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  1. #1
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    Default Baffling switched receptacles question.

    In this condo living room, the building is 5 years old, three duplex receptacles appear to be controlled by a light switch. No ceiling fixture. Switch off, the lower halves of receptacles 1, 2, and 3 are energized and the top halves are dead. Switch on, the upper halves of receptacles 1 and 2 come on, and the lower halves go dead. The upper half of receptacle 3 never comes on and there is some soot there.

    What could be going on here? An electrician will be fixing it, but I've not been able to picture the reason for this puzzle.

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    Default Re: Baffling switched receptacles question.

    Some guessing here, but I suspect the toggle switch was at some point replaced with a 3 way switch. I've seen a lot of wiring jobs where one wire is poked into the back hole in the switch and another wire wrapped around the screw. Someone not knowing better may have split up the hot wire and the wire for the constant hot half of the receptacle and wound up switching both halves, each on a different switch setting.

    The half that never cones on - entirely too many possibilities


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    Default Re: Baffling switched receptacles question.

    For clarification, were you using an outlet tester, a meter between hot and neutral, a meter between hot and ground, a voltage sensor or an actual load for testing?
    Did any other switches in the vicinity have any effect?
    Were the outlets "extra", in that, if they were not there, code requirements would still have been met?
    If they are extra, it could be explained by a "mood lighting" need. But, it doesn't sound like it.
    Except for outlet #3, which might still have voltage coming to it, but something in the outlet is fried. Or something else.

    Bruce M Audretsch

  4. #4
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    Default Re: Baffling switched receptacles question.

    It sounds like the tab between the upper & lower receptacle was severed so they operate independently. Also,sounds like they were wired to a 3 way switch. Maybe the homeowner had some scheme of home entertainment lighting or functionality that required that. Outlet 3 may have shorted in response to the homeowners strange ideas.


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    Default Re: Baffling switched receptacles question.

    Quote Originally Posted by Phil Brody View Post
    It sounds like the tab between the upper & lower receptacle was severed so they operate independently. Also,sounds like they were wired to a 3 way switch. Maybe the homeowner had some scheme of home entertainment lighting or functionality that required that. Outlet 3 may have shorted in response to the homeowners strange ideas.
    I think you got something there. Turn on the mood music and turn off the lights with one switch...How smooth!


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    Default Re: Baffling switched receptacles question.

    Maybe connect the gas fireplace to the mood music circuit as well. Extra smooth.

    Jim Robinson
    New Mexico, USA

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    Default Re: Baffling switched receptacles question.

    There is only the one switch. I wish now that I'd removed the switch cover at least. No, I don't do voltage checks as a rule. I am not an electrician. I used a 3-light tester. When I flipped the light switch, the TV turned off. That's a load.
    My first thought was 3-way switching (two switches), but that is not the case. From the general deferred maintenance in the place, I don't think the sellers owned a screwdriver.

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  8. #8
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    Default Re: Baffling switched receptacles question.

    a 3 way switch by itself would function that way depending on how you connect it.


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    Default Re: Baffling switched receptacles question.

    Quote Originally Posted by Phil Brody View Post
    a 3 way switch by itself would function that way depending on how you connect it.
    Thanks. I'll bet the plan changed from 3-way to a single, and that it has been screwy for 5 years.

    Update - the electrician found a 3-way switch in there, replaced it and that solved the problem. We'll never know why that was done.

    Last edited by John Kogel; 10-15-2011 at 10:18 PM.
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  10. #10
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    Default Re: Baffling switched receptacles question.

    The "electrician" should have replace the three way switch with a double gang switch, allowing the customer to kill both the lower and upper halves of the receptacles at the same time. If there is a fault condition or maintenance is needed there will always be power there, you would have to
    turn off the main breaker.


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    Default Re: Baffling switched receptacles question.

    Quote Originally Posted by James Roschbach View Post
    The "electrician" should have replace the three way switch with a double gang switch, allowing the customer to kill both the lower and upper halves of the receptacles at the same time. If there is a fault condition or maintenance is needed there will always be power there, you would have to
    turn off the main breaker.
    Say what? This situation appears to be one where half a receptacle was intended to be switched and the other half hot all the time. At some point someone, for whatever reason, put in a single 3 way switch and now has things wired so either the top or bottom of the receptacle is hot but not both at the same time -just a bit unusual.

