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Thread: pigtail or screws in receptacles

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    DIY Senior Member Master Brian's Avatar
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    Default pigtail or screws in receptacles

    I was looking online at something and it said that most electricians prefer to use a pigtail connection when installing more than one "wire" to a receptacle. ie. 2 wires coming in, they join via wirenut, then run only one wire to the screw terminal.

    If this is so, why? I understand when there are more than 2 wires and only 2 screws, but why with 2 wires?

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    Retired Defense Industry Engineer jadnashua's Avatar
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    My take on this, is by using the recepticle as a junction, if you have a loose connection, it would be harder to locate. By making the connection before the recepticle, you'd be more likely to find a loose connection. And, it would be faster.
    Jim DeBruycker
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    DIY Senior Member Master Brian's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by jadnashua View Post
    My take on this, is by using the recepticle as a junction, if you have a loose connection, it would be harder to locate. By making the connection before the recepticle, you'd be more likely to find a loose connection. And, it would be faster.
    I suppose that makes sense.

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    Remodel Contractor GabeS's Avatar
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    By using all four screws on the receptacle you are wiring the circuit in a series. If one receptacle stops working then your whole circuit goes off.

    By wirenutting and pigtailing you are creating parrellel circuit which is definitely preferred and about the same amount of work.
    Gabe

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    Homeowner Thatguy's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by GabeS View Post
    By using all four screws on the receptacle you are wiring the circuit in a series. If one receptacle stops working then your whole circuit goes off.
    Yes, use pigtails especially because otherwise all the TVs and stuff downstream with memories will lose power and have to be reset by the HO.

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    DIY Senior Member Master Brian's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by GabeS View Post
    By using all four screws on the receptacle you are wiring the circuit in a series. If one receptacle stops working then your whole circuit goes off.

    By wirenutting and pigtailing you are creating parrellel circuit which is definitely preferred and about the same amount of work.
    Looking at it, actually makes me think, it might be easier to get everything in the box a bit easier, as you could tuck the connection in, then insert the receptacle.

    I do question the series thing though. Why would the rest go dead, wouldn't the jumper tabs keep the circuit alive?

  7. #7

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    These would be wired in "parallel"... with pig tails, or connected to the screws on the outlet, or pushed in the holes in the back of the outlet (I don't like this method unless the screw clamps down on these wires).

    Yes the tabs would complete the connection to the downstream outlets. The exception is with a switch activated light where you break the hot tab and one outlet always has power and the other is switched.

    So far as I am concerned, half a dozen of one and 6 of the other so far as using pig tails or not for the hot neutral when two romex there. If using large boxes, plaster rings, and 12 ga. wire, it would be much easier to "cram" the outlet into the box if using the pigtail method.

  8. #8

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    It is faster to use the recep as a junction/splice than it is to pigtail and it takes up less space in the jbox.

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    Remodel Contractor GabeS's Avatar
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    Also, as Jim stated,

    If an outlet breaks, you can find it easier.

    If you are using the outlet as a splice and the outlet breaks, malfunctions(these things have a lot of plastic in them) you could lose your splice as oppossed to twisting the wires together and wirenutting will never come lose.

    If you are doing this new, then use the biggest boxes you can and give yourself plenty of room. No sense in buying small boxes. Especially for the GFI's.
    Gabe

    Don't follow my advice, I only know a thing or two about a thing or two.

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    DIY Senior Member chris8796's Avatar
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    I've really never noticed this to be the case, as far as splices being preferred. I see the receptacle used the majority of the time in our area. I would imagine if the electricians are doing it in your area, its only because they think it is faster and thus $$. I have never had a screw connection on receptacle fail or a receptacle fail and not pass through power. It is not wired in "series" on the receptacle. In electrical terminology, in "series" has specific implications on how the various loads are handled (the voltage drop accross each load would depend on the loads present). A correctly installed receptacle with pass-through power using all 4 screws, would be considered wired in "parallel" in electrical terminology (since all the loads share the same voltage drop). I don't want newcomers to be confused by being lax with the vocabulary. I can understand how it is confusing, since the current must pass through the little tab on the receptacle. The difference is the current could have multiple paths (assuming something plugged in) and the little tab would be considered a conductor and not a resistive load.

    I would use the screws or a splice, whatever your more comfortable using.

