It is possible to have two switches provide power to one receptacle? I'm
having the hardest time troubleshooting this. I have one receptacle that is
receiving power from two different switches. However, it seems one of the
switches has to be "on" for the other to work. It does not matter which is
on, but once the receptacle has power, either switch can then turn on and
off the receptacle.
I don't know if it meets any electrical code, but if you wire the receptacle
like a light and use 3-way switches like a light , then it will act like
one. You will be able to turn off and on the receptacle from either switch.
Sorry, not sure I know what you mean by "wire the receptacle like a light"
(total newbie here when it comes to electrical).
Not sure if I was clear, but once one switch is on, both switches can turn
on and off the power to the receptacle. Is there a reason one switch has to
be "on" for it to work?
When you say the switch is "on" I'm assuming you mean in the up/on position.
This is a typical three way switching system that is used all the time for
lighting, especially when there are more than two accesses to a room. It is
very possible, and in all probability its wired that way to accommodate a
lamp. If you would like a diagram, let me know and Ill try to draw one up to
email to you.
Well, I'm not even sure it's up. The switches are two-way switches, so "on"
can be either up or down depending on what position the other is. However,
it seems if one is "on" the other works. But if it's "off", the other does
I assume it's for a plug in light, but does that solve my problem?
A diagram would be great. Thanks.
This isn't what you said in your original post. You said:
"However, it seems one of the switches has to be "on" for the other to
work. It does not matter which is on, but once the receptacle has power,
either switch can then turn on and off the receptacle."
The common on one switch should go to the hot (brass) terminal of the
receptacle. The common on the other switch should go to the power
source. Then connect the two other terminals on each switch to each
other. (Ideally, both conductors are black.)
Do remember to shut off the power first.
Okay. I'm lost. Each switch has three wires: Red, Black, and White. The
receptacle has three as well (red, black, and white). On the receptacle, the
red is attached to a brass screw, as is the black, with the white on the
opposite silver screw from the black. And I undid the hot tab. One of the
plugs is not tied to a switch; that is, it's always on. The plug with the
red is tied to the switches.
On the switches, the red wire is attached to the colored screw (the one that
is not copper, I believe it's labeled "common"), and the white and black are
connected to the other screws.
This is way too difficult for a newbie to get instruction from a ng.
Get a DIY book on home repar or just on electrical work, Read up on
the 3-way circuit stuff (they'll have diagrams).
After looking the book info over the ng info will make more sense.
btw do you understand the concept of "solid neutral"? If not stop
futzing with the circuits until you read up on electrical stuff.
Truly bizarre. The outlet (plug) that's always on is powered directly
from the AC line. Questions:
1. Is the black wire going to that outlet's brass screw also spliced
with another wire? (This could be with a wire nut or via a wire poked
into a hole in the back of the outlet.)
2. What color is that wire? (Tell me it's red.)
3. How many cables attach to the outlet box?
4. How many wires in each cable? (Don't count the bare wire.)
5. Are there any other splices in the outlet box? How many wires, what
6. Does each switch have only one cable to it? If not, how many cables
and how many wire in each?
The only way I can see for this to work is as follows:
The black wire going to the always-on outlet is also spliced to a red
wire that goes to the common terminal of one switch. The common terminal
of the other switch has a red wire that goes to the brass screw on the
switched outlet. The other two terminals on each switch are connected to
each other with black and white wires.
Schematically, this will work. The strange part is the actual cabling.
There must be lots of splices in the outlet box.
and look at the diagram for wiring a 3-way switch. Imagine the light
bulb replaced with your duplex outlet. Incoming power (black wire) goes
first to the always-on outlet. Then, the incoming power is spliced to
the white wire that goes to the common of the first switch.
Note that the common in the left switch is fed by a white wire, and the
common in the right switch connects to a black wire that eventually
makes it way back to the switched outlet. Note the splice of black wires
in the left switch box. Also, in the schematic where it says Power
Source, the top wire is white and the bottom is black.
About that splice at the duplex outlet: If the outlet has both screws
and holes in the back, run the input black wire to the screw and poke
into the hole in the back the white wire that goes to the left switch.
Whenever "incoming power" is connected to a white wire, the white
insulation should have a piece of black tape around it to distinguish
it from "neutral". Shame on those pictures for not showing that.
