3 Whites, 1 Black? Back again with another outlet mystery

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Old 08-30-15, 07:58 PM
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Cool 3 Whites, 1 Black? Back again with another outlet mystery

Greetings everyone,

I'm back again with another mystery from our new (to us) house.

House built in 1981, needs some outlet and light switch TLC.

Today i replaced the downstairs bathroom GFCI outlet and did the lights switches too, it went great! first time go.

But moving upstairs, the bathroom outlet there has produced a question for me.

What is this?

We have 3 wires going in the backstab holes in the back. Those 4 holes are labeled "WHITE", pretty clear. Then we have 1 seemingly black wire in the left right set of holes and the ground...

My question is this, what are the other 2 white wires? Did someone use the backstab ports to splice the extra whites (neutrals?) I sorta came to this as a possibility by googling... but im just not sure.

I'm still new to this, but i get the basic ideas. With only one hot line, seems this is surely not a middle run setup...

Any help would be super great...

Here is the back of the outlet in question, red box highlights WHITE labeled backstab ports with 3 wires.

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P.S. the whole damn house is backstabs... yes, i'm fixing them and using screws on the new outlets and switches.
 
  #2  
Old 08-30-15, 08:02 PM
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Are the wires in conduit or cables? If cables, where are the other two black wires? Look deep back into the box and take a picture if necessary so we can see, too.
 
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Old 08-30-15, 08:17 PM
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Hey Chandler, i snapped this one earlier.

not sure if this rubber encasement is wire or conduit, there seems to be 3. in the same box is a single light switch which powers the vanity light above mirror (which you can see on the right)

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I can get a better picture if needed, but i'll have to open it back up tomorrow after work.
 
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Old 08-30-15, 08:33 PM
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Looks to me like an ordinary outlet box that also serves as a junction box. There is one feed cable (one black and one white) and two continuing cables going off in different directions. All the black wires and the hot side terminal of the receptacle are interconnected, etc.

It is not unusual for the connections at the back of the receptacle to also be used to "splice together" various wires coming into the box.

Except this specific example has a specific wiring error. When the black (hot) wires are attached directly to each other, the corresponding white (neutral) wires must also be attached directly to each other instead of using the receptacle as a splicing block.
 
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Old 08-30-15, 09:19 PM
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Wow thanks allen, so what i need to do is figure out which two white wires need to be screw capped (marrette?) and im good drop in a new outlet?

Any idea how i could figure that out if thats the case?
 
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Old 08-30-15, 09:55 PM
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Correction, the black wire from one of the cables is connected to the switch and not to all of the other black wires. It is currently correct and does not need modification or moving.

In this example the neutral provided by the feed cable coming into the box must by carried on by each of the continuing cables leaving the box.

Using a little of each of the following ...

ESP
Clairvoyance
Prior electrical experience
The appearance of the back of the receptacle

... I have determined that all three white wires going into the receptacle should be connected together and a short length of white wire added to the newly made marretted white bundle to connect to a silver screw of the new receptacle. A multimeter would come in handy if you want to pretend you are a parent checking his child's homework and check my work.
 

Last edited by AllanJ; 08-30-15 at 10:20 PM.
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Old 08-30-15, 10:00 PM
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My question is this, what are the other 2 white wires? Did someone use the backstab ports to splice the extra whites (neutrals?)
Yes. Generally not the best way to splice and best to never use the back stabs. The wires should be pigtailed and pigtails to the new receptacle.
so what i need to do is figure out which two white wires need to be screw capped (marrette?)
Why do you think only some of the whites should be used. I'd say connect all the whites to a pigtail and connect the pigtail to the receptacle unless this was a full or half switched receptacle. Same should be done with the blacks (unless this was a switched receptacle).
 
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Old 08-30-15, 10:15 PM
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Okay, wow again. Ray and allen seem to be on the same page, unplug all three whites, twist em together, get another short white and twist it in too, then cap it with marette, plug in new short white to new outlet.

Sounds easy enough, question though seems like a big pigtail, is this common practice you would see? I mean if I call that electrician out would he do the same exact thing or if it's a new home construction, would they do the connections the same way.

