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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Hello.
My son's house is a raised ranch built in the late 1960's.
I found something yesterday that I've never seen before and wanted to know from any expert what they thought.

There are normal 15 amp duplex outlets in line in his living room that seem to have a red and a black hot wire connected from one outlet to the next in line. I've never heard of such a thing. There are no switches operating the outlets.

Also, the little breakaway tab between the two hot wire screws is definitely not snapped off. It just seems like they wired his house with double hot wires, one black and one red. I've never seen this before.

Is there any reason why this would be installed this way?
Thanks.
 

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retired framer
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They may have been wired with a switch somewhere. Things may have been changed over the years, the outlets may have been changed.
Are the red and black feeding from the same breaker?
 

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So, the black and red each go to the hot side of a receptacle? Are there separate neutrals?

As Nealtw said, there may have been one switched before, and the outlet was separated, then the switch was bypassed, and later the outlet replaced by someone who didn't know what they were doing and didn't separate the receptacles.

Are you sure one isn't switched somewhere? In the present configuration, it probably wouldn't turn off.

In any case, there's an easy solution and a more involved one. Either take one of the wires off and nut it (make sure you keep neutral that runs with the one you keep), or trace the wires back and see where they go, so that the second line can be used elsewhere.

Definitely don't leave it wired that way, even though the hot lines go to the same breaker, it's still dangerous.
 

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Master Electrician
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My first guess would have been switched receptacles, but both the red and black wires would not be on the same breaker. You would only see the black wire at the breaker because the red wire would originate from the switch somewhere.

It is possible that the switched receptacles were removed and they used the red to feed off to another newly installed part of the circuit somewhere... although That could have happened in the switch box and not the receptacles... so who knows.

Now if you are saying that both red and black are physically on the same breaker, then you have some sort of a split circuit that is supposed to be there. This was common many years ago with portable ACs were used and were much smaller in size then today. You could plug in a window shaker and not worry about tripping the lights or receptacles in the room. Having said that, I have not seen that in about 30 years or so.

Cheers
John
 

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Discussion Starter · #8 ·
I'm sorry for the confusion. Let me try to clarify.
The outlet closer to the breaker box has 2 white, 2 black, and 1 red wire all connected to the outlet.

When I turn off the breaker, all 3 hot wires in this first outlet are dead; 1 red and 2 black.

Of the 5 wires connected to the first outlet, 1 red, 1 black, and 1 white are connecting the next outlet in line.

I removed the red wire only from both outlets, and both outlets work fine.

I disconnected and wire nutted the red wire at both ends, in both outlet boxes.

I am confident that both outlets and all the wires connected to both outlets are being powered by the same, single breaker.
 

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Yes, the red wire should be capped off absolutely everywhere. Don’t destroy it; Harper’s Rule is that when you find something insane done with wires, there’s often a reason you haven’t figured out yet. When you do, you’ll be glad to have the wires.

Since the red goes to the breaker and hops from outlet to outlet, my guess is a sequence:
1. House was wired as MWBC for some pretty good reason.
2. Goober doesn’t like beige outlets, changes to white. Has no idea what tabs are.
3. Goober frantically troubleshoots, discovers putting red+black on same breaker solves it.

Or

2. Someone needs breaker spaces and decommissions MWBC, butting both wires on same breaker (which by itself, is fine).
3. Goober wants white outlets, changes outlets, does not know about tabs. No boom, but paralleling, which violates Code.
 

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Semi-Pro Electro-Geek
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This sounds like a perfectly normal switched receptacle arrangement, where someone replaced receptacles and forgot to break the tabs. How did you determine that there is no switch controlling the red wire? Are you absolutely sure there isn't a "mystery switch" in the area which does nothing? You said the receptacles do not have the tabs broken to separate the top and bottom halves. As a result, the switch is bypassed (by the tabs) and will do nothing - the receptacles will be powered all the time.
 
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