I have a switched outlet in a bedroom. The top receptacle is controlled by a wall switch while the bottom is always hot. Can I make it so the top is always hot and the bottom is switched by just moving the hot wire to the top and the red(switch) wire to the bottom?

  • Be sure to see the answer from @Ecnerwal. If the top and bottom of the outlet are being fed from different branch circuits, and you only switch the hot conductors, then you'll have the hot legs using neutrals from different circuits--not good. – Craig Dec 21 '14 at 21:36

Yes, that's exactly what you should do.

As a safety measure, while you've got the wiring exposed, double check that the hot (black and red) wires are connected to the brass-colored screw on the receptacle, the neutral (white) is connected to the silver-colored screw, and the ground is connected to the green screw.

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  • 3
    Also make sure that the circuits are shut off at the breaker panel before attempting to deal with changing the wires. – Michael Karas Jul 28 '14 at 3:53
  • FYI the wire colors differ in different countries. E.g., In NZ, Phase is brown (but used to be red), Neutral is blue (but used to be black) and Earth is Green and Yellow (but used to be green) The reason for the change is: if you are color blind it was easy to mix up the phase and earth (red & green). The take away is make sure you know/look up standards/colors for your local country/regulations. – DarcyThomas Jul 28 '14 at 8:11
  • @DarcyThomas: The (new) standard that you mention is the same as the current standard in my country (Israel). I suppose that there may be some convention that nations are moving towards using. – dotancohen Jul 28 '14 at 12:10
  • @dotancohen I doubt that the US and Canada will change. The only change was to add an optional yellow stripe to the green ground wire. Otherwise it is relatively easy to figure out what the other wires are. ( The neutral is white or grey; ground is bare, green, or green/yellow; all other colors are hot ) If you are colorblind you may be able to just use a different color that you can recognize. – Brad Gilbert Jul 28 '14 at 15:06
  • @DarcyThomas Why didn't NZ just add the yellow stripe to the ground wire and call it good? It just seems like a bummer to have 2 totally different color schemes in use now, because you obviously haven't gone all over the country ripping and replacing wiring in existing buildings, and in remodels you're obviously going to end up with 2 different standards in the same buildings. Yikes. ;-) Just musing out loud... – Craig Dec 21 '14 at 21:39

If the bond between top and bottom is broken on the neutral side as well, switch the neutral wires as well as the hot wires. If it's not broken then switching only the hot wires is adequate. When switching off the circuit breaker(s) beware of the possibility (not common but possible) that the top and bottom are on different breakers.

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