Asking because i really dont know any better.

And thanks for the help, really awesome.
 
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Old 08-30-15, 10:25 PM
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Hint: If my X-ray vision saw it correctly, the black wires are right now connected similarly with a pigtail going to the receptacle.
 
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Old 08-30-15, 10:41 PM
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Yep pretty sure youre right.

Esp and xray vision all in one thread.
 
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Old 08-30-15, 11:01 PM
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plug in new short white to new outlet
No, do not plug the pigtail in. Best practice use the screw unless it is commercial grade. Commercial grade uses either back wired (not the same as back stabbed) or side wired and those methods are good. Back stabbed on the other hand should be avoided because they are less reliable.
is this common practice you would see? I mean if I call that electrician out would he do the same exact thing
If he is a good electrician, yes.
if it's a new home construction, would they do the connections the same way.
No, they are more likely to use the ultra cheap receptacles you have that have no screw terminals and just stick them in. You probably will have problems of receptacles not working from time to time if the whole house has those garbage receptacles.
 
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Old 08-31-15, 02:02 PM
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Got it thanks Ray. Yep I will not backstab anything. It will be all connected using screws.

I have chosen these for the standard outlets through out the house Leviton Decora 15a and these for the GFCI outlets Leviton 15a GFCI
 
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Old 08-31-15, 02:27 PM
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Looks good. Tip: When replacing GFCI receptacles to mark the Line side wires before removing.
 
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Old 08-31-15, 08:31 PM
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Uhoh guys... so i started work tonight, and i found 2 blacks going to the light switch...!!1???

Is that normal, help cuz i have the outlet apart!

i curled the outlet black first, so i know i didnt confuse that.

Red is outlet wires, you can see my pigtail of whites,

Yellow is the two blacks i found in the lightswitch...

Lady's going to be pissed no lights in there!

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Old 08-31-15, 09:11 PM
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i found 2 blacks going to the light switch...!!1???
This is why I wrote:
Same should be done with the blacks (unless this was a switched receptacle).
Was this a switched receptacle. If so was half of it switched or the whole receptacle switched?

How many wires and what connections in the switch box?
 
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Old 08-31-15, 09:13 PM
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OK guys I'm a leave the gem of a freak out post for you to see... you can have a good laugh in the morning when you guys get up.

but obviously the lightswitch has two black wires as it's completing a hot circuit right anyways i hooked it all up and its working fine.
 
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Old 08-31-15, 09:16 PM
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Oh Ray i am not sure, as you can see i labeled the top lead with black tape when it removed it from the light switch, that's when i noticed both were black. I just hooked it back up the same way.

Also, im going to google what you mean by switched receptacle right now...
 
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Old 08-31-15, 09:21 PM
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Nothing to Google. If a switch controls a receptacle it is switched. That is does a switch turn it off and on and if so does the switch turn off both places you plug into the receptacle?
 
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Old 08-31-15, 09:22 PM
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Ya thats a way easy explanation. Nope, the switch only controls the vanity light above the sink, power outlet runs independently.
 
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Old 08-31-15, 09:25 PM
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  • How do you know both wires go to the switch?
  • What are the wires and connections at the switch?
 
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Old 08-31-15, 09:31 PM
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Both wires came off the old light switch. There were two blacks backstabbed into the existing lightswitch which only has 2 ports / 2 screws.

Is that what you mean?
 
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Old 09-02-15, 09:05 PM
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It appears to me that the light switch was correctly wired with two black wires. One came from a cable at the back that disappears into the wall. The other was a short length going to the existing red marrette. For a two terminal (two port) switch it doesn't matter which wire goes to the higher screw of the switch and which goes to the lower.
 
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Old 09-03-15, 09:37 AM
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Cool thanks Allan. It's working good. Lady was a little paranoid about it... but i think i did well.

I keep thinking, its definitely better than what was in there. Seems like these are all original outlets and switchs from the 80s.

More light switchs and outlets this weekend i think. Got a couple switched outlets to do, watched a video on those (thanks to Ray) and will give it a go!
 
 

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