enter image description hereI have 2 outlets, I want to replace with switch outlet combo (outlet always hot).

But looking online, I keep seeing everything has only one white neutral, but in my case, both outlets have a black hot and white neutral wire along with the grounds twisted together. In other words, each outlet has its own romex cable with 3 wires.

Am I not able to replace this outlet with a switch combo because it has 2 neutrals?

This is confusing me. Thanks.

  • Are the outlets on different breakers? How about a picture of the outlet box and combo switch.
    – JACK
    Nov 10, 2019 at 1:05
  • Added pic to original post. Sorry, I guess I meant one outlet 2 receptacles? So I just switched off one breaker. Old outlet on left, switch combo on right. Nov 10, 2019 at 1:20
  • Also from the looks of it, it isn't going directly to the breaker but both romex cables are coming from 2 other outlets. The top receptacle wires are coming from an outlet directly right of it, and the bottom receptacle are coming from a third outlet even further right. There are about 4 outlets connected to one breaker and the one I opened up appears to be the last outlet in the chain of outlets. Nov 10, 2019 at 1:31
  • Can you clarify just what you intend the switch to do in this case if you want to keep the single outlet "always hot"?
    – Michael Karas
    Nov 10, 2019 at 1:44
  • You're removing a GFCI outlet. Where are all these outlets on this breaker located? What will the switch control if the outlet's always hot?
    – JACK
    Nov 10, 2019 at 1:45

1 Answer 1


Let's take a look at what we have here

You have 2 cables, and each one has (presumably) hot, neutral and ground. It is normal for all grounds simply to be all tied to each other;

The old device is definitely a GFCI or AFCI, no doubt of it.

So what you're viewing as "each socket powered by a separate cable" is actually the GFCI device being what it is. It has one hot/neutral pair (called "LINE") that inputs power from the supply, and from there, power goes through the GFCI electronics. The output of the GFCI electronics provides a zone of protection, and that goes to the other hot-neutral pair (called "LOAD") to be carried onward to other outlets. It also protects the sockets on GFCI receptacles (not every GFCI device is a receptacle).

So each cable does not power each socket at all. The positions are sheer coincidence. Both sockets are connected together along with the LOAD wires, and all together are on the protected side of the GFCI.

Any socket-type outlet in the protected zone requires a "GFCI Protected" sticker.

And this actually caused you to waste a lot of money.

GFCI Roundup

It sounds like you have way more GFCIs than you have circuits. That will cause you problems when a GFCI trips for cause ,because all the upstream GFCIs will also trip, and they are very picky about reset sequence.

See this answer for how to untangle that.

Now that you have a pile of GFCIs, identify every circuit in your house that doesn't have any GFCIs at all, and spread the love by finding the first receptacle in the chain. However do not put GFCI protection on safety devices such as refrigerators, radon pumps, fire alarms, etc. where a nuisance trip will poison or kill people.

Grandfathering: you can't downgrade

ALL kitchen receptacles are required to be GFCI. Even if this outlet was grandfathered, you can't downgrade: you can't remove protection you already do have. This means 2 things:

  • This receptacle must remain GFCI
  • The downline circuit must be protected by GFCI

Now as the other answer describes, the other receps could be protected merely by siting a GFCI at the next recep. However, this recep still needs protection.

Fortunately, a dual GFCI+receptacle+switch is indeed an item that is sold. It is exactly what you have there (the new one) but with GFCI protection on the receptacle. The wiring to the screws is the same as the old GFCI receptacle. The switch is not on any screws; it is handled as two pigtail wires which you can do with as you please. Noting that hardwired lighting does not need GFCI protection.

That 20A-keyed socket+switch is an expensive beast, having just bought one myself. Take it back. You may find the incremental cost to a GFCI version of that isn't much more than what you are returning.

  • Thanks for the reply. So apparently every single kitchen outlet is protected because there are 2 original gfcis, and all outlets around were connected to it via load connection. I removed the redundant gfci I installed a while ago near the sink. Kept the original gfci that was pictured (and removed at the time). Returned the outlet/switch combo. Bought a 20 amp switch, connected it to the gfci in a 2 gang box. Its all working at intended. Nov 21, 2019 at 8:41

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