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I am new to home improvement, so please be patient with me. I'm sure my ignorance and lack of vocabulary are going to shine through! I'll try to answer any questions and clarify anything to the best of my ability.

I just moved into a house and have noticed that all of the outlets in my living room that are controlled by a switch. Top and bottom outlets.

How can I change this to eliminate the need for the switch? And what can I do with the switch that is in the wall?

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The following assumes that only one switch controls the outlets.

  1. Turn the breaker off to the outlets.
  2. Confirm there is no power with an outlet tester.
  3. Remove the switch cover.
  4. Loosen the switch.
  5. Confirm there is no power to the switch using a no-contact tester.
  6. Remove the two wires attached to the switch (should be a combination of black, red or white).
  7. Twist the two wires together and cover with a wire nut.
  8. Remove ground wire (green or bare), if present, and push to back of box.
  9. If there are other wires in the box, ignore them.
  10. Put a blank box cover over the switch box.
  11. Turn the breaker back on.
  12. Throw away switch.

NOTE: Switched outlets are often used in rooms that lack an overhead light or only have a pull chain fixture. This allows someone entering the room to turn on a table or floor lamp so they are not stumbling around in the dark. In fact, switched outlets or fixtures are now mandated under the National Electric Code (which is controlling in most locales in the US): 210.70(A)(1) Habitable Rooms. At least one wall switch–controlled lighting outlet shall be installed in every habitable room and bathroom.

There are also techniques for splitting a dual outlet so that one half is switched and the other half always live. However this requires at least three wires running to the outlet box (neutral/hot/switched hot).

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I'd first check if someone incorrectly wired a single half switched receptacle. To do this, you're going to need to check the outlets for a hot and then determine how the circuit is run through the walls for the switch.

Turn off the switch and check outlets to see if there's still a hot connection anywhere. I'd try with a non-contact tester first, and if that fails, shutoff the power, pull the receptacle and wiring out of the affected outlets to make them more accessible, and turn the power back on to test again.

If you locate an unswitched hot in an outlet, disconnect the receptacle from the wiring with the breaker turned off, and then turn the breaker back on to identify the switched hot wire (toggle the switch on and off to see what wire toggles with it). If other outlets show no power when the receptacle is disconnected and the switch is on, you've got all the wires there to change the receptacle to 1/2 switched (broken off tab between the hot terminals) with the load connection made to the unswitched hot.

If other outlets have power when the receptacle is connected and the switch is on, then you need to disconnect other receptacles to locate the source of the switched power. Once located, you'd wire that receptacle as 1/2 switched.

Standard disclaimer: If you're not comfortable with electrical wiring, don't have the proper safety tools, or don't understand how 1/2 switched receptacles work, you may want to hire a professional to do this. Testing wires for hot needs to be done with the breaker on, but otherwise always have the breaker off when working on electrical wiring.

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