If you have a room with no overhead light fixture, or one in which the main light switch isn’t convenient, you can solve your problem by adding a switch to one of your power outlets to control a lamp instead. Whether it’s in an entryway, bedroom, or some other space that needs illumination, here’s what you need to know to add a switch to your system.
Tools and materials
Table of Contents
You’ll need some tools for this job, as it requires some minor rewiring, which will mean cutting access holes in the wall.
Here’s what you’ll need:
1. Shut off the power and open the outlet
Begin by shutting off the power to the outlet you’ll be working on. To be sure that the power is off, use the multimeter to test the circuit. This is the most important step to avoid the risk of shock. Once you’re sure it’s safe, remove the outlet from the wall by unscrewing the cover and undoing any screws that hold it in place. You should be able to wiggle the receptacle free without touching the terminals to test for power.
2. Measure for your switch box and cut into your drywall
Measure and mark where you would like your switch to be. It’s usually easiest to put the switch directly above the receptacle on the wall so that running the wire is a simple process. If you need to run wire farther, you will need to get around studs and other obstructions in the wall. Throw down your dropcloth now to make clean-up easier. Next, cut a hole to accommodate the switch box you’re planning to add, and then cut a one- to two-inch tall slot a few inches wide below the outlet to allow access to fish the wire through.
3. Remove the coupling tab
Next, remove the tab that protrudes from the side of the outlet using your pliers. This tab connects the two power outlets together, so to allow only one to be switchable, you need to uncouple them. At this point, you should also disconnect the outlet from the wires, making sure to take note of where each wire connects. Take a photo of the wiring configuration to double check when reconnecting.
4. Fish the wires through
Using the fish tape, fish a two wire (plus ground) cable through the wall between the hole for the switch box and the outlet, and tape or clamp the wires to the edge to keep it from falling inside. (Some electrical codes require you to have a neutral wire at the switch, so you might need to use four wire cable if that’s the case.) Attach the box for the switch to the wall and knot or tape the wires to keep them in place. Then, return to the outlet end of the system. Mark the wire that goes to the switch with a piece of electrical tape to distinguish it from the other white wires in the system.
5. Connect your outlet
Strip the ends of your wires clean to about ¾ on an inch and attach the black wire that goes to the light switch and a black jumper wire to the power source with a wire nut. Then, wire the jumper into the non-switched receptacle. Attach the white wire with tape on it to the switched receptacle. Then, splice the neutrals together and attach the neutral lead to the neutral tab on the outlet. Don’t remove the coupling tab on the neutral side, as both outlets will use the same one. Splice the grounds in the same way, making sure that you’re following local grounding requirements. You can replace your outlet in the wall now.
6. Connect your switch
Next, wire the light switch. Connect the incoming wire from the power source to the terminal for the input on the light switch, and the outgoing power cord going to the output terminal. Attach the ground to the grounding terminal. You can then attach your lightswitch and cover plate to the switch box.
7. Test, patch, and enjoy
Next, test your switch by turning the power back on, plugging in a lamp with the switch on the switched outlet in the “on” position, and flipping your light switch. If all went according to plan, you now have a switched outlet. Patch your access hole, paint if necessary, and enjoy having mastered the power of light and dark.