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Trying to figure out how to correctly wire a combination switch in my basement hallway.

One of the two switches turns on the basement light, and works without any issue.

The other switch is supposed to be connected to a switched outlet. However, the outlet doesn't work correctly. When I plug in an outlet tester and turn the switch on, it says that I have an open neutral wire.

So, when I opened up the switch for a better look, I see that there's two cables coming into the box.

The two wires leading to the basement lights (neutral and hot) were connected to the switch.

The cable connected to the switched outlet had the hot wire connected to the switch, and the neutral wire screwed up with the ground wire at the back of the box.

My question is: what are my options here for getting the switched outlet into operation? Can I just attach the neutral wire to the combination switch? I'm assuming that's not a good idea, but not certain what else to do here.

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Picture of the back of the receptacle box.

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  • Won't let me post more than one additional picture. This is what it looks like with the switch wired in. The two black wires are going to the brass screws on the other side. The switched outlet doesn't look suspicious to me. Black wire's on the brass screw, white wire's on the other screw, and ground wire is on the green screw. – deity701 Mar 5 '17 at 1:31
  • Can you run another cable to the receptacle-box from some always-hot circuit by any chance? Whoever put this setup in was quite the ignoramus... – ThreePhaseEel Mar 5 '17 at 17:08
  • I'm trying to make the receptacle switched though...it's a plug-in for a lamp. – deity701 Mar 5 '17 at 20:44
  • You'll need a hot and a proper neutral at either the switch or the receptacle location to do this. – ThreePhaseEel Mar 5 '17 at 21:18
  • I didn't realize I could do it at the receptacle location. That's helpful to know. – deity701 Mar 6 '17 at 10:54
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The white connected to the ground screw is suspect.

Normally the whites are pigtailed together and capped and the black goes through the switch. (And of course bare wires to the ground screw).

If you want to double check the connections from here you can do that with a multimeter. Plug in a resistive load (toaster, space heater, incandescent light bulb, iron,...) into the switched outlet and check whether the resistance between a black and white going the same direction has the same resistance as between the prongs on the plug.

The other set of wires will be coming from the breaker and should be live at mains voltage when you turn it back on.

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  • Shouldn't there be three wires of each type in the box (black, white and ground)? – deity701 Mar 5 '17 at 1:18
  • Not if this switch is at the end of the daisy chain then the third set to connect to the next set of lights doesn't need to be there. – ratchet freak Mar 5 '17 at 1:24
  • Would you suggest attaching the white wire that's attached to the ground screw to the switch? That's the only other thing I can see to do in there. – deity701 Mar 5 '17 at 1:33
  • @deity701 -- we'll need to see the inside of the outlet box to help you further here – ThreePhaseEel Mar 5 '17 at 3:46

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