Electrical Outlet wire connections when wiring a split receptacle: break off this tab (C) D FriedmanSplit Receptacle Wire Connections
How to wire up a split receptacle allowing switch control

  • ELECTRICAL SPLIT RECEPTACLE WIRING- CONTENTS: wiring details for split receptacles in which the upper and lower half of the electrical receptacle or outlet or wall plug are powered from different circuits or in which the top or bottom of a receptacle is switches
  • POST a QUESTION or READ FAQs about how to install and wire electrical outlets or receptacles in buildings.
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How to wire up a split receptacle:

This article descrbes how an electrician may split the wiring to an individual electrical receptacle (wall outlet) so that the upper and lower halves of the device may be powered separately. Most-often we use this feature when we want to be able to switch a table or floor lamp on or off from a wall switch while keeping "always-on" power provided to the other half of the receptacle. For example in a bedroom we might want to plug in a wall-clock that will always have power while at the same time and at the same location we want to be able to switch a bedside table lamp on and off from a switch at the entry to the room. Our page top photo points out the break-away tab that is removed if we are going to wire the upper and lower halves of an electrical receptacle separately.

In this article series we illustrate basic connections seen in the field for the black, white neutral or grounded conductor), and ground wire when hooking up an electrical receptacle (wall plug or "outlet").

Watch out: mis-wired electrical receptacles are dangerous. Electrical wiring should be performed by a licensed, trained electrician and should comply with the National Electrical Code and local regulations. This article series describes how to choose, locate, and wire an electrical receptacle in a home.

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Wiring a Split Receptacle to Two Different Electrical Circuits - option for separate receptacle control

Watch out: Electrical components in a building can easily cause an electrical shock, burn, or even death.  Even when a hot line switch is off, one terminal on the switch is still connected to the power source. Before doing any work on the switch, the power source must be turned off by setting a circuit breaker to OFF or removing a fuse.

Question: how do I wire a switched electrical receptacle?

I have double receptacle that has 3 wires coming in: one being the main power wire; one is incoming which feeds another receptacle, and the 3rd wire will feed a single pole switch. How do I wire the receptacle and then, how do I wire the single pole switch with 2 incoming wires? - JMS 6/3/12


JMS I don't have a perfectly clear idea of what you are wiring, but it may help to simplify: using a twist on connector and additional short wire lengths, the incoming hot and neutral can then be connected to receptacles in the same box, and any outgoing hot and neutral join the same twist on connectors.

Typically when I see a switch wired from a receptacle box the switch is being used to make one of the receptacles switchable while leaving the others always -on. in that case the electrician may run a 14-2 wire (hot, neutral, ground) from the receptacle box to the switch, putting black tape on the ends of the white wire to show that BOTH wires are actually carrying current. Those wires, back in the receptacle box, then interrupt power to the "switched" receptacle.

Electrical Outlet wire connections when wiring a split receptacle: break off this tab (C) D Friedman

[Click to enlarge any image]

If you choose to wire the upper and lower duplex receptacle openings to different circuits, we call this the "split receptacle" wiring method, because we are splitting the individual duplex receptacle upper and lower connectors onto two different circuits. We split an individual receptacle at a single location when we want to control the upper or lower receptacle half to permit turning a wall or floor lamp on or off from a wall-mounted light switch.

Our photo shows the black wire or "hot" wire brass screws on an electrical receptacle with the conducting tab left in place. In this factory-configuration, a wire connected to either of the two screw connectors will power both upper and lower halves of this receptacle. But if we break away the red tab pointed to by my red arrow, then we can wire the top and bottom half of this receptacle separately.

Depending on the application and on what circuits and wires are present, we might break away only the line or hot wire side of the receptacle, powering each half separately but allowing the device to use a common neutral wire. That would be a typical approach if we were going to power half of this receptacle through a wall switch.

In sum: we were wiring this electrical "outlet" as a split receptacle, we'd want to feed the upper and lower halves of the device from two different electrical circuits. To do so we'd have to break away the "breakaway" connecting tab pointed to by our orange arrow.

Reader Question: Is 14/3 wire ok to use to wire between the light switch and the light? What about an electrical outlet on the same circuit as the ceiling light fixture?

is it okay to use 14/3 wire for power to light to switch to receptacle?