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    Remodel Contractor GabeS's Avatar
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    [QUOTE=chris8796;181754]I've really never noticed this to be the case, as far as splices being preferred. I see the receptacle used the majority of the time in our area. I would imagine if the electricians are doing it in your area, its only because they think it is faster and thus $$. I have never had a screw connection on receptacle fail or a receptacle fail and not pass through power. It is not wired in "series" on the receptacle. In electrical terminology, in "series" has specific implications on how the various loads are handled (the voltage drop accross each load would depend on the loads present). A correctly installed receptacle with pass-through power using all 4 screws, would be considered wired in "parallel" in electrical terminology (since all the loads share the same voltage drop). I don't want newcomers to be confused by being lax with the vocabulary. I can understand how it is confusing, since the current must pass through the little tab on the receptacle. The difference is the current could have multiple paths (assuming something plugged in) and the little tab would be considered a conductor and not a resistive load.


    Technically, that sounds correct. I can't verify it since I lack the more specific electrical knowledge.

    However, my understanding of series is if you remove one of the outlets, you lose the whole circuit. With splices, if you remove an outlet you still have power (parallel).

    Maybe the instructor could add something.
    Gabe

    Don't follow my advice, I only know a thing or two about a thing or two.

  12. #12

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    If wired in series, you would need to have something plugged in and turned on for downstream outlets to work.

    Or like Christmas lights... One bulb goes out and the whole string stops working (series).

    House wiring... One bulb goes out in the kitchen and the other lights in the house keep working (parallel).

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    Retired Defense Industry Engineer jadnashua's Avatar
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    It's far easier to use a pigtail since you can arrange the multiple cables neatly at the back and only have three leads to get in the box when you push back the recepticle. If torqued properly, you should not loosen a connection when anchoring the thing, but it would become obvious if it did and not have it affect downstream devices.

    It can get messy, but using all four screws could be called series-parallel...as it has to go in series from one screw to the other, but they are really, funcitonally in parallel (but only if everything is installed properly and there are no failures.
    Jim DeBruycker
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    Retired Defense Industry Engineer; Schluter 2.5-day Workshop Completed 2013, 2014

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    Moderator & Master Plumber hj's Avatar
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    Default outlets

    By using all four screws on the receptacle you are wiring the circuit in a series. If one receptacle stops working then your whole circuit goes off.

    Using all four screws still keeps the wires in "parallel" because the brass plate acts as a bus bar. In fact I cannot think of any ordinary way to wire them in series so that it would affect any outlets downstream. IF you broke the jumper out, you would have to install a shunt between the outlets to energize downstream devices. Then it would be in series and a failure of the shunt would shut down following devices, but NO COMPETENT, and few INCOMPETENT people would do it that way anyway.

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    DIY Senior Member chris8796's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by hj View Post
    By using all four screws on the receptacle you are wiring the circuit in a series. If one receptacle stops working then your whole circuit goes off.

    Using all four screws still keeps the wires in "parallel" because the brass plate acts as a bus bar. In fact I cannot think of any ordinary way to wire them in series so that it would affect any outlets downstream. IF you broke the jumper out, you would have to install a shunt between the outlets to energize downstream devices. Then it would be in series and a failure of the shunt would shut down following devices, but NO COMPETENT, and few INCOMPETENT people would do it that way anyway.
    Historically, series and parallel were used to describe how loads are wired relative to a power source. Unfortunately, overtime the words have been "laymenized" and lost most of their useful meaning. Series now has been dumbed down to mean a circuit where the current has one path, and parallel means a circuit with multiple current paths. Now, in typical AC applications these tell you nothing meaningful about the circuit.

    Take for example the recp with the four screws wired for pass-through power by leaving the plate intact.

    You argue its in "series" because the current has one path, if plug something in, it now has more than one path. Would it now be consider in parallel because the current has multiple paths?

    What if the same receptacle is wired as part of a ring circuit, is it in series or in parallel?

    What if the receptacle fails but still has pass-through power?

    What is it if I just strip part of the wire (in the middle, without cutting the wire) and connect it to the screw on the receptacle?

    Using this definition, a pigtail would be consider in "series", since the current has only one path (until you plug something in)?


    In their current usage these words don't convey useful information and have corrupted their traditional meanings.

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