I have a dilemma. In my kitchen, there has always been an unused electrical box in the ceiling. On the wall in my kitchen, there has always been a switch that doesn't control anything. I always assumed that the switch controlled the ceiling box. (I know what happens when you assume, but hey...)

So I built a fixture that holds 5 pendant lights (led). I wired the fixture to the ceiling box yesterday and the lights worked perfectly. However, the switch doesn't control the lights.

I figured out that the ceiling box wire connects to a wall box that has two standard side-by-side plugs, and three lines coming into it. (See drawing)enter image description here

My question is, what should I do? Can I replace one of the plugs with a switch? Is there a remote control that I could hook up to the wiring in the fixture itself?

Thank you so much.


  • You should be able to swap in a switch. Where does the third cable go?
    – isherwood
    Oct 11, 2018 at 17:49
  • 1
    Also, you should investigate the switch further. Maybe it could be reconfigured to work gloriously once again.
    – isherwood
    Oct 11, 2018 at 17:52
  • You can replace one of the receptacles with a switch to get a switched light, but you have to do this in the right way to keep everything working. In other words just saying "replace the receptacle with a switch" is not a sufficient specification to get a working light and have the other parts of the circuit work. Someone here would have to give you a detailed plan for which connections to make. Do not disconnect any wires without a plan for what you are going to do. Oct 11, 2018 at 18:36
  • As @isherwood has stated, you should find where the cable from the current switch goes. It might be loose in the attic and you could use it as a "switch loop" to switch the light. The light would still be ultimately powered from the receptacle box; this would not change. Oct 11, 2018 at 19:02

1 Answer 1


Here is one plan for replacing the right hand receptacle with a switch to have a switched light. I think this is correct, but it would be prudent for you to verify it or have someone else here comment in agreement before you make these changes.

  1. Disconnect the three whites from the receptacle and connect the three whites together. They will not be connected to the switch.

  2. Disconnect the black on the upper screw of the receptacle and connect it to one of the contacts on the switch. This will be the switched hot to the light.

  3. Disconnect the two blacks from the lower contact of the receptacle and connect the two together with a short (~6 in) length of black wire (called a pigtail) giving 3 blacks in one wire nut. Connect the other end of the black pigtail to the other contact on the switch. This connects an always hot (line hot) to the other side of the switch.

Note if you get a good quality switch which allows good connection of multiple wires on one contact, then you can dispense with the pigtail and just put the lower two blacks in contacts which connect them to each other, but do NOT use the ordinary backstab connections for this. Do this only if the back connections are secured by screw pressure. (I don't know if there are switches which have this feature, but if there are, it will save room and be easier.

You could put the two blacks under one screw like it evidently is on the receptacle, but it is not recommended to put two wires under one screw unless the device is rated for multiple wires under one contact.

  • 1
    Jim: One of the black wires to the receptacle is screwed on the side, the other is backstabbed. I was planning on a dimmer switch, which has wires for the connections, so I will make all the connections with wire nuts. I will try this and see what happens. Thank you very much for your help. I'll let you know how it works. Oct 11, 2018 at 20:24
  • I gather that some new models of dimmer switch require a neutral because the electronics in the switch require power to operate. If you use one of these, then obviously the neutral lead of the switch will go in the wire nut with the three neutrals. Oct 13, 2018 at 14:04

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