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Thread: Outlet Connections

  1. #1
    DIY Member coopns's Avatar
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    Default Outlet Connections

    I am replacing an older outlet. I have two black, two white and a red. They had 2 white and 2 black around the screws then inserted the red in the back (through the small hole directly in the back of outlet). My new outlet doesn't except the red. Could I piggy the two blacks together then the red would go on a screw?

    Please advise.

    Thanks.

    **Update**
    I tried the two blacks with a pig tail, that worked. So I have whites on one side, pig tailed the blacks to bottom screw and red to top. Seems to work but would like someone to let me know.
    Last edited by coopns; 08-19-2013 at 11:50 AM.

  2. #2
    Retired Defense Industry Engineer jadnashua's Avatar
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    It's almost never acceptable to put two wires underneath one screw on a receptacle, but, tying them together first and using a pigtail to do it is fine IF you use the right wire. Many receptacles have holes in the back that can take up to two wires and are clamped by the screw. WIth those, it is acceptable to use both the screw and the holes which would give you three or as many as six connections. I will stay that it is important that the wire gauge be identical when using two wires in the back...the clamping plate on at least some does not swivel, and getting it tight to two diverse sizes may not happen!

    Now, if you still have the old receptacle available, take a look and see if the tab between the two hots was broken. IF it was, then you have NOT wired it properly. A red wire is typically the identifier of a switched power lead, and it may have been used to switch one half of the receptacle for something like a table lamp. By tying all of the leads together, that switch no longer can function, and, if the power happened to be on the other leg, bad things would happen when the switch was turned on.
    Jim DeBruycker
    Important note - I'm not a pro
    Retired Defense Industry Engineer; Schluter 2.5-day Workshop Completed 2013, 2014

  3. #3
    DIY Member coopns's Avatar
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    I do have the old and the tab is broken.

    So I got it wired wrong.

    I have those two blacks together then pig tailed out to one screw and the red to the top. Wrong?

    Thanks.

  4. #4
    DIY Senior Member Homeownerinburb's Avatar
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    Not wrong. Although I always set the switched half of the receptacle on the bottom, because I assume the lamp will always be plugged in, and possibly the top outlet will be used for things that come and go, vacuum cleaners in particular.

    It is a very small point of detail.

    Do, however, ensure that your white wire is going to the wider slot, which will have silver screws, and that your black or red wires go to the narrow slot, with the brass screws.

    Jad has a good point: better outlets have a plate on the side, actually two, each pressed down by a screw.

    On THESE you can insert two wires, so your two black wires can go under one plate and be held down by the one screw, which will save you some space in the box. Often that is worth doing.

    Also, rarely, the red wire is at the opposite end of the sine wave from the black wires, and shares the neutral for a return. That makes it a "three wire circuit". Which means that one can no longer use the receptacle for a junction of the white wires, they must be pig tailed together.

    Further information at wikipedia, I think. "Three wire circuit". Two hots sharing a neutral. If this confuses you you probably want to hire someone to check it out.

  5. #5
    Moderator & Master Plumber hj's Avatar
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    quote; rarely, the red wire is at the opposite end of the sine wave from the black wires, and shares the neutral for a return. That makes it a "three wire circuit". Which means that one can no longer use the receptacle for a junction of the white wires, they must be pig tailed together.

    I have no idea what this means, nor have i ever seen it done. If I read it correctly, the receptacle would not have a neutral connection. "Two hots sharing a neutral" only works if they are on opposite legs of the 240 circuit, otherwise the neutral can be overloaded.
    Licensed residential and commercial plumber

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    Electrical Contractor/Instructor jwelectric's Avatar
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    he says he had the blacks and red connected to the receptacle so they are not on two legs or the thing would have tripped

  7. #7
    DIY Senior Member Homeownerinburb's Avatar
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    "Opposite legs of the 240 circuit" = "opposite ends of the sine wave.

    The neutral is drawn down the middle of the sine wave.

