Power to the PC?
September 8, 2011 2:16 PM   Subscribe

My fiancee wants to move some stuff around in the home office. This requires the PC and a few other pieces of "always on" equipment be plugged into a receptacle that is controlled by a light switch. Inevitably, someone will come into the room and turn off the switch not realizing it will turn off a computer and other equipment without turning off a light. What to do about it?

Ideas we've discussed:
- Tape up the light switch so it can't be turned off. (ugly and impractical.)
- Remove light switch, join wires to make an always on circuit and cover with plastic plate. (ugly yet somewhat useful)
- Remove light switch and replace with a single gang receptacle. (Useful even if it makes for odd placement of said receptacle.)

Another idea that I don't know how to execute or if it can even be done:
Can I wire existing single gang receptacle or replace it with a special single gang receptacle so that one of the sockets is controlled by the light switch while the other is always on? Or would this require adding a second single gang receptacle which would leave the existing receptacle controlled by the switch and the other not controlled by the switch?

This is in a US household with 110V electric. I am capable of most internal household electric projects but have not come across this particular need in the past.

So, what to do?
posted by brokeaspoke to Home & Garden (32 answers total)
 
buy a UPS?

the first time someone switches off the light and the alarm goes off it'll never happen again
posted by Oktober at 2:17 PM on September 8, 2011 [1 favorite]


You could just get an UPS. It will smooth out the power and make things happier and longer lasting anyways.
posted by rockindata at 2:17 PM on September 8, 2011 [1 favorite]


Yeah, an uninterriputible power supply would do it. I would remove the switch and join the wires so it's an always on circuit, and cover the plastic plate with wrapping paper.
posted by craven_morhead at 2:18 PM on September 8, 2011


Depending on how the house is wired it may be very simple for an electrician to install a split receptacle where one socket is controlled by the switch and the other is always on. Someone who knows household wiring could probably tell by looking at the wiring in a couple minutes.
posted by GuyZero at 2:18 PM on September 8, 2011 [2 favorites]


The easiest thing to do would just be to install a light switch guard/lock on it. This isn't ugly like tape, and is easily changeable if, in the future, you or someone else does want to put a light in that outlet (especially if there's no overhead light).

Here is an example from amazon, but there are other types.
posted by brainmouse at 2:20 PM on September 8, 2011 [5 favorites]


Put a large bookcase or something in front of the light switch, so no one sees it.
posted by Metroid Baby at 2:20 PM on September 8, 2011 [1 favorite]


Just screw one of these guys on.
posted by Rock Steady at 2:21 PM on September 8, 2011 [1 favorite]


A UPS will figure in the picture ultimately. I'm not worried about house inhabitants, it's just the two of us and sometimes my daughter. We have a lot of family and friends who visit and stay as guests and might want to use the PC. I'd like to keep our visitors from accidentally cutting the power.
posted by brokeaspoke at 2:21 PM on September 8, 2011


Got $50?
posted by MrMoonPie at 2:21 PM on September 8, 2011


When confronted with a situation like that in my previous home, I removed the switch and twisted the wires together. For whatever reason, the ceiling light in that room was not on a switch, so I repurposed the switch for that by running a new wire.

It worked.
posted by adamrice at 2:23 PM on September 8, 2011


Seconding the light switch lock that brainmouse linked to. The hole at the bottom of the bit of plastic lines up with one of the screw holes that's already above and below your light switch, you just unscrew one of the switch's screws, put the lock into position and attach it using the slightly longer screw that comes with the lock. I've used one exactly like it for years to keep a wall switch from being flipped off. Cost something like $1 for a two pack at the big box hardware store.
posted by jamaro at 2:43 PM on September 8, 2011


Whether you do anything about the switch or not, a UPS is really cheap insurance against things like power spikes.
posted by dws at 2:44 PM on September 8, 2011 [1 favorite]


Remove light switch, join wires to make an always on circuit and cover with plastic plate.

