Outlet receptacle swap - wiring question

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  #1  
Old 06-13-04, 01:55 PM
mstadnik
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Outlet receptacle swap - wiring question

I am replacing a few outlet receptacles for decorative purposes and came across something I didn't expect to see. One of the outlets had three sets of wires coming into it; I expected to see only two (the other receptables I swapped out only had two). Each set has a black, white and copper ground.

So in total there were 3 black and 3 white (along with the 3 copper ground wires). Here is how they are wired to the old receptable:

2 black - plugged into back of receptacle in the push wire holes
2 white - plugged into back of receptable in the push wire holes
1 black - twisted around one of the side screw terminals
1 white - twisted around one of the side screw terminals
3 grounds - twisted together and one of those connected to ground screw on receptacle

Is it normal to have 3 sets of wires coming into one outlet box like this?

The gauge of the wire is too big to fit in the new recetacle push wire holes, so I have no idea how to connect this new receptacle. I didn't feel comfortable connecting 2 blacks to the same screw terminal unless I can confirm from the experts it is safe.

Any recommendations??

Thanks in advance.

mark
 
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  #2  
Old 06-13-04, 02:52 PM
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Join Date: Sep 2003
Location: Central New York State
Posts: 13,973
It is quite common for there to be several sets of wires at a single junction box. This is especially true if one or more of the sets of wires goes to a switch. It may also be true if someone has extended the circuit by adding an extra receptacle outlet.

It is not allowed by code to place more than one wire under a screw terminal on a switch or receptacle. The proper way to make multiple connections on ascrew terminal is to connect the wires together with a wire nut and use a small piece of wire (of the same gauge and color as the other wires), called a pigtail to make the connection to the screw terminal. You may also use all terminals on the receptacle if you wish. However, most people do not recommend that you use the push in connections, called backstabs, as they have a tendency to fail, and finding a failed backstab can be a time consuming chore.

What is equally important at a receptacle outlet, in addition to how the wires are connected, is if the tabs between the top half of the receptacle and the bottom half of the receptacle are broken or if they are intact. The tab may be broken on the hot side (the brass screw side) and also it may be broken on the neutral side (the silver screw terminal side).

Examine the outlet that you removed. If the tabs are intact on both sides, and if the black wires are all on the hot side of the outet and the white wires are all on the neutral side of the outlet then make your connections by one of the following two methods.

1) Connect the black wires together with a wire nut and also add a small pigtail of black wire. Connect the pigtail to either of the brass screws on the outlet. Do the same with the white wires to the neutral side of the outlet.

2) Connect two of the black wires together with a wirenut, adding a pigtail of black wire. Connect the pigtail to one of the brass screw terminals and the other black wire to the other screw terminal. Do the same for the white wires to the neutral side of the outlet.

If either of the tabs are broken on the old receptacle or if the black and white wires are not all on the hot side (for the black wires) and all on the neutral side (for the white wires), then post back here what you started with so we can wire the new outlet in a similar manner.
 
  #3  
Old 06-13-04, 02:57 PM
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Join Date: Dec 2003
Location: Minneapolis, MN
Posts: 80
It's not safe.

First, confirm that the little brass tab between the top and bottom screw on the hot side of the receptacle (where the black wires connect) is in place. If it's not, then it's a bit more complicated, but not too much.

If the tab is intact, then what you should do, is take all three wires of each color, and pigtail them to the outlet. What this means is that you take the 3 black wires, add a forth that's a few inches long, and connect all of them together with a wire nut. Use the new (fourth) wire to connect to the screw on the outlet.

Do the same for the neutral (white) and ground (bare) wires.

If you have been using the push-in wire holes on any of the outlets you have been replacing, I strongly suggest going back and using the side-wire screws instead. Search this forum for "backstab" to learn more about why.
 
  #4  
Old 06-14-04, 06:27 AM
mstadnik
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thanks to both for very clear and concise answers. i went out and bought some similar gauge bulk wire for some pigtails and rewired with no problem.

thanks again
 
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