    So no, you do not read it correctly.

    And I did write that it was very rare. However, I came across it in Burbank just a few months back.

  8. #8
    DIY Senior Member Homeownerinburb's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by jwelectric View Post
    he says he had the blacks and red connected to the receptacle so they are not on two legs or the thing would have tripped

    Fair point.

  9. #9
    DIY Member coopns's Avatar
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    Sorry to recap (please correct me/excuse me)

    2 whites - one to each screw
    2 blacks - tied them together, pig tailed out to bottom brass
    1 red - on top brass

    The tab was broken on the old recptacle. Does it have to be? It is behind a bed, wouldn't be used by switch.

    And...I have a multimeter, just a cheap one but don't know how to use it. Just a cheap harbor freight one. What settings should it be set to, could someone give me a primer?

    Thanks for the advice.

  10. #10
    Retired Defense Industry Engineer jadnashua's Avatar
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    Okay, if the tab was broken, that means each half of the receptacle was powered by different circuits...so yes, you should break the tab. Then, check out any switches in the room. Put the red wire on one of the hot sides, and pigtail the two blacks to the other on the other. The black part should be hot all of the time, the red side should turn on and off with a switch somewhere. Then, plug something into the side that has the red wire feeding it. See if it will turn on. If it does, go around to any switches in the area, and flip them off and see if it goes off with the switch. If it does not come on, then flip switches until it does come on.
    Jim DeBruycker
    Important note - I'm not a pro
    Retired Defense Industry Engineer; Schluter 2.5-day Workshop Completed 2013, 2014

  11. #11
    Electrical Contractor/Instructor jwelectric's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by coopns View Post
    The tab was broken on the old recptacle. Does it have to be?
    No but if you are not planning on using the switched part then if it were me I would remove it from the receptacle and place a wire nut on it so that it wouldn't be back feeding the switch as at some latter point cause someone to get hurt.

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    DIY Senior Member Homeownerinburb's Avatar
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    The tab was broken on the old recptacle. Does it have to be? It is behind a bed, wouldn't be used by switch.

    [/QUOTE]

    Code requires that each room have a light or outlet that can be controlled from the door as a person enters.

    The concept with your room was that a light(s) at the bed would come on and off by a switch at the door.

    Unless there is a light in the center of the ceiling...

  13. #13
    Electrical Contractor/Instructor jwelectric's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Homeownerinburb View Post
    Code requires that each room have a light or outlet that can be controlled from the door as a person enters....
    True code requires a wall controlled lighting outlet in every habitable room but nowhere in the code does it require the switch to be beside the door.
    It would be a code compliant installation to put every light switch beside the panel and no switch in any room. It would be also code compliant should the breaker be marked “SWD” and no switch be installed anywhere.

  14. #14
    Moderator & Master Plumber hj's Avatar
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    quote; The neutral is drawn down the middle of the sine wave.

    In that case the duplex has each receptacle fed by a different leg of the 240 circuit, and the neutrals CAN be joined at the receptacle, they do not have to be pigtailed together. It is also not "rare", in fact I wired most of the duplexs in my previous residence that way so a tripped breaker did not disable both openings.
    Licensed residential and commercial plumber

  15. #15
    DIY Senior Member Homeownerinburb's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by jwelectric View Post
    True code requires a wall controlled lighting outlet in every habitable room but nowhere in the code does it require the switch to be beside the door.
    It would be a code compliant installation to put every light switch beside the panel and no switch in any room. It would be also code compliant should the breaker be marked SWD and no switch be installed anywhere.
    I cannot POSSIBLY imagine a planning dept approving a home plan that showed no switches for lighting at the entrances to rooms.

    Likewise I cannot POSSIBLY imagine an inspector who would go for it.

    Possibly one could read the code so closely that in a very pedantic manner what you write would be true, but the actual INTENT of the code is pretty clear to me: that the ability to turn on some light source from the door is required.

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