Before moving into our house recently I had inquired about a pair of switches in the living room that seemingly did nothing. The seller said that they were for a couple of the outlets in the living room. Upon moving in and testing them, none of the outlets are switch controlled.

I figured they might have been at one point, and they had changed that. Concerned about how they managed to take them off the switches, I pulled the outlet covers off to confirm nothing stupid like jumper wires being used to replace the removed tabs. Instead I found that all of the outlets with the switch wires had all 4 wires connected, but the tabs left alone. I'm wondering whether or not this is a problem and if so, how to fix it.

Each of the outlets that were formerly switched have two hots (red and black) and two neutrals (white). The neutrals are on the left, the hots are on the right with red on top, black on bottom. I haven't checked the individual wires with the power on, but based on the wires behind the switch plate the red would be switched.

My wiring tester shows each outlet as fine, as does my voltage tester. No breaker trips have occurred. And there's no GFCI or AFCI devices on the circuit.

Is it acceptable to have the switches connected to these outlets like this without the tabs being removed to make the outlets actually switch controlled?

  • Sounds more like the outlet is always hot and hot goes to switch to control something else, or black wire goes another outlet that is also controlled by same switch. One reason to leave tab on. Does room have ceiling lights? For outlet to be controlled by switch, hot must bypass outlet(with tab complete) and go to switch, with red coming back to outlet.
    – crip659
    Sep 3, 2021 at 22:59
  • I am confident that the switches were for controlling these outlets originally. They do not control anything else in the space. Yes I have ceiling lights that are on a different circuit altogether, and have their own switches. Flipping the switches in question right now seems to have no immediate effect on the outlets, which is what I would expect, but don't know if it's a code violation to have them wired this way.
    – Logarr
    Sep 4, 2021 at 1:49

1 Answer 1


With the tabs intact the receptacles both are always hot, no electrical safety issue when the outlet and switched outlet are on the same breaker.

I have been called in for this more than a few times when a home owner replaced receptacles and did not notice the tab was originally broken.

I have seen the switched receptacle and the other receptacle on different breakers and this can be a safety issue if on odd /even breakers it will trip the breaker(s). If both circuits are on even breakers or both on odd breakers there can be a safety issue because both circuits have to be off to de energize them.

In one case the home owner decided she liked it better I printed a tag to "break tab for switch control".
In other cases I broke the tab so the switch would work again.

  • Excellent. Both the hots are for sure on the same breaker so no worries about needing to shut off two to de-energize the outlets. Thank you for a focused answer.
    – Logarr
    Sep 4, 2021 at 22:34
  • 1
    I added quotes in your last paragraph to improve readability. Took me five minutes to decode it without the quotes. Sep 5, 2021 at 3:31

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