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Old 12-22-2007, 02:44 PM   #1
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Receptacle Wiring Question


Hello All,
I have an outlet in my living room that has never worked and I'm trying to replace it myself. I have an outlet tester and when I put it into the outlet, it states "OPEN HOT". I pulled the outlet out of the wall and I noticed that there were 2 white neutral wires, 1 ground wire, and only 1 red hot wire. If you're looking at the back of the outlet, you'd see that there are 4 holes (top left, top right, bottom left and bottom right). I notice that the 2 white neutral wires are connected on the 2 right holes(one in the top and one in the bottom). The one red hot wire is connected in the bottom left hole. There is no second red hot wire. The ground wire is connected where it should be. The fact that there is only 1 red hot wire....do you think that could be the problem? I also notice that there are 2 black wires in the back, but they are twisted together. Any help you could provide, would be appreciated?
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Old 12-22-2007, 02:49 PM   #2
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Receptacle Wiring Question


Maybe its a switched outlet as for a table lamp when you coming into the room?

Take a look around the room and see if there are any wall switches...
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Old 12-22-2007, 03:58 PM   #3
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Receptacle Wiring Question


I think sammy is probably right try plugging in your plug tester into the outlet and flipping any nearby switches and see if the plug starts to work.
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Old 12-22-2007, 05:29 PM   #4
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Receptacle Wiring Question


What they said.

The black wires back in there are the "hot" part of the circuit. The red wire comes from a switch close by. GENERALLY only 1/2 the outlet is switched but the way you described it the whole thing is switched.
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Old 12-22-2007, 08:31 PM   #5
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Receptacle Wiring Question


Great suggestion guys....unfortunatley, that didn't fix the issue. What's wierd is that there are 2 other outlets in that same living room area. The others work fine. Any other thoughts?
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Old 12-22-2007, 08:35 PM   #6
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Is there a switch in this room?
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Old 12-22-2007, 08:46 PM   #7
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Yes, there are 2 switches in the near vacinity. I've tried both switches as well as switches in other rooms. Nothing seemed to work.
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Old 12-22-2007, 09:51 PM   #8
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Receptacle Wiring Question


The red wire may take some investigation to find its purpose. If you want to get the outlet working turn the power off and take the black wires apart and connect each to a brass screw of the receptacle take the red and cap it with a wirenut. Make sure the tab isn't broken between the two brass screws as is often done when switching half a receptacle.
The red will have one of two purposes it is the end run of one leg of a shared neutral multiwire or it is supposed to be a switched hot. I would first check the switch boxes in that room to see if there are any capped red wires or any that appear to be unused. Then I would check the other receptacle boxes to see if a red wire is loose in a backstab or disconnected.

Last edited by Stubbie; 12-22-2007 at 09:55 PM.
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Old 12-23-2007, 08:22 AM   #9
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You never really know what someone else did - If it were my house I would follow Stubbies advice.

You stated that you had 2 switches in the room that did not turn on the outlet. Did you find out if they did anything at all ?

If they did not do anything - I would suspect this was once a three way that was mis-wired after someone tried to replace a switch.
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Old 12-23-2007, 11:30 AM   #10
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This is almost certainly a switched receptacle. Do the two switches operate anything. If not one of them may be defective and the the one that operates the receptacle. Tell us about the wiring at the switches.

And move the wires from the pushin holes to the screws. Back stab connections are a very common source of no power do to poor connections.
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Old 12-23-2007, 12:06 PM   #11
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The two switches in that room, do in fact work. They turn on lights in different parts of the room....sorry I didn't mention that earlier. I will try using the 2 black wires as the hot wires and I will cap the red wire. I removed the old outlet (cosmetically it needed to be replaced) and I installed a new one (it has 8 Back stab holes). Would the backstab connections still be a problem with the new receptacle? I will still place the wires around the screws.
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Old 12-23-2007, 02:02 PM   #12
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Receptacle Wiring Question


I don't think you have a receptacle with 8 backstabs. What you have is what is called back wired. These are fine to use as you turn the screw and it tightens a compression clamp which secures the wire. I'm sure you know this but it is pretty much a necessity to have a voltage tester/continuity tester combination when tracking unknown wires down if the obvious loose or poor connection isn't found. This 'dead' red wire has to show up somewhere else so if it tests no power at the receptacle using other than a receptacle tester or if connecting it to a screw on the receptacle and still does not work you need to look to see what other receptacle boxes and switch boxes have red wires and make sure they are securely connected or if you find one that isn't being used test the continuity of it with the red wire in the non-working receptacle box to see if they are one and the same. A voltage tester like this below is a must have so you can test for voltage on the wire itself.

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