Too many wires when changing an outlet

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  #1  
Old 01-25-16, 06:03 PM
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Too many wires when changing an outlet

I went to switch out an old kitchen outlet to a USB outlet this afternoon, and although I've successfully changed outlets before... I failed miserably with this one. The existing outlet had 2 silver screws, with 2 backstabs each, 2 copper screws with 2 backstabs each, and the ground. It was wired with 2 whites in the lower silver screw's backstabs, and one white wound looped around the top screw. The black wires' placements were identical, on the copper screws, and the ground was unremarkable, on the bottom. This is a total of 7 wires, which I was not prepared for, as my new outlet had 4 inputs (plus the ground, of course), but I decided to just pigtail the wires and let that be that. Unfortunately, I had no suitable wire for pigtailing, so I just hurriedly rewired the original outlet, planning to pick some up later and finish the job.Only the rewired original outlet wouldn't work. I rechecked the connections, and found them to be intact, but noticed that I had placed two white wires in the backstabs of the top silver screw, looped one around the bottom silver screw, and had two black wires in the backstabs of the bottom copper screw, with one looped around the top copper screw. I redid it so that there were the two on bottom and one on top of the respective colors on their respective screws, and it worked just fine. Does this mean that I can't pigtail the wires, then? Why are there so many wires in the first place?
 
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Old 01-25-16, 06:20 PM
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There are so many wires because other outlets are tapped off that one. Make sure that all the outlets in that room work. If they do, leave it alone.
 
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Old 01-25-16, 06:37 PM
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I redid it so that there were the two on bottom and one on top of the respective colors on their respective screws, and it worked just fine
If you are thinking it shouldn't matter if the wires are at the top or bottom, you're correct. The respective terminals are all connected (with tabs intact)

This isn't a GFCI receptacle is it?
 
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Old 01-25-16, 06:44 PM
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Your paragraph key doesn't seem to be working so your post is hard to read but basically if I understand your problem is back stabs are unreliable. Putting two wires in one back stab may have caused it to fail complexly. Use pigtails and a screw and you should be fine. Buy a foot or two of THHN/THWN in the correct color and size if you don't have any scrap wire and everything should work.

Plan B would be to use wire nuts with a built in pigtail of the correct color.

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Old 01-25-16, 08:07 PM
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Thank you all so much for your replies, you all were amazingly helpful, and I now realize that the outlet I was trying to replace is a GFCI outlet. Does this mean what I think it means, that I'm over my head with my extremely limited electrical skills, and that I won't be installing that USB outlet?
 

Last edited by RachelTX; 01-25-16 at 08:13 PM. Reason: I don't know what I'm doing
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Old 01-25-16, 08:22 PM
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I was trying to replace is a GFCI outlet.
What room is it in? Is there a ground wire? There are a couple of ways around this if the GFCI is required. Easiest is to replace the single gang box with a double gang box and use the second space for the USB receptacle.
 
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Old 01-26-16, 06:18 AM
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You might have discovered this already, but my post #3 doesn't apply to GFI receptacles.
With a GFCI it does matter where the wires are connected.
The Line terminals are for your source hot and neutral. The load terminals are for all hot and neutral wires going downstream.
 
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