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I am trying to rewire our bedroom so that a wall switch that turns on/off half of all receptacles in the room will instead control a ceiling light and leave the receptacles (both halves) always hot and add a dimmer switch to control the overhead LED light.

I have two cables coming into the current switch box, a 3-wire (black, white, red and ground) and a 2-wire (black, white and ground). The current light switch is wired the following way on a 2 screw switch with a ground:

  • Both whites from the 2- and 3-wire cable are together (wire nut) not connected to the switch.
  • Both black wires from 2- and 3-wire cable are together on the power screw (darker) on the switch.
  • The red is connected on the same side of the switch on the lighter screw.
  • Both ground wires are connect to one another and pig tailed onto the ground screw of the switch.
  • FYI, those are "cables", and we don't count the ground conductor when describing them. I've made minor edits. – isherwood Oct 23 '19 at 14:30
  • So you have a switch that controls the outlets and a switch that controls the light? You mention a wall switch and the a light switch.. – JACK Oct 23 '19 at 15:34
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    Stop thinking about switch position. It really, really dosn't matter where the screws are on the switch, because every switch moves them around. This is of minimal importance now, but will really save your bacon when dealing with a 3-way switch. – Harper - Reinstate Monica Oct 23 '19 at 16:44
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To answer this question, a short description of the components is probably needed.

The 2-wire cable is the "Lead", meaning it is the hot side that provides power/neutral/ground to both the switch and always-on outlets.

The 3-wire cable is the "Load", meaning it is the delivery of power/neutral/ground to the outlets. The black wires that are connected to each other and the switch Lead lug (the darker screw) are always hot. The black wire that is combined in the 3-wire cable provides the power to the always-on outlet. The red wire in the 3-wire cable is the Load wire that is controlled by the switch.

To use the switch (or a dimmer-type switch) for a ceiling light, install a 2-wire cable from the new ceiling light to the light switch box and connect the neutral (white) with the other white wires (use the correct sized lug) and the ground (bare) with the other ground wires. Then re-work the existing switch (or replacement dimmer switch) so that the existing black stays on the Lead side (the darker screw) and the black wire from the ceiling cable is connected to the Load side (the lighter screw).

You didn't say how you wanted the outlets to work but in the scenario above the lower outlets (previously switched) would be dead. To correct this, you will need to replace the switched outlets with new ones. There is a connection between the switched upper and lower outlets that has been cut, separating the power feed, and the only solution is to replace them. It's a fairly simple process and the outlets are inexpensive at your local hardware store (HD, Lowe's, etc.). Lastly, the red wire would be abandoned and should have the stripped end cut of, wrapped with insulating tape (black electrical tape) and labelled.

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    I for one discourage the use of "Load" to describe anything that isn't GFCI related. You also can't avoid it with certain smart switches. Other than that I like to use words like "onward" in cases where power is always-hot, or "switched hot" or "switch hot" for switched lines. The reason is, GFCIs are maddenly confusing to people, and 60% of the trouble comes from confusing "onward" and intentional use of "Load" to protect additional points of use. – Harper - Reinstate Monica Oct 23 '19 at 16:45
  • Would it be very bad to connect the red wire (switched hot) to the permanently hot? If I have understood correctly, that would make the previously switched outlets permanently live (which is what the OP wants). – Martin Bonner supports Monica Oct 23 '19 at 16:46
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    You could do that, although future maintenance would be a bit confusing for someone else. It definitely would work and accomplish your goal (making both outlets always-hot) but the next person to own your house might look at and really wonder why it was set up that way. – GMisenar Oct 23 '19 at 19:13

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