    From the sound of the situation there is a single hot wire feeding the receptacles and if both halves need to be switched a single pole switch will do the job. Installing a 2 pole switch would accomplish nothing.

    Repairs need to be done with the breaker off anyway - way too easy for someone to turn on a switch when someone is working on a circuit


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    Default Re: Baffling switched receptacles question.

    Thanks, Bill, you nailed it first, then I passed that info on like it was my very own brainwave.

    FTR, a single pole switch on the upper halves was all that was needed. I'm sure he sorted out the hots for the bottom halves and connected them together with a wire nut. (Marcel, ca c'est un marrette).

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    Default Re: Baffling switched receptacles question.

    Replacing the incorrect equipment for the switch still doesn't resolve the concern about the 3rd receptacle location - i.e. scortch/soot at top half.The receptacle may have also been replaced, for example, and not had the tab removed or been miswired to afford safe switching of only half.


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    Default Re: Baffling switched receptacles question.

    Quote Originally Posted by H.G. Watson, Sr. View Post
    Replacing the incorrect equipment for the switch still doesn't resolve the concern about the 3rd receptacle location - i.e. scortch/soot at top half.The receptacle may have also been replaced, for example, and not had the tab removed or been miswired to afford safe switching of only half.
    That's right. That got repaired too, by the electrician, but I wasn't told how. I mis-spoke in my post, the replacement switch was all that was needed to repair the switching mystery.

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    Default Re: Baffling switched receptacles question.

    Switching the top and bottom of a duplex receptacle off a 3way switch maybe odd but not inherently wrong.


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    Default Re: Baffling switched receptacles question.

    [quote=Phil Brody;180100]Switching the top and bottom of a duplex receptacle off a 3way switch maybe odd but not inherently wrong.[/quote
    Phil,
    I think you're right, but only as long as the receptacle is "extra", as in, not required to meet code.
    Comments are welcome.

    Bruce M Audretsch

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    Default Re: Baffling switched receptacles question.

    Quote Originally Posted by Phil Brody View Post
    Switching the top and bottom of a duplex receptacle off a 3way switch maybe odd but not inherently wrong.
    Of course it isn't wrong. It is normal for a living room with no ceiling fixture and 2 entrys, for 1/2 of several receptacles to be controlled by 2 light switches. Master bedrooms will sometimes have a wall switch by the bed and one by the door controlling a couple of outlets. It is normal. But who wants their clock alarm on a switch?
    If you have to use a 3 way switch as a single pole switch, you can do that, too. In this case it was screwed up. Amateur handiwork.

    As far as code required outlets is concerned, that is a question for the NEC experts, but I believe as long as one half of a duplex receptacle is always energized, that is sufficient to meet the requirement.

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    Default Re: Baffling switched receptacles question.

    [quote=bruce audretsch;180122]
    Quote Originally Posted by Phil Brody View Post
    Switching the top and bottom of a duplex receptacle off a 3way switch maybe odd but not inherently wrong.[/quote
    Phil,
    I think you're right, but only as long as the receptacle is "extra", as in, not required to meet code.
    Comments are welcome.
    There's no reason at all a receptacle can't be switched as described. There's also no reason that entire receptacles can't be switched.

    The NEC has requirements for receptacle spacing along walls. How those receptacles are circuited is left to those who will be using them.


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    Default Re: Baffling switched receptacles question.

    If the entire duplex is switched it will not count as the required 6/12 receptacle. It is now considered the lighting outlet and not the receptacle. A hlaf controlled receptacle would satisfy the 6/12 spacing. I think this was clarified in the 08 NEC.

    All answers based on unamended National Electrical codes.

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    Default Re: Baffling switched receptacles question.

