Remove a light switch without risk?

This is a question about home electrical wiring, probably trivially easy for anyone who knows what they’re doing (which I confess I do not):

I have a room in my house where the light switch is wired to a grounded electrical outlet. That is, if you turn the switch “on”, the outlet gets power. If you flick the switch “off,” the outlet is dead. I want to take out the switch, patch the wall, and set it up so I’ll always have power to the outlet.

Can I simply (after taking basic safety precautions, natch) remove the switch, connect the black wire to the white wire, insulate them, and be done with it? Or is there a danger to this idea that I’m overlooking?

Answer: Yes, but not safely. or No, not until you turn the power off to the room, via your circuit box.

The switch has no effect or function when it’s removed, so the white wire is live and you are the black wire when you touch it. :smack:

bzzzttt grrrrt ZAP :eek:

to add: once you turn the power off to the room, you can connect the wires just fine… however, i’m not sure if that’ll make a sudden jump in your power consumption… :confused:

It’s not difficult, but I must say I’m kinda curious as to why you’d want to do this.

Two NEC problems:

  1. Never connect black and white wires anywhere.
  2. All boxes must be accesible

Probably 1) is not an issue, as both wires on the switch should be black. But 2) will not allow you to patch over the box. You must use a blank cover or run new wire(s) to the outlet (bypassing the switch box).

Of course turn off and lock out the breaker, test for voltage at the switch, etc. before touching anything.

The power consumption will be that of whatever is connected to the outlet - no sudden jump simply because the outlet is now permamemtly ‘hot’.

Perhaps because something like a computer is connected to the outlet, and it’s annoying to have it turned off by someone who’s trying to operate the room lights.

I kinda wonder, why bother as well.

Technically, I don’t think ‘code’ would let you just wire nut and bury them in the wall. I believe you would be required to splice them and put a blank cover over the box instead of the light switch cover.

I do a lot of my own remodeling, and have buried dead ended or spliced wires in the wall (in my own house) But I try to avoid it. I wire nut them, and then tape them up using first rubber elec tape and then vinal. The tape is to ensure that the wire nut stays in place, and I’m a bit OCD about such things. Spliced wires get crimped. The crimp is a short hollow tube that covers both wires and is then crushed to hold them in place. I would then put shrink tubing around it. Make sure you slide the shrink tubing on the wire before you splice it :smack:

No problem, but there’s a couple of things you need to do first:

  1. Get a circuit tester or digital multimeter, and use this to check for line voltage. That way, you have conclusive proof that the circuit is not live when you switch off the appropriate breaker (or remove the appropriate fuse, depending on how old the construction is).

  2. You can’t seal a splice up in the wall, but you can do pretty much anything you want, provided it is accessable. In this case, go down to your nearest Home Depot or similar, and get yourself a junction box that is the same size as the switch you are removing. Incidentally, is the switch grounded? If you purchase a metal junction box, this allows you to attach the box to the ground wire, and then any subsequent wiring you do in the box can use it as a ground connection.

  3. To connect the wires themselves, get a box of Marrette connectors appropriate to the size of wires you are joining. If you don’t know the wire gauge, purchase a box of assorted sizes so that you can find the best fit.

  4. Purchase a blanking plate to cover the junction box. These are available off the shelf in white and off-white plastic types, or painted steel or brushed steel types. Regardless, you can always paint it to match your wall.

  5. With about 5/8 of an inch of insulation removed from the end of each wire, twist them together slightly, and then screw on the Marrette connector. I like to then use vinyl electrical insulating tape to further secure the connector to the joined wires. One other thing I might do in your case is to attach a tag, label or even a brief written note explaining what the wires are, in case you or anyone who comes long after you wants to install a switch on that particular outlet.

  6. Install the cover plate, and you’re done.

Just to add to the above, I suppose you could splice them together and bury them in the wall permanently, provided the splice and how it was mounted in the wall conforms to your local building code, but then you have to be familiar with the code, and possibly have the wiring certified. This is an insurance issue, which is the sort of thing that would prompt me to use a certified electrician. The former method is simpler, easier for the do-it-yourself’er, and is more versatile since you can always put a switch in later without any hassle.

If there are only two wires in the box holding the switch, and one of them is black while the other is white, then splicing them won’t cause a problem. If, (as is the case in many boxes in my house) there are more than two wires in the box holding the switch, only splice together the two that are connected to the switch itself.

If you are intent on covering this box up after you are done, I would recommend soldering all splices in the box before wirenutting. I do not like to tape over wirenuts, but that’s a personal preference. The solder will ensure a solid connection that shouldn’t come loose over time.

Just a couple of things.

