There is a switch box. The box has three incoming 14/2 cables. One for the ceiling fixture, one for an unswitched outlet and one bringing the power. The one with power has an energized white wire. I'm assuming this box was wired as a switch loop. How do I connect the wires in this box? Virginia, USA Thank you!

  • 1
    What do you mean by an 'energized white wire'? How did you determine this?
    – gregmac
    Commented Jan 9, 2015 at 17:24
  • I used a klein non contact voltage tester. The only wire that gives a reading is the one white wire. There actually is no hot black. With the white wires all connected, all of the white wires become "hot". The outlet is then not wired correctly because the elongated slot is"hot" and not neutral. I have access to the attic where I followed the cables and I have found some white wires wire-nutted to black. This was done before I bought the house 18 years ago. Shall I change this? Everything worked fine until I tried to troubleshoot an open neutral on a ceiling fan... Thank you for your help
    – SLK
    Commented Jan 11, 2015 at 14:35
  • Non-contact voltage detectors can be misleading, as induced current running from nearby wires can cause a false positive. Does the wire 'bringing the power' come from the panel, or some other switch/outlet? Step one is to ensure that has 120V hot on the black conductor, neutral on white, and a grounded bare wire. Using a multi-meter is a good way to be certain things are correct: you should measure 120V hot-to-ground, 120V hot-to-neutral, and 0V neutral-to-ground.
    – gregmac
    Commented Jan 11, 2015 at 18:46

1 Answer 1


I have a pending question for you but other than that, this is a very common situation, and is easy to deal with.

  • Connect all grounds together, including to the box itself
  • Connect all neutral (white) together
  • Connect hot (black) from power to hot (black) to outlet, and using a small piece of black wire as a pigtail, connect it to one side of the switch
  • Connect hot (black) to the light to the other side of the switch

I actually would not describe this as a "switch loop" -- a switch loop can be identified by only one wire coming into the switch box, and the power actually going to the light fixture first. This actually isn't very common anymore, since NEC 2011 404.2(C) added a requirement to have neutral in switch boxes, and the easiest way to do that is to have power come to the switch first.

  • bond all the ground wires together, including the box itself...assuming it's a metal box or has a ground lug on it. ;-) Commented Jan 9, 2015 at 20:31

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