    Quote Originally Posted by Jim Port View Post
    If the entire duplex is switched it will not count as the required 6/12 receptacle. It is now considered the lighting outlet and not the receptacle. A hlaf controlled receptacle would satisfy the 6/12 spacing. I think this was clarified in the 08 NEC.
    I think that if you read both 210.52 and 210.70(A)1 exception 1, the language is such that if an entire receptacle intended to be used for the lighting outlet was switched it can't count for the 6/12 requirement. There is nothing that says that after the requirement for a (single) lighting outlet is satisfied that the other receptacles can't be switched. If a ceiling lighting outlet is present then none of the receptacles in the room are the "required" lighting outlet and they can all be switched. Probably not the intent but the language doesn't prohibit switched general use receptacles.


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    Default Re: Baffling switched receptacles question.

    As long as that switch is appropriately rated to safely interrupt/inrush the LOAD.

    Since the receptacles have to be rated at a minimum 125V 15A, not supposed to be "loaded" above 12 Amps if part of a multi-outlet bc...(Art. 404 part II & 404.14, & 210.6(A)(2), 210.7(A), 210.11 & 220.10).

    Haven't seen many residential grade general use snap switches rated for much over 1,000 Watts, are there any?

    You'd need at least a switch rated closer to 1500W, 1440 VA 1/4 HP to safely interrupt or inrush a 12A household vacuum cleaner starting up with the carpet beater brush engaged fed from a 15A face duplex receptacle. Nope, that's not right, even a residential grade general use AC only snap switch is only allowed to interrupt a motor load at 80 percent of its (the switch's) rating. A "commercial grade" or an AC/DC general use snap switch is limited to interrupting a motor load at 50% of its rating....

    rated switch to 1920VA for those 20A face, 20A circuit supplied receptacles on a multi-outlet general purpose branch circuit (permissible loading 16A any one receptacle).

    Don't see a permissive use residential OUTSIDE those designated as LIGHTING OUTLETS or individual branch circuits, or "special use" outlets, but not for general use multi-outlet branch circuit for switched receptacles not designated as for general lighting requirement use.

    Is anyone making a listed residential grade general use snap switch only, single circuit, rated to interrupt or pass through a load in excess of 1400 watts 125V 15- or 20-A not limited or special use? What UL category code is it?

    Seems by the nature of the thing (general use receptacle on multi-outlet branch circuit plus switch controlled receptacles with mixed loads and/or inductive loads) - and not familiar with a presently listed, marketed general use AC only snap switch interchangable being able to be installed rated to inrush or interrupt a mixed or inductive load allowed on a general-use multi-outlet branch circuit recepacle - I'm not seeing how it would be permissible. Granted, several special use switches, such as those for multiple padle fan with luminaires or those heater/paddle fan/luminaire combination but those aren't general use snap switches.

    Plus with all the appliances that require trickle current for program settings, or to keep caps charged for instant on, etc. it (switched general use receptacles), would be a real nusiance where same is plugged in.


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    Default Re: Baffling switched receptacles question.

    The above post was referencing the one immediatly prior, I thought I had hit the quote function, but apparently did not. Was responding to this:

    Quote Originally Posted by Bill Kriegh View Post
    I think that if you read both 210.52 and 210.70(A)1 exception 1, the language is such that if an entire receptacle intended to be used for the lighting outlet was switched it can't count for the 6/12 requirement. There is nothing that says that after the requirement for a (single) lighting outlet is satisfied that the other receptacles can't be switched. If a ceiling lighting outlet is present then none of the receptacles in the room are the "required" lighting outlet and they can all be switched. Probably not the intent but the language doesn't prohibit switched general use receptacles.
    Seems there used to be a definition or clarification somewhere...perhaps I'm recalling the listing standards for the switches...in conjunction with the delays for circuit breaker should the circuit supplying be temporarily overloaded with multiple appliances in use...not sure.

    P.S. couldn't the exact symptoms described OP be indication of a 4-way switch employed in error, instead of a 3-way?

    Last edited by H.G. Watson, Sr.; 10-18-2011 at 06:41 PM.

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    Default Re: Baffling switched receptacles question.

    Quote Originally Posted by H.G. Watson, Sr. View Post
    As long as that switch is appropriately rated to safely interrupt/inrush the LOAD.