  1. Solid core wire should not be crimped in splices. A properly crimped wire is crushed to the point of removing the spaces between the strands of wire. This cannot be done with a single solid strand. My state and I sure many others do not allow for mechanical crimping of household wiring. Wire nuts are the preferred method. Parallel soldering is also a good a legal method. And instead of heat shrink, use a self sealing rubber tape. It has a much higher dilectric properties than heat shrink. Home Depot sells it, Scotch type 70 is the most popular. We even use it in the building of commercial airplanes to insulate the splices in power feeder wiring.

  2. If the switch has only a white and black wire attached, that circuit probably has only a single leg disconnect. This means only the hot wire was cut, a length of romex long enough to reach the switch box was pulled and hooked up to the switch. If you have access to the area above the switch (such as an attic) it should be easy to find the electrical connection. If that is the case, shut off the power, remove the wire nuts from the wires going to the switch and wire nut the hot wire back together. You can then pull out the drop wire and fill the hole in the wall where the switch was located. I had to replace some wiring to some outside lighting at my house and was dismayed to find this is how the lights were wired. Instead of just pulling in a new piece of wire between the light and switch, I had to climb into my attic and run in new wiring to both the light and switch.

TheLoadedDog unlike homes in Australia power outlets in north American homes are not controlled by a switch as in Australian homes. The only switches are for lights and in some cases lights are run off the power outlets such as in the case with lamps. You wont see a power outlet that you plug you toaster into with a switch beside it. I believe it’s got something or rather to do with the whole 240v Aust 110v North American thing. Regular power outlets this side of the pond there is no “on/off” switch. And if it is controlled by a switch the switch will be where you would expect for find the light switch.

American style outlet
Australian style outlet

Hope that helps.

As for connecting a white wire to a black wire, this is acceptable IF those 2 wires are part of what is known as a switch loop. Basically, a length of Romex™ has been routed to a light switch (or in this case an outlet). It has been wired in such a way that when the white and black wires are connected, a circuit is completed and a light is turned “ON” (or an outlet in this case).
IF the wiring was done properly, the white wire should be coded black usually with a black marker or a piece of black tape. (Not surprisingly, sometimes people forget to do this).

Can you splice the line and line return of a switch leg and bury it in the wall? Yes. As noted above, it is a code violation, as boxes, conduit bodies, and handhole enclosures shall be installed so that the wiring contained in them can be rendered accessible without removing any part of the building… (314.29)

Furthermore, there may be another prohibition. At least one wall switch-controlled lighting outlet shall be installed in every habitable room and bathroom.
Exception No. 1: In other than kitchens and bathrooms, one or more receptacles controlled by a wall switch shall be permitted in lieu of lighting outlets.
(210.70(1)) So, unless there is a ceiling or wall mounted lighting outlet with fixture attached thereto, this is a secondary violation.

Additional comments-there is no prohibition on the use of an irreversible crimp fitting on solid conductors. Although employed mostly on larger wire sizes, so long as a connector is used in a manner consistent with its listing and labeling, no violation exists.

Soldering can also be done (but the next electrician will curse you) provided that a solid mechanical connection is first made. (110.14) Up through #10, everybody uses wire nuts, above #10 either a split-bolt or irreversible crimp.

References: National Electrical Code 2005 edition.

these things are available in hardware stores.

Thanks for the replies!

Cool, wire nuts are easier anyway. I have seen and used uninsulated, crimp fasteners, my brother gave me a handful of them. Interesting about the tape as well. I thought that shrink tubing would be better cause it could’t possible dry out and un-wrap (or something). Anyway, I do like the rubber tape, I’ll continue using it. Good tips.

Check your local codes as well. IIRC around here a room that does not have a hardwired overhead light must have a switch-controlled outlet.

May not mean much to you now, but it could creep up in the inspection report if you decide to sell years later.

I did something like this in my house. The original builder had put an alcove in the living room that had glass display cases with internal lighting in it. When she sold us the home, she took the cases with her, leaving a nicely finished alcove with two switched outlets in it. We put our television armoire in the alcove, but it kept getting switched off by mistake. I just removed the switch, joined the two wires with a wire nut, and replaced the switch in the wall; that way, I didn’t have to patch the wall or match the paint, and I can easily put it back if need be. Nobody looks twice at a lightswitch, and I believe that keeping the splice in the junction box gives you some fire protection, and keeps it within code. Just make sure you’re not dealing with a three-way switch, which is a lot more complicated.

If you’re putting on a wire nut, it’s imperative that you get a good mechanical connection first. I’ve seen a number of connections with wire nuts where someone just held the wires together and twisted the nut on. Get a pair of good pliers, and twist the wired together solidly first.