A while ago we had some renovations done in our house. After the electrician was done, we realized we now had one light switch in our kitchen that was no longer connected to anything. It is in a 2-gang box. The other switch in that box still is connected to a light in the kitchen. Suffice it to say that this isn't exactly what we wanted, but the electrician is done and won't be coming back.

So, now we have this useless switch and are trying to decide what to do with it. It happens to be above the counter (and it's more than 6 feet from the sink -- if that matters). So, we thought it might make sense to replace the switch with a receptacle, giving us an extra place along the counter where we can plug in small kitchen appliances (toaster, food processor, what have you). My question is, are there any problems with mixing receptacles and light fixtures on the same circuit? Does it make any difference if it is in a kitchen?

I realize that this means that if an appliance plugged into the receptacle trips the breaker, the lights will also go out. I'm personally not concerned about that.

7 Answers 7


To directly answer your question about the unused switch in your kitchen, you have to check a couple of things before you install a receptacle in it's place:

  1. Is there a source voltage feed in the box?
  2. If there is only one cable entering the box and both the black and white conductors are connected to the switch(es), then the voltage feed is coming through the light fixture. In this configuration, there is no neutral and you cannot install a receptacle.
  3. Technically, if the source wiring is not 12/2wg, AWG and controlled by a 20 amp breaker, it does not meet current code for use with a receptacle.
  4. If you do find that you can install a receptacle, be sure to use a GFCI type.
  5. Determine if the wires on the unused switch are energized and where they go.
  6. If you use the line side (source) wires for your receptacle, be sure to safely terminate the unused switched load side wires in wirenuts.

Can it work and is it code compliant are not the same thing. NEC code prohibits mixing lighting and outlets on a kitchen small appliance outlet circuit (outlets over counters). It seems that code is quite frequently ignored by both contractors and inspectors.

  • Hello, and welcome to Home Improvement. Thanks for the answer; keep 'em coming. And, you should probably take our tour so you'll know the details of contributing here. Nov 20, 2020 at 23:42

It is normally fine to mix circuits. Personally when I'm wiring I prefer to avoid it if I can (sometimes the extra wire just isn't worth it though), mostly because you can shut off power to receptacles without losing lights, and it's easier to isolate signals if using smart switches (like Insteon).

In a kitchen however, things are a bit different. I believe to meet current code in most areas you need to have the receptacles on your counter all duplex 20A plugs (though some places still do duplex 15A). Kitchen appliances (toasters, microwaves, blenders, skillets, etc) all tend to be fairly large consumers of power, and so if you run eg. your coffee maker and toaster at the same time from the same circuit, you're likely to blow the breaker.

An option for you if you don't want two switches is just to use a blank face plate (check this question).

  • One of my wiring books says not to put lights on the 20A small appliance circuits, so it would probably apply the other way around too. It also says that outlets above a counter-top should be GFCI protected, so if you do find that it's OK to have an outlet there, use a GFCI receptacle because a lighting circuit probably won't already have one.
    – Niall C.
    Feb 24, 2011 at 5:39
  • 8
    Actually, the NEC requires two separate 20 amp circuits to supply the convenience receptacles in a kitchen. All receptacles will be GFIC protected except for dedicated circuits to the Refrigerator, dish washer or other dedicated fixed appliances. The wiring device itself is not required to be 20 amp rated, a 15 amp receptacle is fine, as a 20 amp plug cannot be plugged into it. Feb 24, 2011 at 7:20

Basic answer to your question of can a mixture of lights and receptacles be installed on a single circuit is yes. Check with local authorities on those limitations but yes it can be done. The groundwork for all AC circuits which are wired in what is known as parallel circuitry.


In your case it is okay to install a receptacle alongside the switch. However you need a neutral as well as a hot wire which you may not have. Test to see if you have a neutral with a test light or meter. The neutral will be white but some switches are wired up with a white wire that is not a neutral. Also be sure to install a GFCI receptacle, not a conventional duplex receptacle.

Be careful. The kitchen, with all its grounded metal and water, is a good place to get shocked.

This is not a job for an amateur. You would be well advised to call in a qualified electrician. If your electrician is reputable he will fix this for free. If I did this job I would have explained the situation to you and suggested fixes. What this electrician did reeks of an unprofessional and nonchalant attitude.


The answer is yes. Would I do it in my home? Maybe.

The biggest concern is that if you plug in a heavy enough load, your lights might dim due to the in-rush current. Generally a properly wired home should have dedicated lighting circuits that are apart from receptacles. Overloaded neutrals are fire hazards. I see this weekly and loose neutrals. For the love of God don't be a lazy residential electrician and use the stab-ins in the back of the receptacle or go in and out on the tabs. Pig tail your wires. Enjoy your plug.

  • Journeyman wireman, are you suggesting that all "residential electricians" use backstabs? This is a bit presumptuous, isn't it? And using the side screws is absolutely fine, unless you are a hot shot "commercial only" guy, in which case you way is the only way, right? Feb 5, 2015 at 20:48

You will not be able to install an outlet on this cable. A switch only breaks the circuit to a resistor (light, dispose-all, etc.) If a switch is currently installed, and you don't trip the breaker every time you flip it, you do not have a complete circuit. You need to find what the switch was supposed to control and verify it was terminated correctly. If you find the terminated ends, and don't mind a cob job, you could connect the ends together (after switching the breaker off), then install a GFI outlet as you describe.

  • 1
    This may or may not be rewireable to put an outlet in -- without photos from the OP, we can't tell. Nov 16, 2016 at 3:46

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