    Since the receptacles have to be rated at a minimum 125V 15A, not supposed to be "loaded" above 12 Amps if part of a multi-outlet bc...(Art. 404 part II & 404.14, & 210.6(A)(2), 210.7(A), 210.11 & 220.10).

    Haven't seen many residential grade general use snap switches rated for much over 1,000 Watts, are there any?

    You'd need at least a switch rated closer to 1500W, 1440 VA 1/4 HP to safely interrupt or inrush a 12A household vacuum cleaner starting up with the carpet beater brush engaged fed from a 15A face duplex receptacle. Nope, that's not right, even a residential grade general use AC only snap switch is only allowed to interrupt a motor load at 80 percent of its (the switch's) rating. A "commercial grade" or an AC/DC general use snap switch is limited to interrupting a motor load at 50% of its rating....

    rated switch to 1920VA for those 20A face, 20A circuit supplied receptacles on a multi-outlet general purpose branch circuit (permissible loading 16A any one receptacle).

    Don't see a permissive use residential OUTSIDE those designated as LIGHTING OUTLETS or individual branch circuits, or "special use" outlets, but not for general use multi-outlet branch circuit for switched receptacles not designated as for general lighting requirement use.

    Is anyone making a listed residential grade general use snap switch only, single circuit, rated to interrupt or pass through a load in excess of 1400 watts 125V 15- or 20-A not limited or special use? What UL category code is it?

    Seems by the nature of the thing (general use receptacle on multi-outlet branch circuit plus switch controlled receptacles with mixed loads and/or inductive loads) - and not familiar with a presently listed, marketed general use AC only snap switch interchangable being able to be installed rated to inrush or interrupt a mixed or inductive load allowed on a general-use multi-outlet branch circuit recepacle - I'm not seeing how it would be permissible. Granted, several special use switches, such as those for multiple padle fan with luminaires or those heater/paddle fan/luminaire combination but those aren't general use snap switches.

    Plus with all the appliances that require trickle current for program settings, or to keep caps charged for instant on, etc. it (switched general use receptacles), would be a real nusiance where same is plugged in.
    Just playing the devil's advocate here, but ...

    I am not aware of any labeling requirements which state that the switched lighting receptacles are "Not to be used for appliances, Lighting Use Only".

    Nor am I aware of any special NEMA configuration which prevents an appliance, such as the aforementioned vacuum cleaner, from being plugged into any switched lighting receptacle either.

    Maybe I have just missed it?

    If the missus (or anyone else) plugs the vacuum cleaner into a switch receptacle outlet, my guess is that she/whomever is just as likely to operate the switch and use that switched receptacle outlet as they are to start going around the room to find a receptacle outlet which is not switched.

    Besides, if the switched receptacle is on the same strap as an non-switched small appliance branch circuit receptacle in a dining room or similar room, that receptacle is likely to also be on that same 20 amp small appliance branch circuit.

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    Default Re: Baffling switched receptacles question.

    Quote Originally Posted by Jerry Peck View Post
    Just playing the devil's advocate here, but ...

    I am not aware of any labeling requirements which state that the switched lighting receptacles are "Not to be used for appliances, Lighting Use Only".

    Nor am I aware of any special NEMA configuration which prevents an appliance, such as the aforementioned vacuum cleaner, from being plugged into any switched lighting receptacle either.

    Maybe I have just missed it?

    If the missus (or anyone else) plugs the vacuum cleaner into a switch receptacle outlet, my guess is that she/whomever is just as likely to operate the switch and use that switched receptacle outlet as they are to start going around the room to find a receptacle outlet which is not switched.

    Besides, if the switched receptacle is on the same strap as an non-switched small appliance branch circuit receptacle in a dining room or similar room, that receptacle is likely to also be on that same 20 amp small appliance branch circuit.
    Hmmm. ???
    Small-appliance branch circuits "shall have no other outlets" - that includes switched receptacles under 210.70(A)(1) Exception No. 1.

    General Lighting Loads by Occupancy Table 220.12
    Dwelling units 3 Volt-Amperes per square foot

    220.14 Other Loads -- All Occupancies. In all occupancies, the minimum load for each outlet for general-use receptacles and outlets not used for general illumination shall not be less than calculated in 220.14(A) through (L), the loads shown being based on nominal branch-circuit voltages.

