outside going through the hole where the box is.

5) on the inside of the house using the small hole you made as a guide go up and cut a hole for an old work box. The height of the box should match the height of other switches in the room.

6) Drop a two conductor NM-b cable through the wall to the receptacle opening. Install an old work box and remark the white wire red.

7) Install an old work box at the receptacle feeding all wires into the box as you install.

8) Reconnect all wires as they previously were except the black hot wire. Connect the black hot wire to the switch loop black. Connect the red (remarked white) switch loop wire to the receptacle.

9) Install the switch hooking red (remarked white) and black to switch.

Connect all grounds as usual.

Above assumes the receptacle is not fed by metallic cable or conduit and that plastic boxes and NM-b are locally code compliant.

Use #14 for a 15a breaker and #12 for a 20a breaker.
 
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Old 04-11-10, 05:23 PM
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Really good set of instructions, thanks!

I think might work well for the front socket. But the back one may be tricky.

Without actually investigating, next to the back door, I already have a two-gang junction box, one switch is a 3-way for the room light, the other controls the outloor light. I would likely want to turn that into a three-gang box and have the third switch power the outdoor socket.

Problem is, though, that the room light and outdoor light feeding into that two-gang box are on entirely different circuit breakers (No idea why). I suspect the feedline coming from my living room (this is a one-story rambler, so estimate a ~30' run from the living room straight back) is probably running low along the wall, and comes into the electrical box directly without going vertically up the wall any.

I suppose it might not be as hard as I'm thinking. Just drop a wire from the three-gang box (after cutting out a chunk of the wall for it) down and wire it from the outside. I'll be sore from sitting on my haunches on the deck for several hours messing with it, that's for certain.

What's NM-b cable, btw? I know what electrical cable is and looks like, but if that's an official name for it, that's new to me. I'll need three-conductor at least. The house is not even ten years old, so it's using three-conductor to supply a ground run it looks.
 
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Old 04-11-10, 05:34 PM
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Actually, I just glanced at my electrical panel again, and my living room breaker is 15A, not 20A. I really think I need to split that.

Rough count, the kitchen light, two ceiling fans, all the living room plugs (including the old CRT TV and sat receiver), all the dining room plugs save one, and both outdoor sockets all on a single 15A line seems close to overkill were I to plug enough stuff in. Plus I really hate working in the dark in the living room when doing wall sockets because both are on a single line.

But then again, I'm going to be switching to propane-powered lawn equipment real soon, so that might be a non-issue. All my light fixtures are fluorescent, too, so very little amp draw overall.

Well, that'd beyond my abilities anyways. I'll need an actual electrician for that.
 
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Old 04-11-10, 06:33 PM
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What's NM-b cable
Non-Metallic cable type b. One common brand name is Romex. The B indicates a 90C rating. Older NM cable without the "b" has a 60C rating.
 
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Old 04-18-10, 12:16 AM
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Halfway there!

I've bought a lot of equipment to do this (and kill a few other birds). One of the things I grabbed was a cooper electric single-pole switch w/ pilot light. I figured it would be good to have this to alert me when the outside socket was receiving power. And it'll be a good learning tool for when I go to bring switches for the attic and crawlspace lights down into the walking area instead of physically above or below the house.

So I have managed to pull the outside wiring into the house (and resealed the outside for now until I need to wire that back up again). But this special switch needs something extra regarding a neutral for the pilot light to turn off when the switch is off and on when it is on. Plenty of info out there for doing this properly with an actual light switch. But in my case, I'm trying to wire this up to a wall socket outside.

Anyone got tips on properly wiring one of these combo switch/pilot lights for running a basic wall socket, and I only have hot/neutral/ground (I think) coming into the wall?

Also, any problems using a GFCI for outdoors? It'd going to be sealed behind a outdoor plug cover, so I can shield plugged-in items from the rain.

I'm figuring I'll do my wiring inside in the same junction box as another wall socket, then put the light switch next to two others, and feed newer wire back outside to re-wire into the switch. This saves me from having to cut holes all in my walls. Although I did have to yank out a decent amount of fiberglass to get far enough back into the wall, but I'll just stuff that back in when I'm done.


PS, who enabled all the extra bio fields in our profiles as required? I thought I filled out my state/county once. But I generally never fill out bio and hobby-related fields.
 
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Old 04-18-10, 07:40 AM
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You need to use 3-conductor instead of 3-conductor cable for the switch loop when you have a lighted switch that requires a neutral. Black for power to the switch. Red for power return from the switch and white for neutral.
 
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Old 04-18-10, 10:03 AM
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Originally Posted by ray2047 View Post
You need to use 3-conductor instead of 3-conductor cable for the switch loop when you have a lighted switch that requires a neutral. Black for power to the switch. Red for power return from the switch and white for neutral.
Basically, the same way a three-way switch is wired? Any way around that? All I have is a single 2-wire + ground conductor cable feeding this outdoor wall socket. Since these switches are essentially considered two devices, can I jumper a wire from the light switch down to the light safely? I think one website that I read somewhere said this is possible, but it wasn't clearly stated so I'm not certain whether I would jumper the black or the neutral down to it.

I assume that it is the black wire that gets interrupted by the switch to provide poweer to the outside socket.
 
