I have an outlet where both plugs are on a switch. Is there any way I can make it so only one is on the switch? (It's a dual switch, one upstairs and one downstairs) I just want to be able to plug a lamp and a laptop in without the lamp being on.

  • now, on the outlet you want to alter, do both sockets get switched, or say, only the bottom socket? – dandavis Jan 7 '18 at 21:14
  • Both sockets get switched. I want to have one get switched and the other not – Stephanie Jan 7 '18 at 21:48
  • ahh, dang. you need to run new wires... – dandavis Jan 7 '18 at 21:54
  • It depends on if there is an additional hot wire in the box with the outlet. I have seen this more than once where a outlet replacement was done DIY, the owner did not know to break the tabs on the hot side and then 1 would be switched and the other hot all the time. In several cases the switch controlled the outlets in one the owner called me in because the outlet was hot all the time kind of expensive lesson just to have an electrician break a tab. – Ed Beal Nov 27 '18 at 21:41

This sounds like a standard "3-way" switch configuration. Each switch has a "common" terminal and 2 "carrier" terminals. Power comes into the switches on the common terminal of switch "A," travels between the switches on the carriers, then travels to the load (your wall receptacle) from the common terminal of switch "B."

3-way switches can be wired with the supply power coming into one of the switch boxes, or with the supply power coming into the load box (your wall receptacle) and traveling into the switches from there.

If the line voltage comes into the receptacle box, you can easily rewire it so that one socket is always hot and the other is switched. You would just break the metal tabs connecting the two sockets, and pigtail one of the sockets to the incoming hot conductor, while leaving the other socket wired to the common wire returning from switch "B."

If line voltage comes into one of the switch boxes, then you would have to run an additional cable from that switch box to the receptacle box.

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  • How do you piggy tail something? I have zero knowledge of this stuff, but I want to see if I can try the simple way before hiring someone or just continue to live with it. Ha – Stephanie Jan 7 '18 at 21:53
  • Hi Stephanie, that just means you cut a (typically 4" to 6") length of wire and connect it to two or more other wires, so that you can connect it to an electrical terminal on a device like a receptacle or light fixture. For example, if you have a couple of black wires in a box, one that brings power in, and one that takes power out, you could "pigtail" another wire onto those in order to connect a device and still send power through the box to the next outlet. – Craig Jan 7 '18 at 21:56
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    It sounds like you probably want to get help with this. You could hire an electrician, or you could have a competent friend or acquaintance help you. – Craig Jan 7 '18 at 21:58
  • Thanks! I'm gonna check out the outlet tomorrow to see what is going on. I have a feeling it might be simpler than I think. Our house was DIY by the previous owner, they probably just didn't take the tabs out. – Stephanie Jan 7 '18 at 22:02
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    If they didn't take the tabs out, and you do take them out (use needle nose pliers and bend back and forth until they break off due to metal fatigue), then one of your sockets will be dead 100% of the time until you wire it up differently. – Craig Jan 7 '18 at 22:04

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