    (A) Specific Appliances or Loads. An outlet for a specific appliance or other load not covered in 220.14(B) through (L) shall be calculated based on the ampere rating of the appliance or load served.
    (D) Luminaires. An outlet supplying luminaire(s)_ shall be calculated based on the maximum volt-ampere rating of the equipment and lamps for which the luminaire(s) is rated.
    (J) ...
    210.52 Dwelling Unit Receptacle Outlets. This section provides requirements for 125-volt, 15- and 20-ampere reqceptacle outlets. The receptacles required by this section shall be in addition to any receptacle that is:
    • (1) Part of a luminaire or appliance, or
    • (2) Controlled by a wall switch in accordance with 210.70(A)(1), Exception No. 1, or
    • (3) Located within cabinets or cupboards, or
    • (4) Located more than 1.7 m (5-1/2 ft) above the floor.
    Permanently installed electric baseboard heaters equipped with factory-installed receptacle outlets or outlets provided as a separate assembly by the manufacturer shall be permitted as the required outlet or outlets for the wall space utilized by such permanently installed heaters. Such receptacle outlets shall not be connected to the heater circuits.
    • FPN: Listed baseboard heaters include instructions that may not permit their installation below receptacle outlets.
    (A) General Provisions. In every kitchen, family room, dining room, living room, parlor, library, den, sunroom, bedroom, recreation room, or similar room or area of dwelling units, receptacle outlets shall be installed in accordance with the general provisions specified in 210.52(A)(1) through (A)(3).
    (1) Spacing. Receptacles shall be installed such that no point measured norizontally along the floor line in any wall space is more than 1.8 m 6 ft) from a receptacle outlet.
    (2) Wall Space. As used in this section, a wall space shall include the following: ...
    (3) Floor Receptacles.
    (B) Small Appliances.
    (1) Receptacle Outlets Served. In the kitchen, pantry, breakfast room, dining room, or similar area of a dwelling unit, the two or more 20-ampere small-appliance branch circuits required by 210.11(C)(1) shall serve all wall and floor receptacle outlets covered by 210.52(A), all countertop outlets covered by 210.52(C), and receptacle outlets for refrigeration equipment.
    • Exception No. 1: In addition to the required receptacles specified by 210.52, switched receptacles supplied from a general-purpose branch circuit as defined in 210.70(A)(1), Exception No. 1, shall be permitted.
    I see only ONE specific permission for type specific use,switched receptacle(s) in a Dining Room of a dwelling unit {210.70(A)(1)Ex. No. 1} of switched receptacle allowed in the dining room, that being for general lighting, and which may not be an "outlet" from a small appliance branch circuit.

    Are you going back to saying you can have otherwise in a dining room again?

    The general lighting multi-outlet circuit supplying receptacles for same (cord-and-plug-connected loads) under 210.70(A)(1)Ex. No. 1) is 1440 va limited by occupancy type:

    210.6 Branch-Circuit Voltage Limitations. The nominal voltage of branch circuits shall not exceed the values permitted by 210.6(A) through (E)
    (A) Occupancy Limitation. In dwelling units and guest rooms or guest suites of hotels, motels, and similar occupancies, the voltage shall not exceed 120 volts, nominal, between conductors that supply the terminals of the following:
    (1) Luminaires
    (2) Cord-and-plug-connected loads 1440 volt-amperes, nominal, or less or less than 1/4 hp.

    saying one thing shall be permitted, doesn't provide for another being permitted, since only one type of receptacle may be present, save the exceptions, and that is a small appliance branch circuit supplied receptacles which must remain readily accessible. I see no permissive provisions for such to be switched.



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    Default Re: Baffling switched receptacles question.

    Quote Originally Posted by H.G. Watson, Sr. View Post
    Are you going back to saying you can have otherwise in a dining room again?
    I specifically used "dining room" to get your attention - it worked.

    Now that I have your attention ...

    Substitute "living room" for "dining room" and "general use receptacle circuit" for "small appliance branch circuit", now, tell me ...

