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Old 10-06-2009, 08:40 PM   #1
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Three hot wires coming into a receptacle?


I've been updating some of my 120 volt duplex two-slot receptacles, which have grounded boxes, in my house which is about 50 years old now, to three-slot grounded receptacles.

Everything has been fine so far but today I found that one of the receptacles has three hot wires (black) and three neutral wires (white) coming into the box. As well as grounds attaching to the box. The top terminals on each side of the unit had two wires connected and the bottom terminal had a single wire connected. There were no wire connectors used.

Why would there be three hot and neutral wires coming into a single receptacle? My only though was that they were feeding another receptacle off of this one? Is that a possibility?

Also, I didn't think it was code to put more than one wire at each terminal. To fix this would I just attach the three hot wires with a wire connector and then run a pigtail to a single terminal on the receptacle?

The old metal boxes are pretty small so I would probably need to replace it with a new larger box in order to fit in the extra wires and wire connectors.

I was just looking to see if I was on the right track and if anyone had any other suggestions. If anyone needed any other info just let me know!

Thanks!

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Old 10-06-2009, 08:44 PM   #2
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Three hot wires coming into a receptacle?


Typically you only have one or two cables in each box (one in/ one out)but it's not uncommon or illegal to have several cables in one box.

You will have to use at least one backstab conector if you want to avoid wirenuts in the small box. Cut them the right length and fold them in neatly and you won't have to change the box.

Also.....Keep that ground wire away from the screw terminals.


Last edited by 220/221; 10-06-2009 at 08:46 PM.
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Old 10-06-2009, 08:55 PM   #3
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Three hot wires coming into a receptacle?


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Originally Posted by 220/221 View Post
Typically you only have one or two cables in each box (one in/ one out)but it's not uncommon or illegal to have several cables in one box.

You will have to use at least one backstab conector if you want to avoid wirenuts in the small box. Cut them the right length and fold them in neatly and you won't have to change the box.

Also.....Keep that ground wire away from the screw terminals.
Thanks for the quick reply! I didn't even think to use the backstab connector in conjunction with the terminals. So it would be ok to have use both the terminals as well as the backstab connectors? I'll look into doing that.

I'm using a green coated ground wire to go from the terminal to the other ground wires on the box is there anything else you'd recommend as far as keeping it away from the screw terminals. It's tight in there but there are no bare wires touching any of the terminals (that aren't connected to them).
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Old 10-06-2009, 08:58 PM   #4
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Three hot wires coming into a receptacle?


Jeff DIY (Poster #1) That is worse than a "Daisy chain" connection. Which some people are knocking. Of course the preferred method (of hooking up receptacles) is Pigtailing. But Daisy chaining is fine, too. But this is definitely not right. I don't know if I can point to any specific prohibition in the Code. But it is not the proper way. Possibly, someone added another receptacle after the original wiring was done. But if it's a standard 2 1/2" deep receptacle box, there should be enough room to tie all 4 (3 orig. + pigtail) wires with a wire nut and push them to the background (behind the receptacle. But then again, the best option is to use a 2-gang box and blank-off one side! (Now more than ever) Don't Drink and Drive!!!
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Old 10-06-2009, 09:38 PM   #5
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Three hot wires coming into a receptacle?


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Originally Posted by spark plug View Post
Jeff DIY (Poster #1) That is worse than a "Daisy chain" connection. Which some people are knocking. Of course the preferred method (of hooking up receptacles) is Pigtailing. But Daisy chaining is fine, too. But this is definitely not right. I don't know if I can point to any specific prohibition in the Code. But it is not the proper way. Possibly, someone added another receptacle after the original wiring was done. But if it's a standard 2 1/2" deep receptacle box, there should be enough room to tie all 4 (3 orig. + pigtail) wires with a wire nut and push them to the background (behind the receptacle. But then again, the best option is to use a 2-gang box and blank-off one side! (Now more than ever) Don't Drink and Drive!!!
Very Good Advice
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Old 10-06-2009, 10:04 PM   #6
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Three hot wires coming into a receptacle?


