Replacing a wall switch that supplies power to a wall outlet

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I don't know a lot about house wiring. My wife and I moved into a house a couple of years ago and are essentially trying to learn as we go.
We have an air conditioner in our bedroom. Next to the air conditioner is a wall outlet, but the wall outlet is dead (both the top and bottom receptacles) and we've had to power the air conditioner via a long extension cord. It would be much better to be able to power the AC via the outlet that's right next to it, but I'm not entirely sure what's wrong with that outlet.
It looks to me like the outlet is powered by a lever-action wall switch. This sort of arrangement is present in a couple of other rooms in our house...and the wall switch doesn't seem to be powering anything *else* at the moment. However, assuming this is correct, no power is reaching the wall outlet, no matter what position the switch is in. I know because I have tested it. Power *is* present at the wall switch, though. I know because I pulled the switch out of the wall and used a multimeter to see that there is 24 volts on it (well, 23.9 to be exact).
I'm guessing that the lever-action switch is simply defective and in need of replacement. However, is there something I ought to be looking for or considering before I run out and buy a replacement switch? Any thoughts and/or advice will be appreciated.
Thanks!
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A/C on a "long extension cord" is a fire waiting to happen...
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The Postman wrote:

This too. I'd make sure that the cord is AT LEAST 14AWG preferably 12AWG and as short as possible. most are 16AWG max.
nate
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And this has helped the OP's problem how?
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um, by making him aware of a potential problem and a solution, before his house catches on fire?
it was more helpful than *your* post, anyway.
nate
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[snip]

16AWG cords are marked for 13A, but I try to not use more than 10A through it for more than a short time (because the wires get hot).
BTW, The little 5000BTU A/C I helped a friend install Thursday uses 4.7A. However, no extension cord was needed.
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Mark Lloyd
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The Postman wrote:

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Claude Hopper ? 3 :) 7/8

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On Sun, 03 Aug 2008 20:33:25 -0400, Claude Hopper
[snip]

Even some cords with "leakage detection". Apparently, this thing that looks like a GFCI is supposed to cut off if your dog chews on the cord.
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Sure glad I'm not YOUR homeowner's insurance carrier, Claudio....
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[snip]

Small (5000BTU) A/C uses less than 5A, so that wouldn't be a problem. Of course that'd be different for a 16000BTU unit (maybe the largest that uses 120V).
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Steve wrote:

Are you using a digital multimeter? 24V is too low for anything but phantom voltage, unless you've got a really odd house that was wired up with low voltage switches and relays (it's possible, I have heard of such houses, but never actually seen one IRL.)
It sounds like you really are a beginner (and I don't mean that in a bad way, everyone has to start somewhere) you should be reading 120VAC between one of the black wires and either a white wire (neutral) or a bare wire or the metal box (ground.) Make sure the meter is set on AC volts and make sure you're measuring as I describe - one probe on the black wire, one probe on neutral or ground.
If you get readings that still make you suspect the switch, kill the power to the circuit, remove the switch and measure the resistance between the two terminals. It should be infinite in the "off" position, and essentially zero (less than one ohm) in the "on" position. If it doesn't check out like that, replace it.
I'd recommend spending the extra ducats on a "spec grade" switch, it will last a lot longer than a regular builder grade switch. Don't use those awful push in from the back type wire connections either, always use the screw clamps.
nate
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wrote:

If the switch is a low voltage switch the wire will be noticeably smaller than house wiring.
One way to test the switch is to just disconnect the two wires from the switch and wire nut them together.
If the outlet works then you need another switch. If not, we need more info.
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If it's a low voltage switching system, there will be at least 3 wires on the switches. Common- On-Off

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[snip]

Don't they make toggle relays? Those would work with just 2 wires (alternating on/off with each current pulse).
[snip]
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wrote:

That's how a ratchet relay works, but this is a system designed by GE, and uses cylindrical latching relays that have an on circuit and an off circuit
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Typically you'll have 120 volts at the switch, not 24. When you say lever-action, what exactly do you mean? Some older installations around the 60's used low voltage (24 volt) momentary contact rocker switches, that controlled latching relays for lighting and outlets. If this is the case, it's possible that a relay is bad. It would help to have pictures as well
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Steve wrote:

24 volts is incorrect. You will have to track the wiring from the electrical panel, pull every outlet and switch and check that all wires are attached. (They do come loose or were never tightened properly) If you have GFI outlets, one on another wall could be tripped or even in another room. Check them ALL.
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Steve wrote:

If you are reading 24 volts at the switch, and you are sure you reading the incoming power to the switch, then the incoming wire is "floating". That is, connected to nothing. This would be the normal condition of a wire from the switch to the outlet if nothing is connected to the outlet and the switch is off. However there should be line voltage on the supply side of the switch. It may be disconnected elsewhere, or the breaker may be off. The purpose, by the way, of the switch and outlet is to satisfy, in the cheapest way, the NEC requirement for either a light fixture or switched outlet for a lamp in the room.
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My first suggestion is that you buy a book on basic home wiring. Switches don't supply power. They make or break the circuit that is supplying the power.
You should not have 24 volt in the system. It may be a defective switch, but you may have a bad ground someplace also. Replacing a switch is fairly easy and cheap so you may want to try that first. Be sure to kill any power that may be feeding the circuit. If you have doubts, get knowledgeable help.
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As RBM suggested, 24 volts is too low for a normal 120 volt system, but it is possible that you have a relay system in your house. The switches are different looking from regular wall switches and can only handle the lower voltage. If indeed you do have a low voltage relay system, next to your fuse box or circuit breaker box you should have a large metal box with several relays inside or protruding out the sides. There will also be two kinds of wire; one bunch for low voltage and the normal 120 volt cables.
This is not an easy system to diagnose because you need to troubleshoot the low voltage control system as well as the line voltage supply system. A common problem with this system is one of the relays going bad. The trick is to find the correct relay. Sometimes the original installer labeled them. This system has been discussed in this group before so try doing a Google search of this group. It would be helpful for us if you were able to post some pictures of the switch and of your circuit breaker box.
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