I'd like to power a set of three ceiling-mounted down-lights from an existing receptacle in a kitchen reno. A picture of the existing receptacle is attached. My confusion is it has a fourth wire (red), which I believe is called a traveller. I think it indicates this receptacle is part of a switched circuit, but I can find no such switch in my old house and according to my breaker box, this receptacle has a circuit all to itself. Anyway, I just want to power this string of LEDs. Can I tap into this receptacle to get the power without disturbing the rest of the universe? And how do I do it? Sincere thanks! enter image description here

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    The screws holding the red and black wires each have a small brass plate under them. Is there a brass tab connecting those two terminals (it may have been broken off)?
    – bib
    Jul 25, 2014 at 15:32

3 Answers 3


Before you terminate and dead end the red wire in the box there a couple of things to consider. Since there are obviously two hots providing power to a split outlet (i.e. tab removed) it does NOT necessarily mean that half the outlet is switched. It could just be that two separate circuits supply power from two circuit breakers. The red wire may come from one breaker. It is a possibility that all of the kitchen outlets may have been split and two circuits provide good capacity to the kitchen.

On the other hand the black wire you have may already be daisy chained to other outlets and the red specifically routed to half of this outlet for a single point dedicated load.

Another thing to consider, from your comment that you are discontinuing this outlet completely, is that it is rare that you have too many outlets in a kitchen. Do not put yourself in a situation a few years from now wishing you still had that outlet.

Lastly if you do succumb to the drive to eliminate the outlet completely do be aware that you cannot cover up and how the now unused junction box. The cover has to be fairly accessible and not like walled over or hidden behind permanently installed fixtures.

  • Thanks Michael....Yes, with help from here and elsewhere I now understand it is a split receptacle on its own circuit. I was just going to remove the receptacle altogether and power lights with it to avoid any code hassles. But your point is well taken. Even though we will have an electrician run new circuits elsewhere in the kitchen, it is a shame to lose a receptacle. So I was going to power a receptacle with the one wire, the lights with the other....until I read Speedy's answer. I believe it is nearly impossible to make changes in an old house without violating code! Jul 27, 2014 at 18:05

The third insulated conductor is only called a "traveler" in the context of a three way switch (when two light switches control the same lights). In this context, the third conductor is just another hot. Usually, when two hots are connected to an outlet like that, the break-away tab is removed, and one outlet is always on while the other is switched. (the tab is on the side with the red & black conductors, so I can't see if it's removed in the photo).

If the tab is still there, then both conductors are always hot, and having both connected is pointless.

To daisy chain wiring for additional outlets/lights/whatever, you just need to connect black-black and white-white (and bare to bare), and ignore the red entirely.

Two notes: 20 amp circuits are pretty common in kitchens; if the circuit has a 20 amp breaker, make sure you're using 12 gauge romex, not 14 gauge. Also, I'm guessing that since there's only a single outlet on the circuit, it's intended to be a dedicated circuit for an appliance (microwave?) and running additional loads on the circuit may be against local code.

  • Thanks, Zhentar. Much appreciated. The tab on the brass side has indeed been broken away. I wondered if this receptacle was switched on the bottom, as you suggest. I can't find the switch now if it was. Thanks for your note about the amperage and wire size. I will check that. The receptacle is being removed altogether from this circuit, which will now be dedicated just to the new lights. So, sounds like I can just terminate the red wire in a junction box, and continue on from there. Jul 25, 2014 at 16:24

NO. You CANNOT extend this kitchen receptacle circuit to feed lighting. Both Canada (I believe) and the US have restrictions on this. You must find a different source to feed this lighting load. If you are removing it altogether then I would say it is probably OK, but WHY are you removing it? There is a very real chance you are creating a different violation by removing it, unless a whole counter area is being removed also.

I assume you are in Canada, split kitchen receptacles are a big thing there.

  • Thanks, Speedy. Yes, Canada. Yes, a counter and wall are being removed. See my comment on Michael's answer. Jul 27, 2014 at 18:07

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