Outlet help


Old 12-02-05, 04:26 AM
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Outlet help


I have no problem with a single line/load wall outlet, but I have two outlets in my house that have 3 sets of wires, 1 line/ 2 load both are wired differently.

One in the kitchen has the line black/white going to the upper part of the outlet and both sets of load to the lower. I have removed and re-installed the reciptical after verifing which set is the line.

The second by the front door has the one set black/white to the top, one set black/white to the bottom, the third is split with white to the top, black to the bottom. I have not removed the wires to verify line but it should be the upper set.

Why would they be wired differently? the one by the door is not located on the same side as the porch light, or the switched outlet just below it.

When I replace the recepticals ( 32 years old and are worn out ) should I just wire them the way they are allready or is is it possible one of the boxes wired incorrectly?
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Old 12-02-05, 04:40 AM
Join Date: Sep 2003
Location: Central New York State
Posts: 13,973
Assuming that none of the tabs on the receptacle are broken (implying a split of some sort), then it makes absolutely no difference whether the wires are connected to the top half, the bottom half , or split between the two.

Some people will use whatever is convenient, be it top or bottom, even top on one side bottom on the other. Other people will only use the top or only use the bottom. Still others will use a wire nut and pigtail the hot and neutral connections even if there are only two cables to connect.

The bottom line is that it makes no difference.

I do have one concern. you mention three cables connecting to a receptacle. It is against code to place more than one wire around a screw terminal connection. This means that either code was violated, or that the back stab connections were used. While back stab connections are allowed by code, most of us here don't recommend that you use them. They have a tendency to fail, often under heavy load, and it's a pain in the neck to find the failed connection. I recommend that you move any and all back stabbed connections to the screw terminals, even if this means installing a wire nut and pigtails to properly make the connections. I'm not suggesting that you open and check every connection, but that if you have the receptacle or switch open for some reason, that you remake the connections to not use back stabs, and that you certainly don't use back stabs for any new connections that you make.
Old 12-02-05, 05:04 AM
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Thanks for the reply!

The two outlets are in fact the non screw type where you push the wire into the back of the receptical, stab type I guess. I just wanted to be sure I didn't leave a hazard if someone before me had done some improper wiring.

Gotta admit i am supprised that you recomend to pigtail the wires together and run them to the screws, I allways thought if each wire had its own connection place it would be safer......but hey I am not an electrician!!

Ok, so I allready bought two new outlets that have 4 screws so I can wrap the wire around if need be.

These new outlets (Cooper) also allow you to slide the wire straight into the openings in the back and tighten the screw trapping the wire between the housing and the plate/nut the screw threads into, I had planned to do the install by the latter method as the wires are held tight by the screw, do you see any problems doing it this way?
Old 12-02-05, 05:16 AM
Join Date: Sep 2003
Location: Central New York State
Posts: 13,973
The type of receptacles where you slide the wire in and a metal plate is held tight against them with a screw is called "back wired". These are the fine, and in fact are considered the best. They are generally more expensive. generally you can slide two wires behind each plate. They are nice because you don't have to bend the wire clockwise around the screw

The back stab that most of us dislike hold the wire with an internal spring mechanism. Over time these connections tend to loosen up and eventually fail. The failure more often than not happens on the neutral side, not the hot side.

My personal preference is to use screw terminals over pigtailing, when the number of wires is equal to or less than the number of screw terminals. I then switch to pigtailing. I don't use the back stabs. Some people prefer to pigtail and will do so even if they only have two wires to connect.
Old 12-02-05, 05:28 AM
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Thanks for the help!

I went ahead and removed the receptical by the ft. door and opened it up to see what makes it tick (so to speak), now I understand why it didn't matter how the wires were installed with the exception of white to one side and black to the other, guess I had to visualise it.

The one removed was definantly the back stab type, guess I'm doing fine and no worries, it was just something I have not ran across untill now.


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