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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Dec 2013
    Posts
    2

    Default Changing light switch to 'combination switch and outlet' ?

    1940s Colonial in Virginia.

    In my attic, there is a standard light switch that turns on the attic lights. Unfortunately, there are no outlets whatsoever in the attic for plugging in the occasional tool. I'd like to add an outlet.

    I purchased a Leviton Decora 'combination switch and outlet' (Model T5625) and replaced the existing light switch with the Leviton. It successfully turns the lights on/off, however the outlet is non-functional (whether the lights are on or off) and I can't understand why.

    Coming into the box on the right side is a black wire--which I assume is "hot", and a white wire--which I assume is neutral. The black wire is connected to the "common" brass screw on the Leviton. The white wire goes to a wire connector.

    Coming into the box on the left side is a black wire--which I assume goes to the lights, and a white wire--which I assume is neutral. The black wire is connected to the brass "A1" terminal on the Leviton. The white wire goes to the same wire connector mentioned above.

    I ran a new wire from the wire connector (containing the two existing white wires) to the silver neutral terminal on the Leviton.

    Thoughts? Thank you!!!

    Jason

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Dec 2010
    Location
    Houston Texas
    Posts
    2,360

    Default Re: Changing light switch to 'combination switch and outlet' ?

    Jason,

    For that outlet to work you'd need a constant hot and a neutral which you don't seem to have. IF you only have 3 wires; black white & ground, then you have what is sometimes called a 'switch leg'. A switch leg is a wire that runs from the hot location to the switch for the sole purpose of switching the hot wire to the load (the light)

    The good news is you should have the missing hot wire in the light junction box where you should find at least 2 blacks 2 whites and 2 grounds. If this is true, one of those b& w sets is the power source (feed) with the second pair being the switch leg. That should be easy to figure out.

    To get an outlet in the attic, attach a new piece of 12-2 romex to the feed B&W running from the light junction box to your outlet junction box. Leave the B&W to the switch leg as attached.* The outlet should then be powered all the time, regardless of the light being on or off.

    The light switch will go back to having the black on one screw and the white on the other.

    * The switch leg should have the one wire (usually the black one) attached to the feed black with the other (usually the white wire) of the switch leg attached to the light's black screw / wire. This method isn't to code anymore, but no one will raise a stink over it when you go to sell.
    Last edited by HoustonRemodeler; 12-11-2013 at 09:48 PM.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Jun 2007
    Location
    Fayette County, Ohio
    Posts
    5,557

    Default Re: Changing light switch to 'combination switch and outlet' ?

    On one side of the device you have a jumper between the switch and the outlet. That is where the hot is connected providing hot to both the switch and the outlet. On the other side you have a screw for the switch and a screw for the out let. The one on the screw is connected to the blck going to the light, the other screw is connected to the common. If youn switch the hot and hot to the light on the switch the light will still work but the outlet will only be on when the light is switched on.

    Jack
    Be sure you live your life, because you are a long time dead.-Scottish Proverb

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Dec 2013
    Posts
    2

    Default Re: Changing light switch to 'combination switch and outlet' ?

    Great info guys - thank you so very much!

    Houston, I think you are spot on about the switch leg and that makes sense. I'll open up the light box and see what I find!

    Related, is there a simple, inexpensive tool you could recommend that would allow me to probe unknown wires and determine whether they are hot, neutral, or ground?

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Jul 2010
    Location
    SoCal
    Posts
    5,081

    Default Re: Changing light switch to 'combination switch and outlet' ?

    "Related, is there a simple, inexpensive tool you could recommend that would allow me to probe unknown wires and determine whether they are hot, neutral, or ground?"

    You can find a simple inexpensive current checker with a light at Home Depot. It's in the electrical department.

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Mar 2010
    Posts
    6

    Default Re: Changing light switch to 'combination switch and outlet' ?

    As for determining if a wire is ground or neutral, there is no easy way to do that by electrical tests alone since grounds and neutrals are all connected together at the service entrance. You would have to trust the installer to use the standards: bare or green is ground, white is neutral. However sometimes white wires can be hot if they are part of a leg switch run, which was referred to earlier in this thread. In those cases the installer is supposed to wrap some black tape around the white wire to indicate that it is not a neutral. However I would not trust that this is always done. As for testing if a wire it hot, a cheap voltmeter with one lead grounded will tell you that.

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