basic Q's on changing 120V outlets

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  #1  
Old 12-18-04, 09:51 PM
uncoiler
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basic Q's on changing 120V outlets

Hello I have two questions regarding changing my 120v outlets in my house after a recent renovation. I have bought new Leviton outlets and they look straight forward but are slightly differnt than my old ones. Out of the outlet boxes in the wall I have two Black wires to connect to the brass screws, and two whites to connect to the other two screws, plus a ground to the green. First question is should I break off the connecting "fin" that goes between the two black wire screws and another between the two white wire screws? I'm not sure if I should break them off or not, again there is a wire for each screw.

When I got to the last outlet box in the wall it was different. It had one white wire, one red, and one black, plus ground. The black wire went to one brass screw, red went to the other brass screw but had the "Fin" broken off between the two screws, and one white wire to a screw on the other side with its "Fin" still in place, and the ground. Now for question 2, this has me wondering if this is correct and if so why is this different? Also I'm not absolutely sure I have the red and black wires in the same position as they came off, there is a small chance I may have them reversed. I bought this house 5 years ago and all the plugs have been working good. House was built in 1972 if that matters. I have a basic wiring book here but it doen't show anything like this outlet which is different than my others, and I don't know why there is a red wire. This outlet in question is above my kitchen counter and used for the microwave and toaster. I tested it out and it seems to work but I am still concerned if its correct and safe. Thank you.
 
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  #2  
Old 12-18-04, 10:54 PM
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Trying to help

First question is should I break off the connecting "fin" that goes between the two black wire screws and another between the two white wire screws? I'm not sure if I should break them off or not, again there is a wire for each screw.

Answer: No, leave the fin in place here. The reason is that one cable will bring power into this receptacle and the other cable will carry power to the next receptacle downstream. This is normal wiring practice. If you were to break the tabs, then the receptacle this one was supposed to feed will lose power.

Now for question 2, this has me wondering if this is correct and if so why is this different? Also I'm not absolutely sure I have the red and black wires in the same position as they came off, there is a small chance I may have them reversed.

This is the exeception to the rule above. There are two possiblities, part of this receptacle is operated by a wall switch or there are two different circuts feeding it. (ie circut breakers). The tab is broken to electrically isolate the top outlet from the bottom outlet on one side only!

The only thing that would happen if you connected the red to the top screw now and was on the bottom before is to change which outlet is switched. (Top vs Bottom).

If no wall switch, then you just changed which outlet was on which circuit, which may mean that you need to plug the microwave into the other outlet.

I hope this helped. Please post back if you don't quite understand my explanation.
 

Last edited by Desy2820; 12-18-04 at 10:59 PM. Reason: Clarity
  #3  
Old 12-19-04, 05:29 AM
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Make your new receptacles match the old receptacles. If the tab is broken on the old one, then break it on the new one. If it is intact, then leave it intact.

If it's too late to do this )ie you forgot to look) then you will have to make educated guesses.

Generally speaking, when there are two black and two white wires into the box then you leave the tab intact.

The circuit with a red wire is likely either partially or completely switched. From your description, it sounds partially switched, in which case the tab on the hot side would be broken off.
 
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Old 12-19-04, 09:38 AM
uncoiler
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Wow, thanks for the fast response guys. I go to bed late last night pretty concerned and wake up to the good info you have provided. Yes I will leave the fins on and now I understand why I should do that. So that leaves the last outlet to figure out.

I had a better look at this last outlet today. If this were the last outlet in the line of outlets would that explain why there is only 1 white, 1 black, because there would be no need for the additional wires to carry power something else? I know that still doesn't explain the red wire beside the black and the broken "fin" between them. FWIW it is a far outlet almost at the back corner of my house inside the kitchen. I did some checks on it just now and here is what I found. First of all the fuse box in my house has been replaced with a newer bigger one. When they built the garage in 1986 they took the one from the house out there, and installed a new one in the house. Ok so I took my little home depot circuit tester to the outlet in question and it shows that there is power, the brass screw sides of the outlet are "Hot" and that the ground is working in both plug-ins. Now I went to my fuse box and switched that circuit off. The label beside that switch on the fuse box shows it as "Kitchen Split Plug", (not sure what that means exactly, maybe meaning that the fin was broken???). After flipping that switch off there is no power to either of the two plugs at that outlet. What I did notice about switching this circuit off is it seems as though its the only outlet on it. Every other outlet and light switch in the house works. Now I have the circiut back on again and I tested to see if it may be wired to any of the wall switches etc and it isn't. Also the fact that my microwave clock never needed to be reset would also indicate that it not hooked up to any switches.

So here is where I am at. The switch is wired and working and I did break off the "fin" only between the black and red wire like the old outlet had it. I believe that I have the red and black wire the same as before but just not 100 percent sure. I thought that the black wire was on the bottom brass screw and red on the top brass screw but its possible it may have been the other way around. Again it seems to function good, but maybe it wouldn't even matter if the those two wires were switched around. Anyway maybe with the info provided today you have a better idea whats with this outlet. Thanks again guys.
 
  #5  
Old 12-19-04, 01:14 PM
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The links will give you more details and the Dangers that come up with Splitting 240 volts.

