This one has me baffled.

There is an outdoor receptacle I'm replacing. The top outlet has never worked, but the bottom outlet does work. I took everything out, marked all the cables, replaced the outlet, placed the cables exactly where they were before, and now both top/bottom plugs function; BUT, now there is a nearby light switch that is stuck on the ON position. Flipping the switch inside the house does nothing, the lights stay on.

I put the old receptacle back, and everything is back to normal. I put the new outlet once again back in, with the cables exactly where they were before, and the switch won't turn off, stuck in the ON position for some reason.

I've tested every single outlet in the circuit (that I could find) and they are all 'wired correctly'.

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  • 3
    Is the tab connected between the two hot screws? With just two hots and one neutral(not good work connecting), would think of MWBC, so the two halves of the outlet will be on two breakers.
    – crip659
    May 19, 2022 at 0:45
  • 16
    Did you ever check to see if the old top outlet worked when the light was turned on?
    – Mark
    May 19, 2022 at 0:46
  • 18
    I bet you $10 that this now always-on light switch actually used to control the previously dead top outlet ...
    – brhans
    May 19, 2022 at 1:01
  • 8
    I just tested this with the old receptical. And son of a bitch, Mark and Brhans are 10000% correct. That switch also controls this top outlet! Hot damn! Imagine all these F-ing years, and didn't have a clue. I think the old owners did this for Xmas lights. May 19, 2022 at 1:10
  • 4
    Don't forget that you owe @brhans $10
    – Josh Part
    May 19, 2022 at 15:21

1 Answer 1


Outlet receptacles are manufactured with friable removable tabs connecting the upper and lower screws on each side.

When these tabs are left intact, the upper and lower plug points are connected together and only one screw on each side needs to be attached. When these tabs are removed, the upper and lower plug points can be powered separately, so the outlet can be half switched and half constant.

The most likely cause for the phenomenon you describe is that the original receptacle had the tab on the hot side removed and the replacement still has the tab in place.

Now, to restore the original functionality with half the outlet controlled by the switch, just break the corresponding tab off the new receptacle. Grab it with pliers and bend it back and forth until it snaps at the scored line.

If you want both outlets to be always on, you should leave the tabs in place, and disconnect the switched hot from the outlet and cap it off with a wire nut.

  • 1
    And this is why I came here. Brilliant stuff guys. Now how the hell do I break this tab, lol May 19, 2022 at 1:13
  • 13
    Well, you could always just remove and cap off the yellow wire instead, which would make the outlet full hot. Of course, now that you know that socket is switch-controlled, I bet you just dreamed up some uses for it, eh? (Harper's rule: the last guy had a reason.) May 19, 2022 at 1:18
  • 6
    @harper-reinstateukraine After thinking about this a moment. I think that's the plan. We don't put in Xmas lights. And there are much better methods of controlling external lighting then this old ass method of controlling an outlet. Such as an outdoor power timer or something. So Capping the Yellow plug is correct answer here. Thanks man. May 19, 2022 at 1:21
  • 1
    @Harper-ReinstateUkraine The worst is when you move into a new place and you've got light switches that don't appear to do anything. I've got several of these in my house, and I have checked every outlet within a reasonable distance of them. Unless the switches are controlling an outlet on the other side of the house for some reason, I'm completely stumped. (And yes, I did check for half-switched outlets - it's not that.) May 19, 2022 at 13:44
  • 11
    @DarrelHoffman, when we moved into our house, we had a lighting fixture that we absolutely, positively could not find a switch for. it was two years of periodically getting annoyed enough to search for the switch again before I realized we'd never tried... ...replacing the bulb. May 19, 2022 at 15:41

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