Removing a switch

by Ken   Last Updated September 11, 2019 02:21 AM - source

I have a light switch that turns on an electrical outlet. I want to remove the light switch completely and leave the electrical outlet always "on".

When I turned the power off to the room and unscrewed the light switch, i noticed 3 black wires: 2 of them were screwed on the same side of the switch on different screws, but there was a 3rd black wire that was connected to the back (pushed in and held by a spring).

I was thinking the 2 wires made sense, that switch, when turned on would connect the wire together, and when off would break the connection. So I thought connecting the 2 wires would always leave that electrical outlet on. But now I'm a bit confused because I dont know what that 3rd black wire does and what the next steps are?

Picture: the switch to the right controls the light on the ceiling. The switch on the left that I want removed use to control under cabinet lights in the laundry, but I removed those and installed electrical outlets instead.

As you can see I already removed the 2 black wires and capped them in the mean time. I was thinking I would need to connect them together and this would make the outlet 'on', but thought I'd ask here first! enter image description here

Answers 1

Why did you have 3 wires?

There are two typical reasons why you would have 3 wires on one switch:

3-Way Switch

A 3-way switch will have one wire that is either hot or switched-hot (depending on the position of the switch relative to the switched device) and two wires that are travelers.

If you have a 3-way switch then normally you will have another 3-way switch elsewhere. (Sometimes a 3-way switch will be used as a regular switch just because it was available, but then you will only have 2 wires.)

Power to Someplace Else

Very often power will go to one switch and on to another switch or unswitched receptacles or something else. If that's the case, you will have one hot "in", one hot "out" and a switched-hot. Very often people will use a backstab ("pushed in and held by a spring") simply as an easy way to get an extra wire connected to the switch instead of using pigtails and wire nuts.

What do you have?

If the switch has only 2 screws, then it is a regular switch and this is definitely "power to someplace else".

If the switch has 3 screws then it is a 3-way switch. However, since your 3rd wire was on a backstab connection rather than a screw, the key question is what color screws were used? If they were the same color then the switch was used as a 3-way switch. If they were different colors and the backstab wire was electrically connected to one of those two screws (check with a multimeter) then it was used as a regular switch. If they were different colors and the backstab wire was electrically connected to the 3rd screw then it was used as a 3-way switch.

What should you do?

If you have a regular switch then simply connect all 3 wires together. That will join the incoming hot, the outgoing (to someplace else) hot and the not-switched-any-more hot to the receptacles.

If you have a 3-way switch then you should try to identify the other 3-way switch - they normally come in pairs. Then in place of both switches pick one of the travelers and connect it to the hot wire and cap off (wire nut) the other traveler.

September 11, 2019 02:10 AM

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