I've read this question and its answers and my situation is the same: there are only 3 wires in the outlet box: switched hot, neutral, and ground; but I need another wire for always-hot. The switch and outlet are connected by a single armored cable.

If I were to run a second armored cable between the switch and the outlet boxes, would it be legit to use only the hot (black) wire of the new cable as the always-hot wire and simply not use the new neutral wire?


3 Answers 3


You could run a second cable. Remove the tabs from both sides of the receptacle. Switched hot/neutral from switch cable to top (or bottom) screws, hot/neutral from always-on cable to bottom (or top) screws.

But while it costs a little more for a 3-wire (plus ground) cable instead of a 2-wire (plus ground) cable, that would let you have just one cable instead of two, which seems a lot simpler overall.


No, you would need to run an entirely new "/3" cable which contains all the related conductors. NEC 300.3(B).

Pigtails are only allowed inside boxes.


The other two answers don't address specifically why your idea is against code. The code requires that a single path (cable or conduit) contain wires carrying equal current in both directions (hot and neutral). This is to keep magnetic fields balanced and avoid heating for eddy currents.

The ideal way to do this is to replace your existing /2 cable with a /3 cable to carry hot, switched hot and neutral. (Ground is also required but is allowed to take a separate path since it is not normally current-carrying. Normally, you'd use the ground in the cable.)

I believe that you could also use a second /2 cable, as you wanted, as long as you separate the neutrals (break the tabs on both sides of the outlet) and originate both from the same circuit breaker/fuse. Connect the existing hot/neutral cable to one half and the switched hot/neutral cable to the other. You can use the ground from either or both cables.

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