There is one power outlet (double) in my room where the top outlet turns on/off from a wall switch and the bottom one is always on. I just replaced the outlet with the new one, making sure all the wires go into the same holes in the new outlet as they were in the old one, but now the top outlet is always on as well as the bottom one and the switch does nothing to it. This is my first time replacing outlets (learned off youtube :)) and I have no electrical experience (just using common sense) so I can't figure out what might be wrong. Did I need a special electric outlet, or did I somehow mess up the wiring? Where do I start?


You didn't break off the tab between the hot screws. There's a small metallic tab that normally connects the two hots to allow chaining of outlets (line and load) along a circuit. For a half switched outlet, you need to use a pair of needle nose pliers to break off the tab.

  • Thanks @BMitch - can you possibly point me to a resource that has pictures of what you just said? :) Me having no electrical experience makes it a bit confusing to 100% understand what needs to be done. Like, how do I determine which wire is hot (yes, I have zero experience with this stuff :))
    – Andrey
    Dec 22 '15 at 20:16
  • This video may help you if you're not clear on where the tab is. If you're at all uncertain of what you're doing, you may want to consider getting professional assistance. Replacing an outlet is pretty simple, but as always with electricity, mistakes can result in electrocution. youtube.com/watch?v=13WCzaOCGKY
    – BMitch
    Dec 22 '15 at 20:38
  • Actually, I just pulled the outlet and figured it out on my own which tab to break! Thanks a lot! As for electrocution - I make sure to shut off electricity prior to replacing the outlets :)
    – Andrey
    Dec 22 '15 at 20:41

Look at the old outlet and see which tabs were broken off on that. You've already figured out the "hot" tab needs to be broken off. Depending on how the house is wired, the "neutral" tab (the side with the white or gray wires) may also need to be broken off. Replicate what had been there before.

There are rules about neutrals (basically: each circuit, i.e. all the stuff powered by one breaker, must use its own neutral, the one bundled with its hot wire - and not "poach" a neutral from another circuit. This is to prevent fires from a neutral being overloaded.) That matters if the switched lighting outlet is fed from a different breaker than the unswitched outlet.

It's a picayune electrical-code thing, but it'll help later if you ever upgrade to GFCI or AFCI breakers. (which is a good idea).

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