Quote:
Originally Posted by spark plug View Post
Jeff DIY (Poster #1) That is worse than a "Daisy chain" connection. Which some people are knocking. Of course the preferred method (of hooking up receptacles) is Pigtailing. But Daisy chaining is fine, too. But this is definitely not right. I don't know if I can point to any specific prohibition in the Code. But it is not the proper way. Possibly, someone added another receptacle after the original wiring was done. But if it's a standard 2 1/2" deep receptacle box, there should be enough room to tie all 4 (3 orig. + pigtail) wires with a wire nut and push them to the background (behind the receptacle. But then again, the best option is to use a 2-gang box and blank-off one side! (Now more than ever) Don't Drink and Drive!!!
You don't need to use a 2 gang box to just hook up 3 sets of wires to one outlet. There is nothing wrong with using the backstab connections, the outlets are UL listed to be used with such a connection. Most people don't prefer using them, but in the event the box is too small to make up a proper pigtail connection, one set of wires (preferably a light-weight load) can be backstabed while the other two connections are connected to the screws.
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Old 10-06-2009, 11:44 PM   #7
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Three hot wires coming into a receptacle?


Rather than a back-stabbed outlet, I would use a back-wired outlet, where you tighten the screw to clamp the wire. Two wires per screw allows for the line & three downstream feeds -- one more than the OP needs.
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Old 10-07-2009, 07:46 AM   #8
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Three hot wires coming into a receptacle?


A 2-1/2 inch single gang box (typical standard metal box from years ago) will not handle all the wires and the receptacle.

You need 18 cubic inches: 3 hots plus 3 neutrals plus 1 point for the ground bundle and 2 points for the receptacle (plus 0 points for each pigtail). Assumes no cable clamps taking up some of the space inside which means adding one more point. Times 2 for 14 gauge wires.

If you must use a push-in-and-stick (backstab) connection, at least use it for one of the downstream (daisy chain) lines while putting the incoming feed on screw terminals.

For wires attached directly to screws, shape the wire end to wrap around the screw. One wire per screw.
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Old 10-07-2009, 09:50 AM   #9
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Three hot wires coming into a receptacle?


Thanks for the all of the replies and discussion on this everyone. Much appreciated.

Quote:
Originally Posted by AllanJ View Post
A 2-1/2 inch single gang box (typical standard metal box from years ago) will not handle all the wires and the receptacle.

You need 18 cubic inches: 3 hots plus 3 neutrals plus 1 point for the ground bundle and 2 points for the receptacle (plus 0 points for each pigtail). Assumes no cable clamps taking up some of the space inside which means adding one more point. Times 2 for 14 gauge wires.

If you must use a push-in-and-stick (backstab) connection, at least use it for one of the downstream (daisy chain) lines while putting the incoming feed on screw terminals.

For wires attached directly to screws, shape the wire end to wrap around the screw. One wire per screw.
What's the best way to determine which lines are the incoming and which lines are the downstream (daisy chain) lines?

I do have the wires shaped pretty nicely around the screws right now. I'm pretty sure they are 12 gauge wires too if that matters. They are pretty thick and a pain to shape/bend.
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Old 10-07-2009, 12:58 PM   #10
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Three hot wires coming into a receptacle?


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Very Good Advice
Thanx. Do you know that in NYC (5 boroughs) you can ONLY use #12 wire, and a lighting circuit can have a 15Amp. breaker only. (ALL) the manufacturers of receptacle have made it so that you can't "Backstab" #12.
Because they (those authorities that test for such things. I think, UL.) have determined that #12 does not make good contact as #14. The connection gets loose after a while and overheats. Eliminate Confusion Through Education!!!
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Old 10-07-2009, 01:35 PM   #11
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Three hot wires coming into a receptacle?


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Originally Posted by spark plug View Post
Thanx. Do you know that in NYC (5 boroughs) you can ONLY use #12 wire, and a lighting circuit can have a 15Amp. breaker only. (ALL) the manufacturers of receptacle have made it so that you can't "Backstab" #12.
Because they (those authorities that test for such things. I think, UL.) have determined that #12 does not make good contact as #14. The connection gets loose after a while and overheats. Eliminate Confusion Through Education!!!
Agree Spark plug here you can only stab in #14 wire but i still wrap around the screw have had to many call backs on stab in rec. They should only let you use the screws. You know what you are talking about sound like a very smart person.

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