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Old 07-25-2014, 09:32 PM   #1
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How to add a light fixture to a room with a switch controlled split receptacle.


I would like to add a light fixture to a room that has a switch controlled split receptacle.The cable for the switched controlled receptacle runs from the switch up through the attic space and then down through the top plate to the receptacle. I am trying to figure out the best and easiest method to add a light fixture to the switch circuit. Here is two methods I think might work.

Method #1: Splice into the switch-to-receptacle cable in the attic by adding two junction boxes and then running the cable for the light fixture from one of the boxes. For the junction boxes I was thinking about using the nail-on blue plastic switch/receptacle boxes with a cover plate.

Method #2:Run a #14/3 cable from the switch up the wall through the top plate into the attic space over to the light fixture.

In Method #1, I am not quite sure if the plastic boxes can be used as a junction box in an attic (I live in California).

The only problem I have with Method #2 is that my walls have fire breaks(horizontal piece of 2x4 running between studs about half way up the wall) which will make fishing the cable through the wall more difficult.

Are there any problems or subtleties I am missing with either one of these methods? Are there other better methods for doing this? If you have done this type of project before then which method did you use? Any suggestions or advice would be greatly appreciated.
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Old 07-26-2014, 05:50 AM   #2
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Need more info. Do you want to keep the switched receptacle? Is the power souece at the switch or the receptacle?
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Last edited by rjniles; 07-26-2014 at 05:52 AM.
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Old 07-26-2014, 07:59 AM   #3
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Is the cable between the switch and the receptacle 2 wire or 3 wire cable?
Is the power source at the switch or the receptacle?
Do you want to keep the switched receptacle?
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Old 07-26-2014, 11:37 AM   #4
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Thanks for the two responses.

Here are my answers to your questions:

The receptacle-switch cable is a three-wire cable (If the cable was a two-wire what problems would this present?). I am not sure if the power source is at the switch or the receptacle (What is the easiest way to check this?). I have no problems making the split receptacle into a regular receptacle.

Here is third method that might work based on the power source being at the switch and the split receptacle being changed to a regular receptacle.

Method #3: Disconnect the switch-receptacle cable at the split-receptacle then pull the cable up into the attic. If the cable is long enough it can be connected directly to the light fixture, otherwise, a junction box will need to be added in order to extend the cable to the light. Lastly, replace the split receptacle with a regular receptacle.

@joed: Is this the method you had in mind?
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Old 07-26-2014, 07:08 PM   #5
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I don't think pulling the cable to the attic will work. The cable either supplies power to the receptacle from the switch or to the switch from the receptacle, so it will need to be retained.
There are several ways this can be done. Some of them depend on the current cabling.
Your light wire can be run from the receptacle. Then it can be tied into the currently switched wire. The receptacle can remain switched or not. Your choice.

Maybe you can tap into the cable in the attic. It depends on the current cabling. Three wire sounds like it might be possible if by three wire you mean three wires plus ground.
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Old 07-27-2014, 04:47 AM   #6
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@joed: Thanks for the response I really appreciate it. I was thinking that pulling the cable from the spit receptacle into the attic was probably to good to be true. The switch-receptacle cable has a black, red, white, and ground wire inside it. I think I see the complication, if the switch-receptacle cable only had a black, white, and ground wire inside cable. In particular, in a two-wire switch-receptacle cable the white wire would be a hot wire rather than a neutral. In this case we could not tap into the switch-receptacle cable since our neutral wire for the light would have no place to attach to the switch-receptacle cable. Please let me know if I am thinking about this correctly.

In general then, it seems that, there are two cases to consider.

Case one: The switch-receptacle cable is a two-wire cable (i.e. it has a black, white, and ground wire inside it).

Case two: The switch-receptacle cable is a three-wire cable (i.e. it has a black, red, white, and ground wire inside it) and part of the cable runs inside the attic space.

In case one we cannot tap into the switch-receptacle cable (for the reason mentioned above). In this case we have two ways we can add a light fixture to the switch.

First way: Run a three-wire cable from the switch up through the wall into the attic and then over to our light box.

Second way: Run a three-wire cable from the switch receptacle up through the wall into the attic and then over to our light fixture. This way will only work,however, if there is a neutral wire inside the switch box. In particular if the switch-receptacle cable is the only cable inside the switch box this way will not work since, as mentioned above, the white wire in this cable is hot.

For case two we can use either one of the first two ways or a third way.

Third way: Tap into the switch-receptacle cable in the attic using two junction boxes(we are using two junction boxes since when we cut our switch-receptacle cable it may be too short to fit inside a single junction box if it does then we can get away with using only one box). Next, run a three-wire cable between the boxes. Lastly, run a three-wire cable from one of the junction boxes over to the light box.

