Do you sometimes feel that your outlets at home are not enough? This is actually a dilemma in every household. Then, it makes you wonder how good it would be if wiring a light switch and outlet on the same circuit is possible. But, is it?
Wiring a light switch and outlet on the same circuit is possible. In fact, electricians do this all the time.
If running wires from a switch to a remote outlet is possible, then a switch and an outlet on the same circuit should be feasible. The only complex thing in the entire process is installing a double-gang box.
- Remove the existing light switch
- Identify the different wires
- Prepare the wire for the new combo switch
- Identify which wires are the power lines
- Install the switch and outlet
Read on to learn more about how to wire a light switch and outlet in the same box.
Wiring a Light Switch and Outlet on the Same Circuit
Wiring a light switch and outlet on the same circuit is feasible. In fact, electricians do this often. If they can run wires from a switch to a remote outlet, then a switch and an outlet on the same circuit can be done.
The only complicated thing in the entire process is the installation of a double-gang box.
How to Wire a Light Switch and Outlet Combo?
A light switch and outlet combo can be wired up in several ways:
- First, it can be wired in such a way that the switch can control your lights;
- Second, it can be wired in such a way that the switch can control the outlet; and
- Lastly, it can be wired so that the switch can control both the lights and the outlet.
In this article, you will learn those three ways of wiring.
Things You Need
The most important tools that you will need are a Phillips-head screwdriver and a flat-head screwdriver. But other tools may come in handy too, such as the following:
- Needle-nose pliers
- Combination pliers
- Wire stripper
- Voltage tester
- Power drill
Of course, you will also need a switch/outlet combo unit, as well as the new faceplate. You can find this in any hardware store.
Before You Begin…
Before you start wiring, make sure that there is power coming from the light switch box. Otherwise, installing the switch/outlet combo unit will be useless.
In other words, before you disassemble the light switch box, check if it switches on and off without any issue. The least that you’d want to happen is to finish your DIY project, only to find out that you can’t use it at all.
Another important reminder is to cut off the power to the room before you begin your wiring project. To do so, go to your breaker box and turn off the corresponding switch. If you’re unsure which one to switch off, turn on the light switch first and do the trial-and-error strategy.
Step-by-Step Guide in Wiring a Light Switch and Outlet on the Same Circuit:
1. Removal of the Existing Light Switch
- To start, remove the faceplate of the light switch box using your flat-head screwdriver. Once you have removed it, double-check if the light switch is off by using the voltage tester. If it is off, you may proceed with your DIY project;
- Using your Phillips-head screwdriver or your power drill, remove the screws holding the light switch onto the junction box. In most cases, the screws are located on the topmost and bottom-most portion of the box;
- Once removed, grab the tabs where the screws you removed were located and gently pull them. You will then see the wires and be able to work on them more conveniently; and
- Now that the wires of the light switch are exposed check the wiring configuration. If there exist two different sets of wires inside, then you may proceed with your project. But if there is only one, your switch and outlet combo will not be possible.
2. Identifying the Different Wires
To proceed, the wires that should be inside the light switch box are the following:
- Two black wires
- One bare copper wire or the ground wire
- Two white wires tied together using a wire nut
It is possible that when you open your light switch box, the wires are not black or white. They sometimes come in blue, red, or green. This doesn’t matter at all. What matters is that you identify which is which. That way, you will be able to connect the wires correctly.
Let’s assume that the wires in your light switch box are black, white, and bare copper. The black wires are the “hot wires” or the power wires. In comparison, the white wires are the “return wires” or the neutral wires. The hot wire is where the electricity flows.
Electricity passes through the switch and into the light fixture. It then returns through the return wire. If you turn off the switch, the power wire disconnects from the light fixture. Thus, power from the lights gets cut off.
Your next step is to detach the two black wires from the light switch using your screwdriver. Then, detach the ground wire from the green screw.
3. Wire Preparation for the New Combo Switch
- Once you have removed the light switch, prepare to install the combo switch. To do so, you have to access the neutral wires;
- If you merely replace a light switch, you can leave the neutral wires untouched. But since you will wire the light switch and outlet together, you have to connect the neutral wires to the new combo switch;
- Unscrew the wire nut that holds the neutral wires. The neutral wires will still be kept together, along with additional wires to make a pigtail connection; and
- A pigtail connection consists of multiple wires held together by a wire nut. The wires are turned into a single connection that can be attached to the switch’s screw.
