I have recently purchased a house and in checking out the wiring, noticed one room has a switched outlet that is miswired.

When the wall switch controlling this is on, the outlet is fine but when it is off, a tester shows the outlet has an open neutral.

I have yet to cut the power and open up the receptacles but what should I be looking for? Would this likely be a wiring issue in the outlet itself or at the switch? My personal guess would be that the switch is wired wrong but I've not run up against an open neutral issue before.

  • 4
    This could be miswired either at the switch or the outlet. You're going to need to figure out how it's wired so we can tell you how to fix it.
    – longneck
    Jan 9, 2015 at 18:31
  • 2
    Longneck is right, it could be in either location. Won't know until you look. My first guess would be that the switch is controlling the neutral wire rather than the hot wire. Could be a rather simple fix if the hot and neutral are both in that switch box. Could be more complicated if there's more strange wiring.
    – rjbergen
    Jan 9, 2015 at 18:34
  • 3
    ...just to clarify, the switch needs to break the hot wire, not the neutral wire, so that there is no voltage potential at the outlet when the switch is off. Jan 9, 2015 at 20:25
  • Thanks guys, I'll check this weekend when I get home but the switch being on the neutral wire makes a lot of sense.
    – shadowzen
    Jan 9, 2015 at 21:24
  • @shadowzen -- what results did you get back from your testing? Jan 12, 2015 at 23:27

1 Answer 1


Some dopehead put the switch in the neutral wire, which is forbidden by Code as it's a shock hazard. You'll have to turn power off to the circuit, and then pull both the receptacle and the switch out. If you see a white wire going to either the brass screws on the receptacle, or any screws on the switch, that's your problem, unless you have a switch loop; in that case, look for a black-flagged wire (or a black wire) wire-nutted to a white wire. (Someone also could have left the black paint or tape flags off the switch loop's white wire, and then some dunderhead later on screwed it up without realizing what he was doing...)

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