In my case I am leaning toward the third way. Here is the steps I had in mind:

Step 1: Turn off the power to the circuit;
Step 2: Go in the attic and cut the switch-receptacle cable in the middle;
Step 3: Attach a blue plastic nail-on switch/receptacle box to a joist close to one end of the cut cable. Attach another box to a another joist close to the other end of the cut cable;
Step 4: Cut a three-wire cable to run between the junction boxes;
Step 5: Cut a three-wire cable to run between the light box and the closer junction box;
Step: Run all cables along the joists or over the tops of the joists;
Step 6: Splice the wires in the boxes using twist-on wire connectors;
Step 7: Cover the boxes with cover plates;
Step 8: Secure cables using staples within 8 inches from each box and every 4.5 feet along or over joists.


Is there any problems or subtleties I am missing with my planned procedure?
If any of you have done this type of project before I would greatly appreciate any advice or suggestions you might have.
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Old 07-27-2014, 05:03 AM   #7
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You only need a 2 wire cable (bkack, white, ground) to feed the light.
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Old 07-27-2014, 01:36 PM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by rjniles View Post
You only need a 2 wire cable (bkack, white, ground) to feed the light.
Thanks for pointing this out. In my case, which I failed to mention, I am probably going to have a fan connected also. I want the switch to control the light only.
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Old 07-27-2014, 01:55 PM   #9
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Cut the three wire cable long enough (if it'll make it) to go into the box where the new light will be installed. A two wire from that point to the new fan location. You can use either a remote or the pull chain on the fan to control it. In the new light box; 3W blk to 2W#1 blk, all whites to each other, 3W red to fixture black (they usually use the red as the switch leg, you should verify first). New 2W#1 to new fan location (using a fan rated box). 2W#2 from there to splice point with other end of the 3W. At the fan location; all blacks together and all whites together. At the new splice point; 2W#2 and 3W#2 all blacks together, all whites together, cap off the red. Cover with a blank plate. At the receptacle; change it to a new one. They most likely broke the little bras tab on the hot side that electrically connected the upper and lower receptacles. Cap off the red.
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Old 07-27-2014, 01:59 PM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by pmclough View Post

First way: Run a three-wire cable from the switch up through the wall into the attic and then over to our light box.
Sorry I just realized that I should have said "split receptacle" instead of "switch" here.

Quote:
Originally Posted by pmclough View Post
Second way: Run a three-wire cable from the switch receptacle up through the wall into the attic and then over to our light fixture. This way will only work, however, if there is a neutral wire inside the switch box. In particular if the switch-receptacle cable is the only cable inside the switch box this way will not work since, as mentioned above, the white wire in this cable is hot.
Similarly here, I should of said "Run a three-wire cable from the switch..." and not "Run a three-wire cable from the switch receptacle...".
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Old 07-27-2014, 04:41 PM   #11
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@petey_c: Thank you for the clear instructions, I really appreciate it.

If the cut three-wire receptacle-switch cable it is not long enough to reach the light box do I just add a second junction box to extend the three-wire cable? If I wanted to keep the split receptacle would I have to use three-wire cable for everything?
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Old 07-28-2014, 05:36 AM   #12
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If the existing three wire can't reach the light location, you'd have to add another splice box, blank plate and length of three wire.
If you want to keep the switched receptacle, you'd have to combine it with the new light fixture, or run another two wire down to the switch box (probably changing it to a 2 gang box) and then splice the black to the red of the new three wire runs. (three wires replacing the two wires above.)
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Old 07-28-2014, 09:25 PM   #13
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@petey_c: Thanks for the reply, I really appreciate all the information. I have been playing around with models to get a better understanding about things.

I have attached two photos. The first photo shows a model of my split receptacle and switch.
The second photo shows a way a to add a switch-controlled light to the circuit and change the split receptacle into to a regular receptacle.

The procedure I would like to use is based on model depicted in second photo and is as follows:

1.) Turn off power to circuit.
2.) Cut switch/receptacle three-wire cable in attic.
3.) Attach a piece of 2x4 across the two joists between the two cut ends of cable.
4.) nail-on a receptacle/switch junction box to each end of the 2x4 making sure there is at least 1.5 in. clearance between bottom of the box and the drywall.
5.) Run each end of the cut cable into a junction box.
6.) Add a three-wire cable between junction boxes.
7.) Add a three-wire cable (this could be a two-wire cable also if you do not want to add anything else after the light) between the light fixture and closest junction box.
8.) splice all wires of the same color in junction boxes using wire nuts and add a blank plate to the top of each box.
9.) Run all cable over or along joists making sure cable is always at least 1.5 inches from any drywall. Add half inch NM staples within 8 inches of each light or junction box and then every 4.5 feet after that.
10.) Remove split receptacle and replace with regular receptacle(i.e. no tabs on sides are removed) then cap off the red wire in receptacle box.
11.) In the light box use only the red and white wires to attach to the light and cap off the black wire. If you want to run power to a fan down the line then add a two-wire cable to the light box attaching white to white and black to black.

I have tested this procedure in the model shown in the photo and it does work. My question, however, is: would this procedure be considered NEC compliant? If not what change(s) would have to be made to make it NEC compliant?

Sorry, but it seems I am unable to attach the photos (not sure why not).
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