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My 3 wall lights are hard wired and have on-off switches on the units. There is no wall switch for any of them. The trouble is they are all different fixtures and all pretty ugly. I'm looking to replace them without spending a fortune (ideally something with a Mission feel for under $100 apiece), but finding a good replacement is hard, with the limitation of an on-off switch on the fixture. Is it possible somehow to convert a non-switched receptacle to a switched one, or is there some kind of piece that you can screw in before you screw in the light bulb that is a switch, or some kind of solution to this problem?

Can I take a plug-in lamp with an on-off switch (obviously not inline with the cord, but on the fixture itself), and install that in the wall? I feel like it would be hard to attach such a fixture to the wall, though.

In addition to ideas for converting the fixtures, I welcome suggestions for places that sell nice-ish switched lights. I have already combed through regular search-engine results without much luck.

  • You can't run lamp wire through the wall. It's a code violation. – Chris Cudmore Aug 8 '14 at 20:40
  • No, I mean cut off the wire plug and connect the wire to the wire that's currently attached to the existing fixture that I want to replace. – barclay Aug 8 '14 at 21:32
  • Clarify the question: are the lamps hard-wired or plug-in, because you are asking about non-switched/switched receptacles which implies they plug in, but you wrote hard-wired. – Jimmy Fix-it Aug 9 '14 at 11:47
  • Do not let the lack of an integral switch limit your choice of wall fixture. Buy the lamps that you like the most and install a switch on them if they don't have one. – Jimmy Fix-it Aug 9 '14 at 11:55
  • @JimmyFix-it - I've found a small subset of hard-wired lamps that have an on-off switch on them (just like the ugly 3 that are already installed in my house). I want to know if there is a way to attach the wires for a plug-in lamp with an on-off switch, to the wall wires, so the plug-in lamp becomes a hard-wired fixture. – barclay Aug 11 '14 at 13:57
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How about a "smart bulb" product such as an Insteon LED bulb? I've used these to replace old pull-chain ceiling sockets with more attractive fixtures. A single bulb is around $50 and you can buy a wall mount remote for around $30.

  • wait. so each bulb is controllable on its own? i.e., the fixture stays hot and the bulb can be dimmed or turned completely off even while in the fixture? – barclay Oct 9 '14 at 18:41
  • Yes indeed. In fact you can easily set up "scenes" that control one or multiple bulbs at any desired dimming level. Also if you want to really go all out, there are other systems like the Philips Hue (www2.meethue.com/en-us) that can be controlled from a smartphone, change color, etc… P.S. the wall mount remote is $45 not $30 – kgutwin Oct 10 '14 at 19:17
  • oh man that's cool! – barclay Oct 10 '14 at 19:58
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I would install a wall switch.

Diagnosis.

  1. Turn the lights on.
  2. Flip breakers until the lights go off.
  3. Find a receptacle near the lights that also went off.

Now, chances are, that there is a cord running up the wall from that receptacle that powers the lights.

  1. Remove the receptacle. (Power still off!) The wire coming into the box from the bottom is likely your panel connection, and the one running out the top is probably your light power. BUT!!!! it might also be powering other things.
  2. Disconnect the upper wires from the receptacle, wire nut the ends so they're safe, and wrap electrical tape right around the screws on the receptacle so you don't accidentally short it out against the box.
  3. Turn the power back on. Test the receptacle and the lights, and anything else in the vicinity. If everything is good, the lights are off, and the receptacle works AND everything else in the house works. If not, turn the power off and re-wire everything the way it was.

The following is really only applicable if the situation is exactly as I described above. There are many possible configurations. For example, the power could be going to the lights, then to the receptacle. Or, there could be another receptacle or more lights being powered at the end of the chain. In either situation, you'll need to pull more wire and damage more plaster. At this point, I'd call in a professional.

The following instructions involve messing around with wiring. If you do not feel 100% confident in your abilities, Call a professional.

Installation:

  1. Turn the power off!

  2. Follow the wire up the wall to a good switch height.

  3. With a drywall saw, cut a hole for your new switch and box. (Get an OLD WORK box).
  4. Tape some 14-2 wire to the disconnected wire in the receptacle hole. Pull it up to the switch hole, leaving a foot or more of excess. (it may be staple to a stud. Yank hard.)
  5. Cut the old wire, leaving about a foot or more below the hole.
  6. Remove about 8 or more inches of outer sheathing from both the light wire and the new wire. Thread them both into the box and tighten the clamps. Install the box.
  7. From the wire you're going to discard, pull out about 4 inches of bare copper. There should be a grounding screw at the back of the box. Screw both grounds and the short piece to this screw. Attach the other end of the short piece to the green screw on the switch. When wrapping around screws, your curl should be clockwise, so the screw doesn't squeeze them out.

  8. Strip the whites, and wire nut them together.

  9. Strip the blacks, and attach them to the other two screws on the switch.
  10. Install the switch and faceplate.
  11. Go back down to the receptacle, and wire the new wire back up, the way the old wire was.
  12. Reinstall the receptacle and faceplate.
  13. Power on. And all 3 lights should be on the switch.

If you want 3 switches, then it's a bigger job, and may be impossible without serious wall damage.

Essentially you'd get a 3-gang box, pull the wire up from the receptacle, and feed new wires to each light individually. That's better left for another question.

  • Well, this is a very thorough instruction, but it doesn't really answer my question. – barclay Aug 8 '14 at 21:35
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    Actually, it does. You just don't recognize it. Your problem: Replace hard wired lights, but can't find any with switches. Solution: Install a switch. Any messing around with lamp wire or jury-rigging other lamps is just wrong. – Chris Cudmore Aug 11 '14 at 13:56
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One option would be to go wireless. Find some fixtures that you like that would accommodate a screw in wireless adapter, and just wire them like the existing fixtures:

enter image description here

For some reason, key-chain remotes seem to be more common than wall switches, but there are plenty out there to choose from and a ton of different styles.

  • This seems like an interesting idea, but I don't have a wall switch for my light. All of the options I've seen seem to interface with either a plug or a wall switch. – barclay Aug 11 '14 at 13:58
  • @kewpiedoll99 - If you want a wall switch, this would be an easy and inexpensive way to add one. All you would have to do is pick one that matches the other switches in your house (the one above is about the least attractive - the pic just included both parts), and then cut in an old work electrical box without wiring to it. There are also quite a few with standard hand held or key-fob remote controls. – Comintern Aug 12 '14 at 1:01

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