I have an existing switch that only controls one outlet. The switch is in a single gang box and has one white wire and one black wire connected to it, plus ground. No other wires are in the switch box. I believe based on this that the power source is at the outlet? I wish to add a second switch next this switch (making it a 2 gang box) to control recessed lighting. Is it possible to leave the original switch controlling the switched outlet but also to take power from the associated white and black wire for the new light switch? If not, what recommendations do you have?


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    Jim Stewart’s answer is correct. Possible solutions: 1) get power elsewhere for recessed lights. 2) use smart devices in place of current plug and switch, so current wire usage can change. 3) eliminate switch for plug, making it always hot, so current switch can be repurposed to recessed lighting only.
    – Tyson
    Sep 20, 2018 at 10:57
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    Thanks for the replies! Does the answer change if I am using a Lutron Maestro no neutral required switch for the lights?
    – Tim Ray
    Sep 20, 2018 at 12:43
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    No, you still need a neutral for the lights themselves, just not the switch.
    – Tyson
    Sep 20, 2018 at 12:45

1 Answer 1


It is not possible to power a recessed light from the existing switch box. There is no neutral in this box, but only a line hot (always hot from the box for the existing receptacle) and a switched hot going to the existing receptacle.

The white wire in the switch box is not a neutral, but instead is being used to carry either the line hot or the switched hot from the switch to the receptacle.

Our tract house is wired this way and we have lamps plugged into the switched receptacle in each bedroom. I have considered getting a plug-in wall mounted lamp in one room (to replace a floor lamp) but haven't done it yet.

  • Theoretically you could borrow the hot from this switch box, and run a neutral from somewhere else to the new outlet. I have no idea if this is "to code" though, and doubt it is in most of the world.
    – AndyT
    Sep 20, 2018 at 9:13
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    @AndyT yup you’re correct you can’t just grab a neutral from anywhere, it’s not safe.
    – Tyson
    Sep 20, 2018 at 10:59
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    @AndyT not only that, but all conductors must be in the same cable or conduit, so you can't just toss a loose neutral wire into the walls. You can retrofit grounds like that, not neutrals, because ground is a safety shield and not a (normal) conductor. If you want to play fast and loose wiring games like that, then work in low voltage DC. No eddy current heating in DC. Sep 20, 2018 at 19:01

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