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My current room has a 3 way switch that controls the bottom plug of the receptacle (bottom plug is controlled by switch, top is always ON). I want to do recessed lights in that room with no previous installed ceiling light. I looked at the wiring and is confused as there seem to be an extra 14/3 romex cable which is supplying power to another receptacle. So my question is, can I use the 2 bottom wires that is connected to the receptacle and pigtail them so I have a HOT, neutral, and ground. This way the switch will control both the lights and the plug?

EDIT: I just thought about something else, Since the top is always HOT can I buy a new receptacle and disconnect the two wires on the HOT end. This way the new receptacle will always be hot and I can use the 2 wires left on the bottom receptacle for the recessed lights? This way I can still use the dimmer switch for the lights.

  • The extra 14/3 may have been intended to feed another switched receptacle on the other side of a bed, but that might not have worked well for a previous owner and he might have rewired that receptacle to stay hot. – NoSparksPlease Dec 20 '19 at 19:35
  • There is another switch by one of the 3 way switches that controls the light outside. – shi guo Dec 20 '19 at 20:13
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Yes, that is the most straight forward way to do this. Connect the lights in parallel with the switched half of the outlets.

One note: you are not allowed (for good reason) to control an outlet with a dimmer. If you are planning to replace the switch with a dimmer, you must disconnect it from the outlet(s). Disconnect the (presumably red) switched hot from the outlet and instead run it just to the lights. Then either run a pigtail of the unswitched hot to that terminal or else replace the outlet with a new one that does not have its tab broken off.

BTW, the reason not to have the outlet on a dimmer is that motor loads, such as vacuums, react badly and can destroy either the motor or the dimmer.

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  • I just thought about something else, Since the top is always HOT can I buy a new receptacle and disconnect the two wires on the HOT end. This way the new receptacle will always be hot and I can use the 2 wires left on the bottom receptacle for the recessed lights? This way I can still use the dimmer switch for the lights. – shi guo Dec 20 '19 at 19:47
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Basically yes, typically we would say that connecting to a switched hot would be called a switchleg, so you would have a Switchleg, Neutral, and Ground if you pigtailed to the bottom two wires and the ground.

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  • I just thought about something else, Since the top is always HOT can I buy a new receptacle and disconnect the two wires on the HOT end. This way the new receptacle will always be hot and I can use the 2 wires left on the bottom receptacle for the recessed lights? – shi guo Dec 20 '19 at 19:46
  • Yes, you could even just disconnect the switchleg from the receptacle and use a short jumper wire from the top to the bottom, connect the new cable to the switchleg, and pigtail the white and ground. The neutral is shared for the top and bottom of the receptacle, you will need to make sure when you disconnect the bottom wire that you don't lose connection to the top. – NoSparksPlease Dec 20 '19 at 20:27

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