Experienced Electrician for Salt Lake City & St. George Utah Areas

Mystery Switch: How To Know What Switches Do In Your House?

How to know what switches do in your house
It’s a common story—you bought a house, and even after a year or so of living in your home, you still don’t know where that one mystery light switch connects with the rest of your electrical system. Sometimes these oddball switches are next to normal light switches but don’t seem to do anything. At other times, mystery switches are tucked away in closets and other out-of-the-way corners of the house.

To help alleviate your concerns around your home’s extra switch, HedgeHog Electric is here to assist in getting to the bottom of the mystery of the disconnected switch.

Check If The Switch Is Live

First things first, you should check if the switch is even connected to your home’s electrical system. A component that is connected is considered “live” as a live electrical current is running through the wiring.

You can easily check if your mystery switch is live by using a voltage tester, which is available at any home improvement store and generally costs between $16-$40, depending on the style and brand. Once you have a voltage tester, take the cover off of your light switch. Depending on the style of voltage tester you have, there are slightly different ways to check. Generally, if you chose a no-contact tester—it looks like a large highlighter—you can simply bring the tester near the switch’s wires and turn the switch on. The voltage tester will indicate if the switch is live, also called hot, and you should turn off the switch and replace the cover plate.

What To Do If The Switch Is Not Live

If your mystery switch is not live, it may just be a relic of a forgotten project. The older the home—or the greater disrepair you purchase it in—pretty much guarantees there will be some odd “improvements” made to your home.

You can simply ignore your disconnected switch, or you can remove the switch and cap the wires. If you choose to cap the wires, be sure to use electrical tape, then wire caps on the wires that you disconnect from the switch. You can tuck the capped wires into the switch receptacle and place a blank wall plate where the switch was located.

How To Check A Live Switch Connection

If you are determined to know where your live switch leads, you have two basic options—pick up a wire tracer for $40-$100 or to call in our electricians. Should you prefer to give it a go on your own, you will need to re-open the light switch plate and connect the wire tracer.

This device will create a distinctive tone and send that tone down the wire. That way, you can follow the mystery switch wires through the wall to their connection point. Funny enough, some of the most common reasons mystery switches exist is because they power something on the outside of the house. Anything from an outlet for Christmas lights hidden along the eaves to an unobtrusive outdoor light is some possible endpoints for your mystery switch.

Should you find no source for your live light switch, you can bring in our electricians to trace your electrical wiring. Once they have found the source, you can choose to have it disconnected, keep the switch connected to the system and have our electricians check to be sure it is safe, or utilize that switch in a new way.

Ways An Electrician Can Help You Use Your Spare Switch

Your mystery switch doesn’t have to be a random spare part in your electrical system. Instead, with the help of our electricians, you can try different ways to utilize your spare switch.

Connect a ceiling fan to the switch.
Add task lighting to be controlled by the light switch.
Have our electricians connect it to an outlet so that you can control that receptacle’s electrical flow.
If you would like to explore your options when it comes to your home’s mystery switch or have other electrical work that you need to be done by licensed electricians, HedgeHog Electric is here to help. Feel free to contact us to set up a consultation so that we can help you review your options and determine what works best for your needs.

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