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Old 09-02-2009, 10:30 PM   #1
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too many pigtails/devices on circuit?


First post. Surely not last. Major DIYer here, but never really dealt with home wiring before and now I am in a situation where I'd like to do the work myself but I can't seem to find what I hope is a simple answer to the question I have.

Just moved into my new place and it turns out that the room I want to use as an office/wreck room ONLY has one outlet, and its not a very small room.

I would like to add an additional 4 or 5 outlets to the room, and replace the old outlet with something a little more modern as the existing outlet doesn't have a ground.

This is for my apartment in Venezuela, so there is no easy way to fish any cables through the walls or anything like that.

Other than changing the existing receptical for a new one, I can't extend that outlet to any of the new ones because it is between two iron columns (covered in cement) that I can not drill through or break open to run the wires inside of the wall.

There is a hallway receptical that is in an ideal spot on the opposite side of the wall, I can drill through end put a receptical there without any problems, but I can't extend that one any further because it too is confined by two more iron columns... quite the pain in the arse.

And then there is the bedroom outlet on the opposite side of a wall which I can link to the 3 or 4 other outlets that I want to install in my office/wreck room.

The bedroom outlet is actually in a place that it will never have anything plugged into it. There will be a big dresser covering it and the bedroom has enough outlets that I will not have to use it to plug anything into.

I opened it up to see what kind of mess was behind the face plate and what I found were a bunch of pigtails. 4pig tailed Hot wires, and 4 pigtailed Neutral wires... I can only assume that they are going to the other outlets in the room and the ceiling light fixture.

Being that there are already a bunch of pigtails in that receptical box, is it safe or advisable to add more? Is there a maximum amount of pigtails you can have in one location, or on a circuit in general?


Here is a list of electrical devices that will be in the room.

Existing receptical - 32" LCD TV, Satelite Reciever, 40watt Amp/Speakers.

Receptical coming from hallway - 550Watt PSU (COMPUTER), 23" LCD Monitor, Printer, Scanner, 2 cell phone chargers, 10 watt AMP/Speakers

Recepticals coming from Bedroom - 250watt PSU (COMPUTER), 2 Lamps, Portable Air Conditioner. [and if my girlfriend decides she wants to watch tv and iron her hair, throw in the occasional hair iron, maybe even hair dryer]


Can anyone help me? Let me know if more details are needed.
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Old 09-02-2009, 10:45 PM   #2
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too many pigtails/devices on circuit?


I'm no expert but here's my thoughts.

1: since it's all cement, it may be easier to use surface mount (what you often see in commercial areas) with metal boxes/pipes for the wire.

2: The plug with no ground may be an issue. You may need to pull wire from the panel and hook up a proper ground. If you are lucky there is already a ground in there though.

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Old 09-02-2009, 11:07 PM   #3
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too many pigtails/devices on circuit?


Hey Red Squirrel, Thanks for your response!

1: The surface mount idea would work great for me if it was in my shop or a place where only I spent time, but I also have a girlfriend who lives with me to please, and she wants everything to be sunk into the wall, plastered over, and painted, which as an interior designer I can appreciate.

2: Being that the building is concrete, should I not just be able to use the existing structure as ground? I really don't know how that stuff works... But I do know that if I touch a live wire while touching the wall the current goes right through me :P
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Old 09-03-2009, 06:41 AM   #4
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too many pigtails/devices on circuit?


Can only advise that the box be expanded (screw-on extender, or gang sideway with another). Or if original box can be removed, replace with a larger and/or deeper one.
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Old 09-03-2009, 07:39 AM   #5
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too many pigtails/devices on circuit?


Quote:
Originally Posted by jazzthing View Post
2: Being that the building is concrete, should I not just be able to use the existing structure as ground? I really don't know how that stuff works... But I do know that if I touch a live wire while touching the wall the current goes right through me :P
Concrete is not really conductive (though it's also not that good of an isolator if damp) so I would not use it as ground. Though, the metal beams maybe could act as ground. I'd wait on someone else's advice though as there are certain ways to do a proper ground.
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Old 09-03-2009, 10:07 AM   #6
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too many pigtails/devices on circuit?


In the United States there are rules about how many conductors can enter a box depending on the box' size, but it so happens that pigtails (as pieces of wire wholly inside the box) don't count towards the maximum allowed.

The general rule (USA) is that 2 cubic inches of space are required for each entering conductor (14 gauge), 2 cubic inches are required to account for all the grounds, 2 cubic inches to account for all the clamps inside the box holding wires in place, and 4 cubic inches for each receptacle or switch unit.

Practically, if it is hard to stuff everything back into the box, you should have had a bigger box.

I would contend that there should not be so many wires grouped in one wire nut that each wire does not get bitten into several times by the spring inside the wire nut. Particularly if one wire is "in the middle" it could pull right out. If absolutely necessary you could use pigtails to join together other pigtails in a daisy chain with no more than five wires (sometimes five is too many) under any one wire nut.

Since you have computers and electronics plugged in, you really should have a ground. With few exceptions, use of a receptacle with a ground prong socket requires grounding (USA). If worse comes to worst, connect up a wire from the ground screw of the receptacle, run it out and along baseboards and up around doorways and connect it to some known ground for example down in the breaker panel. This is not legal in all parts of the USA but it does work temporarily. (If you need to string hot and neutral in conduits or Wire Mold(tm) on the wall surface, have the ground wire accompany them.)

In one project I wanted to string wires through a wall (wood frame and drywall) but there were columns (intentionally) enclosed by the wall and preventing running wires horizontally the full length of the wall. At each column I ran the wires vertically inside the wall to above eye level and had the wires exit the wall and run along the surface (stapled to a wood beam under which the wall was built and followed) for about a foot and then back into the wall on the other side of the column and back down to the level where the receptacles were. Plans call for a cover (a soffit) running the length of the beam to hide both the beam and the wires.

Steel building framing is almost always a good ground but reinforcing rods in concrete and isolated iron columns are usually not a good ground. The latter are generally not tied together well enough to make good contact for a continuous electrical path to a known ground.

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Last edited by AllanJ; 09-03-2009 at 10:31 AM.
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