In my bedroom the bottom half of all receptacles are controlled by one switch. Is it possible to have just one receptacle with top and bottom hot all the time?

The top half is hot all the time the bottom half is controlled by one switch. Keep in mind there are six other receptacles in this room that are the same way controlled by the same switch. When I took the receptacle out the right side tab had been removed. The top right screw had a black wire, the bottom right had a red wire, the top and bottom left screws had separate white wires. I changed the receptacle out as suggested, I capped off the red wire and I capped off the white wire that was attached to the bottom left screw. I attached the other white wire to the top left screw and attached the black wire to the top right screw. I now have none of the receptacles working at all. What did I do wrong?

1 Answer 1


Yes. The tab between the upper and lower sections of each of these outlets have been broken off on the hot (black) side of the receptacles. There are separate wires running to the upper and lower sections. One is always hot and one is switched.

On the outlet you want always hot on both sections, first determine whether the upper or lower section is the switched section. After the power is turned off, disconnect the black wire on the switched part of the outlet. Cap that wire with a wirenut (and tape for backup). Disconnect the black wire from the always hot side of the receptacle. Make two short pigtails of black wire (about 3-4" each), strip both ends of these wires and attach one end of one of these wires to the upper screw and one end of the other wire to the lower screw on the hot side of the receptacle. Twist the other end of these pigtails together, along with the always hot black wire coming into the box.

This is effectively re-establishing the connection that was removed when the tab between the upper an lower sections was removed to make one half switched.

If there is only one white wire going to the receptacle, you don't need to do anything to that wire. However, if there is a separate white wire going to the switched half of the outlet, the tab on that side may also be broken, and then you would need to treat it the same as the black. That is, disconnect the switched white, cap it, create pigtails for the white side and attach them as you did with the black side.

Thanks to DoxyLover for pointing out the possible multiple circuit issue.


As pointed out by @Johnny in a comment, an even easier solution is to replace the existing receptacle with a new receptacle that has intact tabs connecting the upper and lower sections (receptacles are very cheap) . Again, you would cap the wires connected to the switched half on the old receptacle, but then you only need to connect the black and white wires from the unswitched side to their respective screws on the new receptacle. The intact tabs will deliver power to both sockets on the receptacle.

  • 2
    If there are separate white (neutral) wires going to each half, they should be treated like the black (hot) wires. Otherwise, if the two halves are on different circuits, you are mixing neutrals which could cause problems with overloading a neutral or if the breakers are GFCI.
    – DoxyLover
    Commented Feb 17, 2015 at 2:55
  • @DoxyLover Good point. The vast majority of split receptacles are on the same circuit, but not all. I will edit.
    – bib
    Commented Feb 17, 2015 at 2:59
  • I'm might edit that out just to be safe since it's negation depends on the comment to live as long as the answer and it can't be reasonably applied. Commented Feb 17, 2015 at 3:13
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    Given that new outlets are so inexpensive, rather than making a new pigtail in what might already be a crowded box, I'd just put in a new outlet with intact tabs. Might even be cheaper than buying a 10-pack of wire nuts. (of course, if the wires are already pigtailed, then adding another one is not such a big deal assuming that the exisiting wire nuts are sized appropriately)
    – Johnny
    Commented Feb 17, 2015 at 4:45
  • 1
    @bib receptacles I have worked with allows 2 wires under the same screw (straight in with a clamping bar) Commented Feb 17, 2015 at 15:17

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