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Thank you in advance for your help. I recently purchased a home and while removing some built-ins I found that they had a 14/2 wire running inside the built in between an outlet behind the built in and an outlet next to it. I assumed they ran a new switch off the hidden one when they installed the built-in and removed the wire and its connection to the outlet without worrying about paying attention to how they had it connected. Turns out that wire was actually feeding four recessed lights that must have been installed after the build. That outlet at one point was a switched outlet that they made always hot and had a dimmer controlling the lights.

What is a strange to me is that the switch has 14/3 going to the first outlet from a dimmer and both the black and red are always hot in the switch box before it even gets to the dimmer but there is no second switch for this room so it’s not used like a 3-way. The power into the switch box is 14/2 and when that breaker is turned off the red loses power as well. I disconnected the dimmer completely to verify the 14/2 coming in is the source and with just the Black to Black and White to White wired together the Red going out to the first outlet is still hot.

I attached a diagram of what it looks like today, the question marks are the connections on the outlet that was wired to the recessed lights that I need to try and figure out how to wire properly along with the switch. I'll be using a new outlet for Outlet #2 as well so the tabs are in place. I have also attached a picture of the switch box / dimmer and what the old outlet looked like. There is a jumper on it, not sure if that was to turn the outlet always hot again after they had it set up as a switched by removing the tab.

I’m looking for thoughts on wiring the switch with a single pole switch (don’t need the dimmer) so that the outlets are always hot and then from outlet #2 to the lights as well.

Diagram Old outlet Source In and Dimmer switch

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  • Your "red is always hot under all conditions" is probably a flaw/artifact in your tester. It looks like it's wired as a switched-hot. Commented Jan 8, 2023 at 6:00

2 Answers 2

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I think I have followed what you are trying to described but I am not sure so This advice is based on my understanding of a confusing situation.

It sounds like you have only one hot phase from the panel with a single pole breaker. So whoever ran 14/3 from the switch box, the intention was likely to propagate both unswitched and switched hot to the consumers down the line. And the picture of the receptacle where the tab joining the hot blades has been snapped off (and later "replaced" by a clumsy splice) suggests that as well.

Your diagram does not appear to show the neutral from the panel going to the switch box but I am going to assume that in fact it does because it must unless your conductors are in conduit which I doubt. I assume that the red line you show passes through outlet 1 en route to outlet 2 which is not how it is illustrated. Code where I live and probably where you live demands neutral in switch boxes whereas before it was optional. This is so that so-called smart switches can draw power to run their little brains i.e. generally wifi radios while they are "off".

Is that red Marrette binding two bare copper 14 gauge grounds which have been painted white?

Anyway, based on my assumptions, you should split the hot at the switch so that red and black supply switched and unswitched down the line, use the unswitched for the outlets, replace the one where they snapped the tabs off (they are like $2 I can't believe someone spliced that one like they did but it was maybe late Sunday and they did not have a spare), and use the switched hot to supply the lights.

and never bury any splices behind anything - it is against code. if you are putting cupboards back up or whatever you meant by built-ins, you have to either add access panels or else rip all the wiring out and run it new from accessible junction box to accessible junction box. No splices can be inaccessible even if they are in proper boxes.

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  • Milton - Thank you for your response. The neutral is what you suspected, painted white and it does connect to the switch and each outlet. The red line does pass through and is connected together in the Outlet #1 box but it is not connected to Outlet #1 at all. I planned on having everything directly accessible per code.
    – Mike M.
    Commented Jan 9, 2023 at 12:22
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Red is the switched hot

For this to make sense, the red wire has to be the switched (dimmed) hot going off to the light -- your "always hot" reading on it is a function of your tool being sensitive to a coupled "phantom" voltage from the black to the red wire. So, at Outlet 2:

  • Connect the black incoming hot from Outlet 1 to a black pigtail to the receptacle hot and to the black outgoing hot to Outlet 3
  • Connect the red incoming switched hot to the black outgoing hot to the lights
  • Connect all the neutrals together and to a pigtail to the receptacle neutral
  • And connect all the grounds together and to a pigtail to the receptacle ground screw, as well as to a box grounding pigtail if the box is metal

From there, you can wire the switch replacing the dimmer as you would any other single pole switch -- ground on the ground screw, black to one of the hot screws, and red to the other hot screw.

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