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Old 07-30-2009, 12:51 PM   #1
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Two hot wires to same outlet


I am remodeling a kitchen in an old house. A 110 outlet in the kitchen has a 3 plus ground cable going to it, and both the red and the black wires are hot, and they are controlled by different breakers on the panel. A new panel was put in by an electrician last year and he made all the connections. This has to be wrong, am I right?

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Old 07-30-2009, 01:52 PM   #2
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Two hot wires to same outlet


As long as the tab is broken on the outlet the three wire cable is fine. The breaker should be a double pole.

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Old 07-30-2009, 01:56 PM   #3
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Two hot wires to same outlet


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Originally Posted by yeterp View Post
I am remodeling a kitchen in an old house. A 110 outlet in the kitchen has a 3 plus ground cable going to it, and both the red and the black wires are hot, and they are controlled by different breakers on the panel. A new panel was put in by an electrician last year and he made all the connections. This has to be wrong, am I right?

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No, that is allowable. I have that in my kitchen, too. It allows twice the total load on the receptacle, since the top and bottom halves can each supply the full 20A (or 15, but since it's a kitchen circuit I'll assume the breakers are 20A). However, under the current code the two breakers supplying the two halves of the receptacle must have handle ties, or be one double-pole breaker. That way turning off the power to one half for service will always make the entire receptacle safe.

In my electrical fantasy world, I would wire every outlet in my kitchen, bathrooms, and garage that way - no more hunting for multiple receptacles on different circuits when you need to run multiple heavy loads at once!
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Old 07-30-2009, 02:09 PM   #4
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Two hot wires to same outlet


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This has to be wrong, am I right?
You have to be wrong, this is right.




Multiwire branch circuits are very common and there are specific guidelines for these installations including having the two circuits on opposite phases (like you described).

The two incoming hot wires "share" the returning neutral. The use it at different times because of the nature of alternating curent.

It is very common to run two circuits in one cable. The only issues arise if the neutral connection fails, you may end up with 240V on your 120V circuits, which causes smoke

Last edited by 220/221; 07-30-2009 at 02:13 PM.
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Old 08-01-2009, 05:49 AM   #5
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Two hot wires to same outlet


If this is an outlet serving a counter top area, then it is supposed to be GFCI protected. In your case, this would mean the breaker serving such an outlet would have to be a double-pole GFCI type, not a cheap animal.

You should consider changing the breakers to a double pole, GFI type.
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Old 08-01-2009, 05:52 AM   #6
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Two hot wires to same outlet


A less expensive alternative would be to cap off one of the wires, and simply install a GFCI receptacle in place of the standard outlet.

Check other outlets on those same circuits, and you can replace them as well, alternating circuits from black to red.
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Old 08-01-2009, 06:37 AM   #7
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Two hot wires to same outlet


Note: You cannot alternate the daisy chained outlet boxes between black and red (opposite sides of 120/240 volt line on multiwire branch circuit) using separate 120 volt GFCI units and maintain a shared neutral.

The duplex receptacle with the top fed by the red and bottom fed by the black would need separate neutrals (the tab broken on that side of the receptacle unit also) if not fed by a double GFCI breaker down at the panel.

Replacing the 3 wire cable with two 2 wire cables to provide the second neutral would probably be more trouble than it is worth.

If you use a GFCI receptacle for the red at box 1, a GFCI receptacle for the black at box 2, and top/bottom split receptacles at boxes 3, 4, etc. then the circuit is not multiwire branch and separate neutrals are required beyond box 1.
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Last edited by AllanJ; 08-01-2009 at 06:42 AM.
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Old 08-01-2009, 07:18 AM   #8
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Two hot wires to same outlet


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Note: You cannot alternate the daisy chained outlet boxes between black and red (opposite sides of 120/240 volt line on multiwire branch circuit) using separate 120 volt GFCI units and maintain a shared neutral.....
Wanna bet? As long as you use separate GFCI devices at each outlet, with appropriate pigtails, then you certainly can. No rewiring is necessary!

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