In my living room there are:

  • Recessed dimmable ceiling lights
  • A switch with a dimmer
  • An outlet where the top receptacle is only on when the ceiling lights are on. The bottom receptacle is always on.

I wanted to 1. Make both receptacles always on 2. Replace the outlet with a newer outlet (for aesthetics)

After removing the outlet, it was wired like so:


  • Red wire on the right side (switched hot)
  • Black wire 1 on the right side straight into the back (doesn't seem to ever be hot)
  • White wire 1 on the left side (neutral?)
  • White wire 3 on the left side straight into the back (neutral?)


  • Black wire 2 on the right side (always hot)
  • White wire 2 on the left side (neutral?)

On the new outlet, I've connected:


  • White wire 1 on the left side (neutral?)


  • Black wire 2 on the right side (always hot)
  • White wire 2 on the left side (neutral?)

Now both top and bottom are always on, BUT my ceiling lights are off.

I have Black wire 1 (not hot), White wire 3 (neutral), and Red wire (switched hot). What's the proper way to connect these so that my ceiling lights operate correctly.

Thanks in advance.

  • 2
    Which tabs were broken on the original receptacle? Hot side only (brass screws), or both sides? Feb 21, 2021 at 3:40
  • 1
    Did you check the outlets for power and identify breakers and positively turn them off, or did you do all this rewiring hot/live? Was one breaker involved, or two? I suspect 2 breakers, hence my interest in the broken tabs. Feb 21, 2021 at 3:45
  • 1
    @Harper-ReinstateMonica I turned off the breakers. Confirmed there are 2 breakers involved. Also, looks like tabs were broken on both sides. Feb 21, 2021 at 4:17
  • Can you post photos of the insides of the boxes involved please? Feb 21, 2021 at 4:45
  • @Darren Bingo! It's downhill from here! Now we need to know about the cables -- a cable is several wires inside a sheath, we need to know which wires come from which cables. Feb 21, 2021 at 20:37

2 Answers 2


The following assumes that the metal tab was broken on at least the hot side of original outlet, completely isolating the top and bottom. The neutral side may or may not have been isolated.

On the new outlet, connect black wire 2 on the right side and white wire 2 on the left. These are the always-on hot and corresponding neutral. Top or bottom doesn’t matter.

Connect together, with a wirenut, the red wire and black wire 1. These are the switched hot and the hot feed to the lights. Also connect together white wires 1 and 3. These are the corresponding neutrals.

Unless the neutral side tab was not broken originally, do not connect white 2 to the other whites. These are neutrals potentially on separate circuits. Connecting them together could create a situation where a wire could get overloaded.

On the other hand, if the neutral tab was not broken, connect together all three white wires and a short piece of wire (a pigtail) with a wirenut and connect the pigtail to the left side of the outlet.

Where you have wires connected to the side and to the back push-in, they end up interconnected via the metal inside the outlet. Also, if the tab is intact, it will also interconnect the wires on the top and bottom.

One more thing, please do not use the push-ins in the back. Although legally approved, experience shows over time, they can come lose and cause problems. Only use the side connections.


As I suspect, these are on separate circuits. Code requires the two breakers have a handle-tie so they must be shut off together - that is because there was two separate circuits on the same yoke (receptacle, switch, etc). If that was a Code violation, we'll be eliminating that.

Here, "which wires are in which cables" matter. You previously had one socket being served by the black and white from one cable (only). Assuming black wire 2 and white wire 2 are in the same cable, that would be the pair of wires you send to the new receptacle.

Because there are 2 different circuits in the box, there must be a "Great Wall of China" between them. No wire can cross except for safety ground (all safety grounds are always grouped). Neutral is not ground, and neutral must be kept separated. Essentially we will be using this outlet box as a junction box for a totally unrelated circuit. Doxylover covers this perfectly well.

I suspect the house was originally wired with the switched receptacle only. That is typical, as this is a cost-saving tactic by builders to save $5. However, the homeowner hated it, and had an electrician install a proper ceiling light for $300. The electrician tapped the switched-receptacle location because it is the safest and simplest choice. I suspect some time later, the circuit was re-jiggered to have the circuit split. (probably undoing another builder corner-cut).

The good news is, this sounds like pro electrician work, so you're not dealing with "amateur hour".

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