The common wire should be connected to one side of the switch. The
black and "white" connected to the other side. Actually, the "white"
wire should be painted black per NEC as there should not be a white
wire (neutral) connected to a 3-way switch. Many times a good
electrician will mark the common wire with a piece of tape. The
common wire screw on the switch is darker (or labeled "common") than
the other two. The common screw may be black or copper colored, the
other two either silver or brass colored. How the circuit works will
help the connections make more sense. Shut off the power to the
circuit before removing any electrical cover plate.
__________ = (lamp)
hot _______./ .________|
Are both switches single-pole (vs 3-way)? Single-pole will have two
wires going into the body; both are usually black. A 3-way will have
three wires going into the body.
If they are single pole, it sounds like one switch is in series with the
hot terminal of the receptacle, and the other is in series with cold
terminal. For around $7, you can get a receptacle tester from Radio
Shace or Home Depot. Three lights tell you the status of an outlet.
In alt.home.repair on Tue, 1 Mar 2005 20:54:01 -0700 "JK"
It's certainlyh possible for one receptacle to have two switches wired
into its circuit, so that either can turn the receptacle on or off.**
It's possible for these to be wired correctly or incorrectly. When I
bought my house, the front hall had two switches, one at either end,
and one had to be up for the other switch to work. When it was down,
nothing the other switch would do would make the light go on. I had
to make a drawing of the wires and think about it for a while to
decide how to reconnect one switch. And I had lots of experience, and
a meter. You should go slower than I went (and yes, you should get a
book on household electricity, or a chapter from a DIY book, maybe at
the library, and read the parts dealilng with switches until you
understand them. The most important factors were the clues I got
from the way it worked to begin with. I forget my actual situation,
but it might have been that the hot wire, the one from the fusebox was
connected to one of the two equal-status connections on the three-way
switch***, and the one at the common terminal was the one that should
have been where it was. So in the end, I only had to reverse those
two wires on one switch. But there are about 9**** ways you can
connect 6 wires to 6 screws on 2 switches, so it really takes some
thought. You know the way it is now is wrong (if I understand you.)
so that leaves 8 more ways.
And you should probably get and use a meter that will measur e up to
150 volts AC. Better yet, up to 250 or more.
***3-way really means two-way. It works in either of two positions
but has 3 wires. There are also 4-way switches, which should be
called 4 wire switches. They only have two positions and work in only
two ways. (They are used when you want to be able to turn a light or
something on and off from 3 or more locations.) So don't get too hung
up on -way. The ones you are dealing with are 3-wire switches.
****There would be 18 ways, but since two screws on each switch are
equivalent, and reversing the wires on them won't change anything
except the position of the toggle to get the same result., I divide by
The original electrician lived in our development. A house might have
been part of the payment he received for the work he did. You could
tell his house because of all the lights outside. :) and because the
stove fan vented to the outside. At a HOA meeting, I made the mistake
of telling him that he, or one of his men, had connected the switch
wrong. It's not that he retaliated or anything, but he was denied he
had made a mistake, and I just annoyed him for nothing.
**(It's also possible to have one switch go to one side of the
receptacle and the other switch control the other side, but I don't
know why one would do this. Still if the original installer did do
this, my technique above will NOT work. That's why you need a meter
and need to measure the voltage at each of the six screws. To
distinguish this situation from the one I started with above. This is
why you need to measure those 6 voltages 4 times, once each when both
switches are up, when both are down, when switch A is up and B is
down, and when A is down and B is up. Each set of meassrement should
note whether or not the light is on or not with the switches in those
positions When you are done writing this all down and thinking about
it until you really understand it, until you can explain why the light
is one when it is on and off when it is off, after you can draw a
diagram of the wires between the switches^^, then you'll be ready to
change the wiring.)
^^So that the wirees in your diagram are the same color at both ends
as they are in real life (bearing in mind that sometimes the ends of
the wire are painted a different color by the electrician. I know
this last paragraph really complicates things. It's late. sorry.
If emailing, please let me know whether
or not you are posting the same letter.
Change domain to erols.com, if necessary.
Hhmmm, the only possibility I can think of is the wire connecting to the
receptacle. I'm fairly certain both 3-way switches are wired correctly.
If a wire is broken, would the receptacle be working at all?
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