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diysteph
Change light switch to outlet?

Can I change a light switch to an outlet? The switch doesn't work anything, but it's next to a switch that does work the overhead light, and it's near some built-in shelves, so it's a convenient place for an outlet. If possible, what do I need to know/do/purchase to make the change?

Thanks!

Blue RidgeParkway
Re: Change light switch to outlet?
diysteph wrote:

Can I change a light switch to an outlet? The switch doesn't work anything, but it's next to a switch that does work the overhead light, and it's near some built-in shelves, so it's a convenient place for an outlet. If possible, what do I need to know/do/purchase to make the switch?

Thanks!

a basic switch doesn't work anything, it usually opens or closes a switch loop.
you can purchase switches ready-made.

a grounded conductor and a grounding conductor. NOT the same thing. you'll also need an unworked path to an ungrounded conductor.

if your power from the panel on the circuit is at the worked location (light) you'll have to bring it to your present switch's location. you sure this mystery switch isn't controlling half of a receptacle somewhere in the room or elsewhere? GFCI controlled & needs to be reset? CB tripped or fuse blown? switch broke? wrong switch? burnt out bulb? how do you know it is a dummy switch?

the phone number of an electrician, a book on electrical wiring, some testing tools to help you trace the circuit and switch loop and assure same is disconnected or completely open before you attempt work, a permit, etc.

remedialmofo
Re: Change light switch to outlet?
Blue RidgeParkway wrote:

you can purchase switches ready-made.

HaHaHa I beleive what the poster was trying to say was make the swap. I doubt they would be trying to engineer and construct a switch if they barely grasp simple circuits! :D

diysteph
Re: Change light switch to outlet?

Thank you remedialmofo, that was indeed what I meant. I am just looking to find out how to go about changing a light switch to an outlet. The switch doesn't work any lights or outlets in my apartment, so I know it is a dummy. Do I need to hire an electrician or get a permit and all that stuff, or is it something I could do myself with step-by-step instructions?

Thanks!

JLMCDANIEL
Re: Change light switch to outlet?
diysteph wrote:

Can I change a light switch to an outlet? The switch doesn't work anything, but it's next to a switch that does work the overhead light, and it's near some built-in shelves, so it's a convenient place for an outlet. If possible, what do I need to know/do/purchase to make the change?

Thanks!

diysteph,
I understand your meaning of work in this case.
To answer your question, maybe. It will depend on what wiring you have in the box.

Don't forget to turn the power off before you work on the circuits and I will assume you can figure out how to remove the cover and the two screws to remove the dummy switch if it is a dummy.

Scenario One:
You have two cables with white, black and ground with the white wires tied together, the ground wires tied together, and the black wire from one cable going to the top of the switch and the black wire from the other cable going to the bottom of the switch, and no wires on the dummy switch, the answer is yes. You would need to find out which black wire is hot and which one goes to the light. You would then pig tail a black wire to the hot, a white wire the the white, and a bare wire to the grounds. Hook the black pigtail to the brass screw on the outlet, the white wire to the silver screw on the outlet, and the bare wire on the green screw on the outlet.

Scenario Two:
You have a dummy switch with no wires, the other switch has a black, a white, and possibly a ground wire tied to it and no other wires. Then the answer is not without running a new 2 conductor plus ground cable from another power source.

There are other scenarios but it gets much to long to list them all. If you take the switch cover off and can post what wires you actually have we may be able to give you more direct directions.

I hope this gives you come insight into the process.
Jack

remedialmofo
Re: Change light switch to outlet?

To help clarify this is what a pig tail looks like http://www.blackanddecker.com/SiteImages/27/865735913001003002005001001A.jpg

diysteph
Re: Change light switch to outlet?

Thanks Jack and remedialmofo!

Unscrewing the switch boxes showed that the dummy switch has a white wire attached to a brass screw on the top right, a black wire attached to a black screw on the bottom right, and a black wire attached to a brass screw on the top left (L and R are from my point of view).

The "live" switch has a black wire attached to a brass screw on the top right, a white wire attached to a brass screw on the top left, and a black wire attached to a black screw on the bottom right (this black wire has been attached to a red wire coming from the back of the box on the dummy-switch-side, and the connection is wrapped with electrical tape).

There are also two white wires (one from each side of the box) capped off together at the back of the box.

It sounds like I have one of the "other scenarios" you mentioned, and probably really old wiring too, but since I have wires running to the dummy switch there's hope, right?

JLMCDANIEL
Re: Change light switch to outlet?

As I said there are many scenarios.
I sounds like you are describing two 3-way switches. The "live switch" must have or did have a mating switch located else were. In other words you can control the light from two different locations. The same would be the case for the "dummy switch"

You may have the wiring installed for a fan/ light combo.

Tell me how many cables you have coming into the box and how many and what color conductors there are for each cable. You will also need to test to see which screw connections are always hot regardless of the position of the switch.

Example of description: Cable one black and white. Cable two black and white and red. Cable three black, white, and red. Cable one white to cable two white. Cable one black to bottom switch one.......Etc.
Jack

remedialmofo
Re: Change light switch to outlet?

Ya sounds less like a dummy switch and more like a wired incorrectly 3-way switch. Or probably a bad switch.

Fencepost
Re: Change light switch to outlet?
diysteph wrote:

The switch doesn't work any lights or outlets in my apartment, so I know it is a dummy.

In unrelated news, the runway lights at the municipal airport keep going on and off. Officials are stumped.

diysteph
Re: Change light switch to outlet?

Thanks for the bit of humor Fencepost :). I'm pretty sure the switch doesn't work anything outside my apt. either though.

I should have mentioned the overhead light that is connected to the "live" switch here is also turned on and off by another switch on a different wall. But there is no dummy switch on that wall, just the one light switch.

I'm looking at 4 cables coming from the wall. Cable 1: white and black: white to top left live switch, black to top right live switch.

Cable 2: white and black: white to white from Cable 3, black to bottom right live switch (red is connected to this).

Cable 3: white and black: white to white from Cable 2, black to bottom right dummy switch.

Cable 4: white, black, red: white to top right dummy switch, black to top left dummy switch, red to black from Cable 2.

Does that seem to make sense?

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