More then likely your plug is Splitting 240 volts.
Red wire to the white wire is (say Line 1). 120 volts.
Black wire to white wire is (say line 2). 120 volts
Red wire to Black wire voltage will be 240 volts.

If its a 240 volt line never connect the red and black wires that's 240 volts.

Check out this link
http://forum.doityourself.com/showthread.php?t=192536

A must.
Also Check out the second link, Post #41, Page # 2
 
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Old 12-19-04, 05:10 PM
uncoiler
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I think thats it. It may be splitting 240V. Looking at the fuse box I can see where this particular circuit breaker is using both slots 9 and 11 in the box, however the toggle switch part of the circuit breaker is only on the one side for slot 11.
Gwiz I read over the links etc that you provided but I must say the majority of that talk is over my head. Sounds like its a potential fire hazzard though, but is it all the time or just if the wiring isn't done correctly? I wonder why they would have done this outlet this way. Does it help to operate stuff in the kitchen that needs alot of power?

In any case the breaker is off until I decide how to proceed. Stupid question but would you guys suggest I get an electrician to look it over and get his opinion, or out right change it or leave it alone? hec its been working this way since probably 1986, then again no time is a good time for a fire. Thanks.
 
  #7  
Old 12-20-04, 02:58 AM
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The 240 volt, splitting 120 volts, plug, Three wires Red, Black, White.

This wiring technique has been used safely for years. if done correctly.
Its only a fire hazard if it's not wired correctly.
But a lose white wire on that plug can be a hazard.
With two Items plugged in. one appliance may become damaged from 240 volts without that white wire.
Make sure the white wire is tight.

I don't know all of what you may of changed.
Don't take my wording in a bad way. I think it adds clarity. I only think one line at a time.

As long as you did not change the breakers.
As long as you did not move the breakers.
As long as you did not disconnect the red or Black from the breakers and connect them to some other item.
And Its been working from 1986 to now.
I don't see any Hazard at all.

If you mixed up anything in the breaker panel, that has to do with this plug.
You will need to check the voltage between the red wire to the Black wire (not to the white wire).
It must check 240 volts at the plug.
If it checks 120 volts from red to Black. do not use the plug. (you have the two breakers on the same line (Hazard))
--------------------------------------------------

Assuming that the breaker is a 20 amp breaker
This wiring technique gives the top plug 20 amps
And the lower plug 20 amp.
This allows two HI current items to be next to each other.
With out this you may need to use the next plug 6 feet away if its on a different breaker.

It saves on wire you don't need to run a second cable.
sometimes you don't have room for two cables.
Or your adding more plugs to an house. Its easier to feed one cable through a wall.
---------------------

Example:
A 12 gauge white wire is good for 20 amps.
If the red wire and Black wire, mistakenly get put on the same Lines. ( both on Line 1 or both on line 2)
The white wire will have to handle the combined amperage of the items you have plugged in at that time.
If you draw 18 amps on the top plug, and 18 amps on the bottom plug.
The white wire will be trying to pass 36 amps total. but the wire is rated for 20 amps. That's the fire hazard.
*
The current goes, say from the black wire to the first appliance then through the second appliance to the Red wire.
That unbroken tab on the white wires side places the two appliances in series with each other.
Making this work.
So the white wire will not get the total combined amperage. and the white wire will not over load.
The next part is technical. so I will stop.

The two breakers that feed this plug must, all times be on opposite Lines.
The two breakers must be tied together, shutting off both lines at the same time, if any one line gets a short or over loaded.
*
 
  #8  
Old 12-21-04, 01:01 PM
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Originally Posted by uncoiler
I think thats it. It may be splitting 240V. Looking at the fuse box I can see where this particular circuit breaker is using both slots 9 and 11 in the box, however the toggle switch part of the circuit breaker is only on the one side for slot 11.
Gwiz I read over the links etc that you provided but I must say the majority of that talk is over my head. Sounds like its a potential fire hazard though, but is it all the time or just if the wiring isn't done correctly? I wonder why they would have done this outlet this way. Does it help to operate stuff in the kitchen that needs a lot of power?

In any case the breaker is off until I decide how to proceed. Stupid question but would you guys suggest I get an electrician to look it over and get his opinion, or out right change it or leave it alone? heck its been working this way since probably 1986, then again no time is a good time for a fire. Thanks.
Are you by any chance writing from Canada. Kitchen counter receptacles were required to be wired with multiwire branch circuits just as you have described. I believe that your circuit is wired properly. If it ain't broke don't fix it.
--
Tom H
 
  #9  
Old 12-21-04, 01:15 PM
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Multiwire circuits are not REQUIRED any more. You can install 5 20 amp circuits instead of the 3/6 split circuits of the past. Not sure how it works if you use a combination of the 2 methods.
 
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Old 12-21-04, 08:00 PM
uncoiler
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Ok here is an update. hornetd you are correct I am writing from Canada. All I had done was change the old plug-in outlet to a newer modern decor type outlet to match my new light switches. Nothing was else was done or touched at the fuse panel except to shut the circuits off that I was working on. I brought home my multimeter from work today and tested the voltage at the outlets which were all 119-120v, so thats good.

I also spoke with a local electrician today who told me that this outlet is wired correctly and said its actually code to wire them this way now. And by that he meant any outlet thats in the kitchen above the counter top.
Thanks guys I appreciate your input.
 
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