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I'm attempting to swap out a 3-way switch for a half 3-way switch / half outlet single gang receptacle.

I've got the three way switch working (I believe it was incorrectly wired to begin with), but the outlet does not work and there is no neutral. Is there anything I can do?

Here is a photo while I was in the middle of wiring it up (ground not connected). enter image description here

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    Short answer: If you can't run another cable to that j-box, there's nothing you can do to add an outlet and retain three-way switching. – A. I. Breveleri Dec 22 '17 at 4:07
  • Can you post photos of the insides of the rest of the boes involved? – ThreePhaseEel Dec 22 '17 at 4:41
  • That's what I was afraid of. There's not really anymore to see. There are those 3 wires + ground. That's it. – Elsw Dec 22 '17 at 4:46
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    You have no full time neutral. No neutral. No workie. – Paul Logan Dec 22 '17 at 7:02
  • From other comments, that look improbable, but... Are you certain the swich and outlet share the neutral? What if you move the white wire to that other neutral, below, beside the ground? – Jeffrey Dec 22 '17 at 14:47
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Most three-way switch circuits from homes of the 20th century will not have a neutral at the switch box.

The white wire should be reidentified as blue or another color. It is either the hot feed to the 3-way circuit or the switched leg to the lights.

The only way to have a receptacle at this location is to add another 2 wire cable from a source having an actual neutral.

Good luck!

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This is the "switch-loop" end of a 3-way switch loop circuit. You cannot fit a receptacle because they need hot and neutral, which are not present here.

Use a smart switch

This circuit can be rewired using smart switches to provide hot and neutral here.

In that case, white and black would be re-assigned to be hot and neutral. The red wire would become a communication wire, if your smart switch type requires it. Typically "smart" 3-ways are made as a master and remote; the remote would be here.

That would provide the hot and neutral which the receptacle also requires.

Wire colors

It's really hard to understand 3-way circuits because all wires are black, white and red. They seem to do all different things. Those colors are only used because that's how the cable is manufactured. You can make things a lot clearer by marking electrical wires by function. A 5-pack of electrical tape makes this easy. Mind you, if neutral is present, it must be on the white wire. Otherwise, tape away, but mark each wire the same on both ends. I like

  • black for always-hot, as to a receptacle
  • red for switched-hot to a lamp
  • yellow for both travelers. There isn't really any need to tell them apart.

enter image description here

Now it looks like this. Now it's clear what those wires are doing, none are hot or neutral, and that's why your receptacle can't work.


Lastly, there's a way to do this with "old fashioned relays". It's what Tesla would do in 1910, but smart switches are easier so I'm excluding the details. If you want them, ask.

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