Sometimes tapping into an existing light switch to power up another outlet save our time and the hassle of installing a new power circuit for a new outlet. But is it as convenient as we think? Or, Is it even possible at all? The answer is YES and NO. Because it entirely depends on your electrical system, which decides whether it will allow tapping into a light switch for power.
A switch mainly controls the power from the circuit. Turning on the switch allows the light to draw current from the circuit. On the other hand, it prevents the current flow when you turn the switch off. While tapping into an existing light switch for power, you have to consider some aspects of the electrical system.
And in this article, while answering your question regarding tapping into a light source for power, we will cover everything you must know.
How Does Light Switch Wiring Work?
Let’s first see how a light switch wiring works.
There are basically two ways of wiring a light fixture with the switchboard. The wiring mainly depends on where the current reaches first. There are two options. The power will directly flow to the light box through the switchboard. Two, the power comes to the switch box and then to the lightbox. The first method is called end-line switches, and the latter is called power-through switches.
In power through wiring, the power first comes to the switch through a hot wire, and then the switch box provides the required flow of current to the lightbox. In this wiring, two wires are attached to the switch box—one that carries the current from the power board and another that carries the current to the lightbox.
What To Consider While Tapping into A Light Switch for Power?
You need to consider a few things before you tap into a light switch.
The first thing is that you need to check how many outlets are already connected to the circuit. If there are already more than ten outlets connected to the circuit, an additional outlet on the same circuit will pressurize the existing circuit. And in consequence, you will end up breaking the circuit down.
Checking the remaining outlet capacity will not be enough. You also need to make sure the device you will be running by tapping into the light switch should be of light load, such as a table lamp.
The next thing that you must check is how the circuit is wired. You can connect the new outlet with the neutral power cord if there is a live power source and switch control. Thus, you will be able to control the additional outlet discretely. But if only the switchboard is holding the power supply, your additional receptacle will run only when the switch is turned on.
Before you decide to tap into the light source, make sure you understand these considerations.
Tapping Into a Light Switch for Power? Step By Step Guide
How will you do it if you have decided to tap into a light source for power considering all possible outcomes? Have you any idea about that? If not, don’t worry. We will delineate the step-by-step process of tapping into a light switch for power.
Electrical switches that we use in our homes are primarily of 110 volts. It draws current from the circuit and passes it onto the light board.
- So, before you start doing the wiring thing, first locate the circuit and turn it off for your safety.
- Remove the switchboard by unscrewing the screws on each corner with a screwdriver. After removing the plastic casing, make sure the switch doesn’t contain current. Use a circuit tester for the purpose.
- Now you will see the switch box is attached to the frame. Bring the switch box and the wiring out as much as it allows.
- Insert the new section of wires for the new receptacles through the side of the box
- Then cut the plastic insulation a few inches to expose the copper conductor inside the white and black wire.
- There is a wire nut that holds the wire into the switch box. Loosen the nut to insert new white cables of the additional receptacles. Put the white wire into the wire hole and twist it with the existing two white wires.
- Now cut a short length of black wire, approximately 7-8 inches in length. Then remove a few inches of plastic insulation from both ends. Then attach one end of that short wire with the exposed wire from the box and twist it together. Finally, attach that twisted end of the black wires with the wire nut.
- Detach the black wire that has already been inserted into the contact of the switch and connect the wire with the two twisted black wires. Then connect the three twisted black wires with the wire nut.
- Now, remember the short black wire we twisted with two other black cables? That short wire had the other end exposed. So directly attach that short wire’s exposed back to the switch’s control.
- Make sure that one of the three wires is connected with the grounding screw into the box.
- Now push the switch box back into its place and cover it with the switch cover with the screws.
Now you are just left to test what you have done.
TIP: While using a new section of wires, ensure the gauge size is similar to the existing wire you are tapping into.
The step described in this writeup is for un-switched power from the panel. If you want to have a switch to control, don’t remove the connected black wire on the contact of the switch. And connect the two new black cables with the existing black wire already attached to the electrical element.
Frequently Asked Questions
How Do You Get Continuous Power from A Light Switch?
Yes. In that case, you have to check whether the power is going to the light box directly or via the switchboard. If the power is going to the switch to the light box, you will have to connect a non-switched wire directly from the power source to the switch box to the location where you want your new light fixture outlet.
Can You Turn a Light Switch into an Electrical Outlet?
The answer is YES. Turning a light switch into an electrical outlet is not a big deal. But as the functions of the light switch and electrical outlet are different from one another, the wiring can be tricky for you to figure out. In that case, if you intend to turn a light switch to an outlet, we recommend you call a certified electrician.
You can tap into a light source for power in certain conditions that we have discussed above. If the conditions permit you to act on it, you are good to tap into the light source. But always remember that whatever device you put on the existing circuit must be of light load. Tapping into a light source for high-powered devices like a washing machine or TV, requiring a single circuit itself, will not be a cerebral decision.