If it's drywall I'd highly recommend removing the light switch and patching the wall. For small holes it's a lot easier than you think.
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 2:54 PM on September 8, 2011


it may be against the electrical code in your area to patch over spliced wires. Generally junction boxes must always be accessible.
posted by GuyZero at 3:00 PM on September 8, 2011 [2 favorites]


Masking tape on the light switch,
posted by irishcoffee at 3:02 PM on September 8, 2011


Remove the switch, twist the wires, replace the switch that now does nothing. Label the switch magic and more-magic.
posted by zengargoyle at 3:11 PM on September 8, 2011 [6 favorites]


Why is an extension cord out of the question? Here's a power strip with 25' to work with.
posted by bhayes82 at 3:12 PM on September 8, 2011


Join wires inside to make the always on circuit for your PC wall outlet and use one of these wireless wall switches to control a lamp elsewhere in the room -- this way you'll still have a useful switch there!
posted by thewildgreen at 3:15 PM on September 8, 2011


I was coming is also to recommend an extension cord. It seems the cheapest and simplest solution.
posted by jb at 3:24 PM on September 8, 2011


it may be against the electrical code in your area to patch over spliced wires. Generally junction boxes must always be accessible.

Good point. I always forget those pesky codes :-)
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 3:26 PM on September 8, 2011


I've been informed an extension cord is a no-go on aesthetic grounds.
posted by brokeaspoke at 3:27 PM on September 8, 2011


Rock Steady has it. Those switch guards screw in easily and quickly and telegraph a very clear do-not-touch message.
posted by thejoshu at 3:35 PM on September 8, 2011


I installed a motion sensor in a storage room with an awkwardly located switch. It has three settings ("off", "motion sensing", and "always on"). This device would let you have the switch be set to "always on" while also eliminating other people's reaction to automically flick off a lightswitch. Plus, it still allows you the option to switch it off if ever needed.
posted by Nightman at 3:35 PM on September 8, 2011


Here's some useful info on splicing wires... scroll down to Step 7
posted by Hairy Lobster at 3:36 PM on September 8, 2011


Tell Me No Lies: If it's drywall I'd highly recommend removing the light switch and patching the wall. For small holes it's a lot easier than you think.

As GuyZero has pointed out: doing this is most likely completely illegal and most certainly very dangerous. In-wall splicing of wires must be done in proper junction boxes and all junction boxes must be accessible, i.e. not patched over.
posted by Hairy Lobster at 3:40 PM on September 8, 2011


Thirding Rock Steady. Keep it simple.
posted by itheearl at 6:27 PM on September 8, 2011


Speaking of code, it's code in North America for bedrooms, living rooms and dining rooms to have a switch on the wall which controls either a ceiling fixture, wall fixture, or at least one side of an outlet. So for the same reason you don't want to drywall over the junction box, you don't want to do anything such that you can't put a switch back in later.
posted by mendel at 6:50 PM on September 8, 2011


"Can I wire existing single gang receptacle or replace it with a special single gang receptacle so that one of the sockets is controlled by the light switch while the other is always on? "

Depends. Pull the outlet out (turning off the breaker first) and see if you have a black and white or a black, red and white wire in the box. If the former then no, not without pulling new wire. If the latter then probably yes.

Nightman's motion sensor switch is an excellent idea though it still allows a helpful person to turn off your equipment. Another option is a locking toggle switch. Basically they work like any other switch but the actual toggle is removable. I suggest taping the toggle to the front of your computer.

mendel writes "So for the same reason you don't want to drywall over the junction box, you don't want to do anything such that you can't put a switch back in later."

Note that a hidden splice is illegal because it's dangerous while a bedroom without a switched light is merely inconvenient. In my own house I'd do the latter if I wanted but never the former. If you want to remove the switch and splice the wires together you can get blank cover plates to cover the box while still making the splice accessible.
posted by Mitheral at 7:20 PM on September 8, 2011 [1 favorite]


You could use a concealed surge protector and use cord concealers like this. But the switch lock seems a more elegant solution.
posted by desuetude at 10:01 PM on September 8, 2011


I rewired all my switchable outlets so the top socket is switched and the bottom socket is always on. It took about 15 minutes and one small piece of 14 gauge wire. I can't imagine any electrician charging more than $100 for a job this simple, assuming you don't have any weird wiring issues, and they don't have to pull any wiring into the wall.
posted by Marky at 11:37 PM on September 8, 2011


As it turns out, the receptacle in question was already wired so the top was operated by the switch while the bottom was not. A broken lamp was keeping me from figuring this out. I thought the whole receptacle had gone bad and was ready to replace it with a receptacle wire to suit our specific need.

If we had taken the switch out I would have just covered it with a cover plate, not dry-walling it over.

@ Marky: How did you do this? I'd like to know so I can do this in the future.

Thanks to all for your answers.
posted by brokeaspoke at 6:27 AM on September 9, 2011


I'll try to draw something up for you, but I'm a little tied up right now. I'll drop you a message when it's done.
posted by Marky at 2:39 PM on September 12, 2011


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