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Old 07-24-2010, 01:19 AM   #1
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Wall Socket Rewiring Question


Hi everyone,

I've taken the initiative to replace all of the wall sockets in my apartment because the existing ones are very old and in poor condition.

Since I’m no electrician, I’ve been copying the setup of the old sockets respectively with the new sockets; however, I’m having a difficult time understanding this one socket I’m dealing with.

There is one socket in the living room, and as far as I know it’s the only one connected to a particular fuse. There are 2 hot wires plugged and 3 (yes, 3!) neutrals plugged into it. I noticed that the third neutral wire (which is connected to the screw instead of the “ez-wire”) sparks a bit, unless I disconnect a different living room fuse.

Does anyone have any guesses as to what’s going on? I know you’d have to be here to take a better look, but any guesses would help me out.

Why would there be 2 hot wires for a socket? I tried to see if there was possibly another fuse that the other hot would be coming from, but I can’t find that.

Thanks for your time everyone, let me know what you think!

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Old 07-24-2010, 01:39 AM   #2
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Wall Socket Rewiring Question




check to see if the little tab like indicated in this picture is broken off. If so, that means the two receptacles have different power sources. Usually you will find one in any room that does not have an overhead light and it is controlled by a swtich that doesn't seem to operate anything.

as to the sparking and why 3 neutrals? hard to tell without looking at the thing. Is the tab (like in the above situation) broken off on the neutral side? If so, then it sounds like the one recep has it's own neutral but the other one might be part of a multiwire branch circuit. That is where 2 circuits share one neutral. WIthout looking at everything, hard to tell from here. Make sure both circuits are off before removing any wires. This could present you with a live wire and is very dangerous to the unkowing.

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Old 07-24-2010, 03:04 AM   #3
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Wall Socket Rewiring Question


The original socket does not have the tab broken off but just to see, I broke off the tab to see what would happen.

Only one of the two plugs worked, meaning that... one of the lives is not alive? Is there any other reason there would be a second wire plugged into the live side?
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Old 07-24-2010, 09:12 AM   #4
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Since you live in an apartment, you should have the landlord replacing these fro you.
In many locations, it is against the law for a tenant to do electrical work.
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Old 07-24-2010, 08:01 PM   #5
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Let's assume I'm allowed to be doing electrical. This is a DIY forum after all.

Right now, I'm just very curious. I'd like to know the most likely reasons why a receptacle would have two wires plugged into the 'hot' plug.

I don't believe that the top and bottom plugs have different circuits in this case.
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Old 07-24-2010, 08:11 PM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by bravoxena View Post

I don't believe that the top and bottom plugs have different circuits in this case.

one wire is the "in" or "line" or "feed" while the other feeds out to another recep or device.
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Old 07-24-2010, 09:18 PM   #7
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It sounds like whoever originally wired the place was too lazy to tie the wires together and make a pigtail and used the receptacle instead. It may have been faster at the time, but not the best idea as far as quality goes.
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Old 07-25-2010, 02:48 AM   #8
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Thanks for the feedback everyone.

This is definitely the strangest outlet in the whole unit.
I just copied the original setup and will hope for the best.

The way this unit was wired is very strange. There is one fuse powering/lighting up the living/dining/kitchen except for a couple outlets here and there. You'd think they'd even it out a bit!
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Old 07-25-2010, 04:38 AM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by bravoxena View Post
...... You'd think they'd even it out a bit!
Not so, It is better NOT to even it out.
This way if a fuse blows at night you are more likely to have at least some light near the source of the fault.

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Old 07-25-2010, 06:17 AM   #10
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Wall Socket Rewiring Question


The person who installed the receptacle (socket; outlet; wall plug) originally had a need to connect three neutrals together and also connect them to the receptacle. The corresponding hot wires may have been connected together at the back of the box.

Quote:
... was too lazy ...
In addition, it is preferable to use the screws instead of the ez-wire holes (back stabs). To make a good solid repair you should take all three white wires off of the receptacle (I assume they're all on/along the same side, with the silvery screws), cut a short piece of white wire, say 6 inches, wire nut together the four ends, and connect the free end of the short piece (pigtail) to one silvery screw.

And now that you broke the tab off of one receptacle unit, you should cut two pigtails of matching color to the wire on that side, connect one to each of the screws at the broken tab, and wire nut the other ends to the wire that used to go to one screw and that left the other half of the receptacle unit dead. Only one wire may be held down by each screw.

By the way, if the black (hot) wires for different cables coming into the box are connected directly to each other (using wire nuts), present day code requires that their neutrals also be wire nutted together instead of using the receptacle as a "terminal strip".

If you saw sparking at the neutral or anywhere else while working on this, you forgot to turn the power off.

A white wire on the side with the black wires or gold screws or connected to a black wire is not neutral. Do not connect it to other white wires. You would need to investigate and find out what everything was connected to in order to reconnect it correctly.

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Last edited by AllanJ; 07-25-2010 at 06:29 AM.
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