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I just bought a house (built in 1999) and was inspecting some of the electrical outlets. In particular, under the kitchen sink is a split receptacle where the top is always on (dishwasher connected to it) and the bottom (garbage disposal) is controlled by a switch.

Upon inspection, I noticed that the black hot wire from the 3-wire was connected to the 2-wire neutral with a wire cap. I also had to switch off 2 circuit breakers in order to get close to zero voltage from this particular receptacle, so I assume the split receptacle is also on different circuits. I'm not sure what's going on here, I'm just trying to understand what I'm seeing.

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    switch loop, the neutral becomes hot, it should be marked with black tape
    – Ruskes
    Aug 1 at 8:10
  • If the two breakers are together, they should have a handle tie, so both turn off. If not together, they should be so a handle tie can be used. The next person to work on that outlet might not be smart enough to test both for no power.
    – crip659
    Aug 1 at 12:15
  • That's not a neutral. This question brought to you by the phrase "switch loop". Aug 1 at 17:34
  • @crip659 , yeah the two breakers are not tied together and there are a few other breakers in between the two that need it. I'll need to move them to move them next to eachother.
    – chili-man
    Aug 2 at 20:54
  • @Ruskes Being a bit picky with words, but neutral must be white(or grey), but white does not mean neutral. So neutral never(or bad things happen) becomes hot, but white can.
    – crip659
    Aug 2 at 21:23

1 Answer 1

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You have a half-switched receptacle connected to an old-style switch loop

What you are looking at there is a half-switched receptacle where the switched hot is coming from an old-style switch loop that does not provide neutral to the switch, just an always-hot (the white wire in the loop) going out and a switched-hot (the black wire in the loop) coming back.

This works because a "dumb" light switch has no use for the neutral, but gets in the way when you try to put "brains" at the light switch location. As a result of that, new installations (as of the 2011 NEC) are required to bring neutral along to switch boxes even though the switch may not need it, hence the term "old-style" for your setup. For now, though, just mark the white wire going off to the switch with a piece of black electrical tape wrapped around it to denote that it's not a neutral.

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  • neutral must be white(or grey), but white does not mean neutral. So neutral never(or bad things happen) becomes hot, but white can
    – Ruskes
    Aug 3 at 2:30

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