For DIY Project
In the case of your DIY project, you will have to connect the two white wires on the new switch’s single screw. This then makes the pigtail connection necessary.
This will then leave you with two black wire connections and one white wire connection.
The next step is to bend all the wire ends to create small hooks. You may use your needle-nose pliers to do this. These hooks will be wrapped around the screws on the switch once you are ready to install it.
After doing so, identify which wire is which — if you don’t already know, that is.
4. Identify Which Wires Are the Power Lines
In a switch/outlet combo unit DIY project, it is important to identify the difference between the two sets of wires. One set of wires should be the power lines that come from the breaker box. The other set of wires should be the ones connected from the switch down to the light fixture.
Except for the ground wire, screw a wire nut onto each wire. You may make use of your needle-nose pliers to straighten the wires out. Also, spread the wires out and make them far apart from each other. This way, it’ll be easier to attach the wire nuts.
Once done, use your voltage tester to identify which ones are the power wires. You have to turn the power back on to make this feasible. When the tester makes some noise as soon as it is attached to the wire and lights up, that specific wire is the power wire.
If the wire doesn’t light up or make some noise as soon as the tester is attached to it, then that’s the return wire. Make a small mark on the wire nuts to distinguish the power wires from the return wires.
Once this process is done, turn the electricity off once again at the breaker box. You’re now ready to install the switch/outlet combo.
5. Switch and Outlet Installation
By now, you already partially know how to wire a light switch and outlet together. And, by this time, you already know that it is indeed possible.
Again, wiring a light switch and outlet on the same circuit is viable, and electricians are highly familiar with this approach. Running wires from a switch to a remote outlet is feasible.
Therefore, wiring a switch and an outlet on the same circuit can be feasible too. The only complicated thing in the entire process is the installation of a double-gang box.
If You Want a Switch That Controls the Light and the Outlet…
It is possible that if you turn on the switch, the light turns on, and you can use the outlet as well. Then, once you turn off the switch, the light turns off, and the outlet disconnects from the power line too.
To do this, grab the black wire coming from the light fixture. This should not be confused with the hot wire. Connect such black wire to any of the black screws you see on the switch. Wrap the wire around the screw.
There are, however, switches that have specific slots where you can slide the wire then tighten it down with the screw. It is more convenient to use and is also available in any hardware store. But if it isn’t available, there’s always the option of simply wrapping the wire around the screw.
The next step is to connect the black hot wire to the brass screw. Then, connect the neutral wire (the one from the pigtail connection) to the silver screw. The copper ground wire is then connected to the green screw.
Neatly shove all the wires back inside the box. Then, screw and mount the switch in place. You may not attach the faceplate and turn on the power.
Install a Switch and Outlet Independent from Each Other
You might want to install a switch and outlet that are totally independent of each other. That way, you can turn the light on and off anytime you want without interrupting the outlet when it is in use.
To do this, you switch the connection of the two black wires. The black hot wire coming from the main power line must then be connected to the black screw.
Simultaneously, the black wire coming from the light fixture must be connected to the brass screw. The white and copper wires will be attached to the same screws.
Conclusion – Wiring a Light Switch and Outlet on the Same Circuit
You can wire a light switch and outlet on the same circuit. If running wires from a switch to a remote outlet is possible, then a switch and an outlet on the same circuit should also be possible. What’s difficult about this process is installing a double-gang box.
Wiring a light switch and outlet on a single circuit can be done in two ways. First, you can wire it so that the switch can control the lights and the outlet simultaneously. Second, it can be wired so that the switch can control the light and the outlet independently.
These additional tools will definitely come in handy for this project:
- Needle-nose pliers
- Combination pliers
- Wire stripper
- Voltage tester
- Power drill
The most important reminder is to make sure you turn off the main switch in the breaker box to avoid any accidents while doing this project.
Again, here’s a step-by-step guide in wiring a light switch and outlet on the same circuit:
- Removal of the Existing Light Switch
- Identifying the Different Wires
- Wire Preparation for the New Combo Switch
- Identify Which Wires Are the Power Lines
- Switch and Outlet Installation