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Old 05-26-2011, 01:54 PM   #1
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Outlet or switch -- what is this?


I have this gangbox in my living room that's about an appropriate height for where a switch would be (picture attached).. I would definitely guess switch if not for some other odd outlets around the room (there is a power outlet on a wall at about 6ft height, no idea what it's for). Is it a switch, is it an outlet, or something else?

I would like it to be a switch that controls one of the floor outlets (to control a lamp).. but I'm not sure whether to have someone come install a switch there, or if I should just buy one of those remote/wireless switches and just cover this bad boy up.

Thanks for any help.
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Old 05-26-2011, 01:59 PM   #2
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Outlet or switch -- what is this?


Neutral wires are nutted together it could never work as an outlet. The ground is done right.

It is a switch and the fixture is wired with a break in its hot wire lead. The switch is filling the gap. Flip the switch, the hot wire reaches the fixture.

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Old 05-26-2011, 02:28 PM   #3
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Outlet or switch -- what is this?


Thanks for the quick response.

What's the best/easiest way to figure out what the switch controls? E.g. are there two wires I should undo and see which outlet loses power?
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Old 05-26-2011, 02:39 PM   #4
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Outlet or switch -- what is this?


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Originally Posted by bryg0 View Post
Thanks for the quick response.

What's the best/easiest way to figure out what the switch controls? E.g. are there two wires I should undo and see which outlet loses power?
Do you have a meter or voltage tester? If so, test between the neutral wires and each of the Red (?) wires to see if you get 120v
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Old 05-26-2011, 02:55 PM   #5
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Outlet or switch -- what is this?


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Originally Posted by sirsparksalot View Post
Do you have a meter or voltage tester? If so, test between the neutral wires and each of the Red (?) wires to see if you get 120v
Yeah, the red wire caught my attention too but I saw the other hot
black wires capped and stuffed in the box. Someone just ran extra hot lead romex to save on wiring costs. Hopefully, the owner will spot both black and red hot leads from the same cable at the junction box? Red going to one breaker and the black to another. Ground and neutral stay common.

And in this case, at the fixture our outlet the switch controls will find a red wire as the hot lead.

You know a voltage tester or multimeter thingie is a great must have investment. Calling an electrician is often the more prudent and safe choice though.
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Old 05-26-2011, 03:07 PM   #6
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Outlet or switch -- what is this?


Given the choice between a receptacle and a switch, shouldn't one of the choices be none of the above? The box looks too full to accomodate either. Maybe it's an optical illusion. But isn't it possible that this is just a junction box?

What's the story here... What was over this, was it just a blank cover?

If you're considering covering this, you would have to use a blank cover. Whatever this is, you can't just drywall or spackle or whatever to cover it it is an electrical box that has to remain accessible.

If it was a switch it might have been a 3-way switch with the 3 conductor cable being in there.
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Old 05-26-2011, 06:41 PM   #7
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Outlet or switch -- what is this?


Pray tell what makes you guys think this is a switch??? I don't unless there was work done before the pic was taken.
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Old 05-26-2011, 07:10 PM   #8
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Outlet or switch -- what is this?


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Pray tell what makes you guys think this is a switch??? I don't unless there was work done before the pic was taken.
It appeared to me that there were two Red wires that may be a hot and a switch leg. I don't see a neutral pig that would have made it a receptacle.

But I agree, nothing would have been in that box but the wires.
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Old 05-27-2011, 12:47 AM   #9
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Outlet or switch -- what is this?


The story.. it's an apartment that we bought from the bank so there are some weird things from a previous remodel that I can't explain.

This was originally covered with a blank cover, and the circuit breaker is on the same wall on the opposite side. However, the position is very close to the front door and basically a very logical place to have a light switch. I was hoping to either install a switch if it's already wired, or install a remote/wireless switch in the same spot.

It's not likely to be a 3-way switch because there aren't other switches in the vicinity.
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Old 05-27-2011, 12:57 AM   #10
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Outlet or switch -- what is this?


brygo, spread those wires apart (lift up the tied white wires) and take another pic. Are there any wires in there that have only a wire nut on them (iow: no other wires attached)?
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Old 05-27-2011, 01:51 AM   #11
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Outlet or switch -- what is this?


In words, there appear to be three main conduits, one in each corner in the back:

Topleft corner: white, black, and copper ground
Topright corner: white, black, and copper ground
Bottomleft corner: white, red, and copper ground

All 3 white wires are capped together (yellow cap)
The 2 black wires are capped together (red cap)
The 1 red wire is capped by itself (orange cap)

Does that help?
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Old 05-27-2011, 09:07 AM   #12
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Outlet or switch -- what is this?


If you could spread the wires out and take another picture, it might help. You mention conduit, but what I see is a plastic box with romex cables. Not likely conduit. The cable that has the red wire should have a black wire also…where is it?

I see a black wire with an orange wirenut, you didn’t mention that. Is that a pigtail off the 2 blacks with the red wirenut? Or is it the black in the same cable as the red?

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