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Old 04-18-10, 11:03 AM
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Basically, the same way a three-way switch is wired?
No. That is very different. Only the cable is the same.
I assume that it is the black wire that gets interrupted by the switch to provide power to the outside socket.
Yes. Think of it this way. You need to bring the neutral that goes to the receptacle to the switch box since this is a switch loop. You use the 3-conductor so you will have the third wire for the neutral.

If power for the receptacle originates at the switch not the receptacle then you won't need the third wire because you will already have the neutral at the switch. Remember though just because it is white does not mean it is a neutral. How many cables into the switch box? Is there a group of two or more whites wire nutted together?
 
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Old 04-18-10, 11:06 AM
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I think this explanation might work for me. None of the receptacles in my house are connected to light switches, so I think things are wired a certain way. The link below covers wiring a receptacle to be controlled by a light switch using 2-wire conductor. I think I'll have to do some reversing on the instructions, though, since I'm using the light switch w/ pilot light. But what I'm concerned about is the breaking off of that metal tab. It says to do that on the receptacle, but if I'm going to swap in a GFCI, that lacks the tab. But the light switch DOES have this tab, hence the confusion.

How to Wire a Light Switch From a Receptacle - wikiHow
 
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Old 04-18-10, 11:19 AM
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Let me add some better information:

The conductor feed running into the outdoor socket comes from my living room breaker panel (why is beyond me). It has one black, one white, and ground coming out of it that wires into the outdoor socket.

The SP switch + pilot light that I bought have five screw terminals on it: Two black on one side connected by a small gold tab, one gold on the other side, one silver below the gold, and one green between the gold/silver.

The GFCI socket has two gold on one side and two silver on the other.

Now, regarding all this neutral business, if working with that existing living room run is too much work, I can tap into the switch panel to feed off of the switch controlling the backyard light. In fact, I'm seriously pondering this, because I don't like a single 15A breaker controlling all my living room lights/sockets, dining room lights/sockets, kitchen light, and two outdoor sockets.

If I do that, I'll just cap off/seal the run from the living room inside an indoor junction box and maybe label it. I believe I have an appropriate neutral tap from the backyard lightswitch that can solve my neutral problem nicely.

Thoughts?
 
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Old 04-18-10, 11:29 AM
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Originally Posted by Kumba42 View Post
I think this explanation might work for me. None of the receptacles in my house are connected to light switches, so I think things are wired a certain way. The link below covers wiring a receptacle to be controlled by a light switch using 2-wire conductor. I think I'll have to do some reversing on the instructions, though, since I'm using the light switch w/ pilot light. But what I'm concerned about is the breaking off of that metal tab. It says to do that on the receptacle, but if I'm going to swap in a GFCI, that lacks the tab. But the light switch [Sic: receptacle] DOES have this tab, hence the confusion.

How to Wire a Light Switch From a Receptacle - wikiHow
The tab on the receptacle is broken if you only want to control only one of the outlets in the receptacle. It will work either way. GFCI receptacles can not be separated into two outlets.There is no tab. The instructions in the linked page are for a basic switch loop and would not work with a lighted switch that requires a neutral.
 
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Old 04-18-10, 11:07 PM
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Stumped.

Ran into a stud between the area where I wanted to put the switch and where the hole for the outdoor socket is at. Tried drilling through the stud, but it went at a bad angle, and while I could get the Romex through the hole, I couldn't get it to go up. I think instead I tore up the inside of the drywall on the other side or something.

So now I'm stuck with a hole for a three-gang switch plate, a hole for two gang wall socket, and half my house's power cut off....though I capped off one set of wires, so I can power the living room back on. It's two of the bedrooms still with their breakers off.

Already sealed the hole in the stud with polyurethane foam, so now my only option is to either take out the entire wall or call an electrician. I'll probably convert the two-gang hole into a quad receptacle, as I can't really think of any other device that goes well with an electrical outlet at the floor level.

Anyone have better ideas? I don't think I can go around via the attic or the crawlspace. I won't be able to drill another hole in the stud without removing a good chunk of the wall, because I lack a right-angle drill (this is why I tried expanding the wall socket to two-gang to begin with). I could put the switch at floor level....but that'd look weird. And I still would have that three-gang hole above...pft. Murphy won this round.
 
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Old 04-19-10, 07:52 AM
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I know you don't want hear this now but that is why in my instructions I put the new switch in the same stud bay as the existing receptacle to be controlled. One work around might be to remove baseboard and to remove the Sheetrock below the base board line. You can drill holes with a right angle drill if your drill won't fit between the studs though you can actually just go in at a slight angle with a regular drill usually. Add nail plates if closer then 1-1/'2" to the surface.
 
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Old 04-19-10, 08:49 AM
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Yeah, it's on a portion of wall small enough that I completely forgot to account for the presence of studs. I thought the only stud to worry about would be the one framing the door to the back yard. Well, lessons learned :)

I'm probably going to have an electrician finish it, as well as do the same thing to the front yard socket, which will be the harder of the two anyways. Plus I wanted to get my breaker box checked out anyways, as well as other minor electrical questions. I just kept putting it off until now. Plus side, they might be able to find the decorator-style switched w/ utility light. Lowes didn't even know those existed.

Thanks, though!
 
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Old 04-19-10, 10:23 AM
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it's on a portion of wall small enough that I completely forgot to account for the presence of studs.
Many times when we old-timers give advice we do it based on our own oh-crap moments so don't feel too bad. At least you only have to explain to your wife. A lot worse with a customer looking on.
 
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