If you are asking about using a shared neutral wire on a lighting circuit combined with an electrical receptacle circuit, see (search for) our article on "multi wire branch circuits" or "shared neutral electrical wiring".

In general we'd use 14-2 wire on a 15 amp circuit to power electrical receptacles and a SEPARATE circuit to power the lighting fixtures. If we lose power on one circuit we want the other still working so that there is safe lighting in the area.

For a light fixture such as a ceiling light, in addition to bringing power to the junction box where the light fixture is to be mounted (using 14-2 copper wire) we'd use a separate length of 14-2 wire to run from the light switch to the junction box to control the light. Tape the white wire at both ends of the switch circuit with black tape so that the next worker knows that this is a switch circuit and that the white wire is not a neutral wire.

Watch out: we do not wire fixed lighting fixtures such as ceiling lights on the same circuit as electrical receptacles ("wall plugs"). If one of the two circuits should be switched off by a circuit breaker (perhaps detecting a fault or over current) we want the other circuit to remain on so that room occupants are less likely to be left in darkness.

Reader Question: can I add an electrical outlet on the wall where there is already a light switch?

I would like to wire in an outlet on the same wall where there is currently a light switch. Can I run wires from the light switch to power the outlet?The light switch is a 2 way switch. thank you. - Marv Walker 7/10/12



Well yes, maybe, sort-of.

Because a light switch is indeed switching a hot wire to the light, you've got power at the switch location. But depending on how the building is wired, you may not have an acceptable neutral wire, and in some still older circuits you may not have a safe ground wire.

Provided that you know how to work on electrical wiring without getting killed by electrocution, you (or your electrician) will open the switch box, carefully pull the switch assembly out enough to inspect for additional wires that may be present, and then use a VOM or DMM or even a simple neon tester to determine what wires are present.

To add a receptacle you need a proper hot, neutral and ground wire.

Watch out: if the "hot" wire in your light switch is on a 3-way circuit you may not always have power at your add-on receptacle.

Reader Question: how do I wire multi-way light switches so that all switches can be "down" or "up" when the lights are all off.

How should multiple way light switches be wired so that when all switches are down/up the light is off? Only some of the two-way switches in the house are working that way. With the 3-way and 4-way there's always one switch that has to be opposite the others.
Thx, Jim


Jim this is one of my favorite questions - thanks. Because a circuit with two or more "three-way" switches installed can be turned on or off from any of the switches on the circuit, it is impossible to wire the circuit so that when the circuit is "OFF" all of the switches are in a predictable position, say "down" (which we like to use to mean "off").

Imagine that all the switches are "down" and the lights are off (which is a possible case). Someone turns the lights ON at switch #1.

When someone wants to turn that light OFF, IF and ONLY IF that very same switch (now in the "up" position) is used, then by definition they are going to be using some other switch (now in the "down" position). When that "other" switch is used to turn lights off, it was "down" and is now switched "up".

You can't get there from here on a conventional 120V 3 or 4 or n-way lighting circuit.

Reader Question: n-way light switch wiring

I have one line with power coming into a box that will have one two way switch, one three way switch and one power line exiting. Is it proper to splice the incoming black wire to make 3 black wires by pig tailing with wire connectors and doing the same for the white wire and ground? - is it ok? 12/13/12


I'm sorry but I'm confused by the question. I think it's safe to say that in general it's common practice to use a twist-on connector to splice pigtails or individual wires at an individual hot or neutral wire where more connections are needed than fit with the original wire.

Just watch out to avoid violating the space or number of connectors permitted in a junction box of the particular size you're working on.

Article Series Contents

If you are wiring a 2-wire electrical circuit that has no ground wire, also see CONNECTION for 2-WIRE RECEPTACLE CIRCUITS for proper wiring details.


Continue reading at ELECTRICAL RECEPTACLE CONNECTION DETAILS or select a topic from closely-related articles below, or see our complete INDEX to RELATED ARTICLES below.

Or see ELECTRICAL OUTLET, HOW TO ADD & WIRE - home - for general wiring procedures, connections & advice for connecting electrical receptacles.


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