    Quote Originally Posted by Jerry Peck
    I am not aware of any labeling requirements which state that the switched lighting receptacles are "Not to be used for appliances, Lighting Use Only".

    Nor am I aware of any special NEMA configuration which prevents an appliance, such as the aforementioned vacuum cleaner, from being plugged into any switched lighting receptacle either.

    Maybe I have just missed it?

    If the missus (or anyone else) plugs the vacuum cleaner into a switch receptacle outlet, my guess is that she/whomever is just as likely to operate the switch and use that switched receptacle outlet as they are to start going around the room to find a receptacle outlet which is not switched.
    ... tell me where there is a labeling requirement which would indicate that a switched receptacle IS NOT TO HAVE A SMALL APPLIANCE PLUGGED INTO IT.

    ... tell me where there NEMA has a configuration which prevents a small appliance from being plugged into a switched "lighting" receptacle.

    Now that I have your attention, maybe you will answer those two questions, questions I posed IN MY PREVIOUS POST, and WHICH YOU DID NOT ANSWER ... wait, that is what you typically do -just don't answer things you don't want to answer.

    I am eagerly awaiting your answer to those two questions.

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    Talking Re: Baffling switched receptacles question.

    Quote Originally Posted by Jerry Peck View Post
    I specifically used "dining room" to get your attention - it worked.

    Now that I have your attention ...

    Substitute "living room" for "dining room" and "general use receptacle circuit" for "small appliance branch circuit", now, tell me ...



    ... tell me where there is a labeling requirement which would indicate that a switched receptacle IS NOT TO HAVE A SMALL APPLIANCE PLUGGED INTO IT.

    ... tell me where there NEMA has a configuration which prevents a small appliance from being plugged into a switched "lighting" receptacle.

    Now that I have your attention, maybe you will answer those two questions, questions I posed IN MY PREVIOUS POST, and WHICH YOU DID NOT ANSWER ... wait, that is what you typically do -just don't answer things you don't want to answer.

    I am eagerly awaiting your answer to those two questions.
    You have two options here. You can use "The World and NEC acording to Watson" or the NEC and common sense views the rest of us use.

    You are continually assuming that you (and most of the rest of us) are working out of the same information sources that Watson does.

    Help is available for the condition.


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    Default Re: Baffling switched receptacles question.

    Quote Originally Posted by Bill Kriegh View Post
    You are continually assuming that you (and most of the rest of us) are working out of the same information sources that Watson does.

    To that I do plead guilty ... I am always hoping for the best - I am an optimist at heart, and a realist in the brain.

    Optimist, positive thinking: There is a train coming, if you do not move off the train tracks YOU WILL be run over ... I am POSITIVE of that.

    Pessimist, negative thinking: There is a train coming, there is no need to move off the train tracks as you are going to die anyway, sooner or later ... so no need to bother moving.

    Realist, realistic thinking: That person is a dead man if he does not move off the train tracks.



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    Default Re: Baffling switched receptacles question.

    Quote Originally Posted by Bill Kriegh View Post
    I think that if you read both 210.52 and 210.70(A)1 exception 1, the language is such that if an entire receptacle intended to be used for the lighting outlet was switched it can't count for the 6/12 requirement. There is nothing that says that after the requirement for a (single) lighting outlet is satisfied that the other receptacles can't be switched. If a ceiling lighting outlet is present then none of the receptacles in the room are the "required" lighting outlet and they can all be switched. Probably not the intent but the language doesn't prohibit switched general use receptacles.
    That is what I was trying to say. I think we just used different wording.

    All answers based on unamended National Electrical codes.

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    Default Re: Baffling switched receptacles question.

    Quote Originally Posted by Jim Port View Post
    That is what I was trying to say. I think we just used different wording.
    I wasn't sure where you were coming from on your post. There are just too many questionable "facts" that get tossed around here.


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    Default Re: Baffling switched receptacles question.

    Quote Originally Posted by Bill Kriegh View Post
    I wasn't sure where you were coming from on your post. There are just too many questionable "facts" that get tossed around here.
    Sorry for the confusion. I use the version published by NFPA to post my information.

    All answers based on unamended National Electrical codes.

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