Too many Wires! Help with new wall outlet

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I am far from expert, but I can install a duplex wall outlet.
In my 1970-era house there was a blank wall plate right where I would like a wall outlet.
I took off the plate and found a bare copper ground wire. Also two white wi res, two red wires and two black wires (all solid copper 12-gauge). The two black wires were fastened to each other with a "rubberized cap" of some so rt. The two white wires were fastened to each other the same way and the re d wires were fastened to each other the same way.
Called father-in-law who claims to know a lot. He told me it was set up for a 220-circuit and all I need to do was to unfasten all the wires, wire nut off one of each color and then take the remaining three wires (red, white and black) and fasten them as normal to my duplex outlet and reinstall into the wall.
Correct?
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On 4/2/2013 11:32 AM, snipped-for-privacy@mailcity.com wrote:

wires, two red wires and two black wires (all solid copper 12-gauge). The two black wires were fastened to each other with a "rubberized cap" of some sort. The two white wires were fastened to each other the same way and the red wires were fastened to each other the same way.

220-circuit and all I need to do was to unfasten all the wires, wire nut off one of each color and then take the remaining three wires (red, white and black) and fasten them as normal to my duplex outlet and reinstall into the wall.

no.
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On Tue, 2 Apr 2013 21:02:13 +0000 (UTC), Red Green

box" 2 wires that were 2 short joined in an accessible location according to code. What we do NOT know is where they come from and go to.. My STRONG suspicion is you have a "split" circuit - what many of you Americans call an "edison" circuit. This SHOULD be on a tied breaker or a double pole breaker. Being 12 guage I would suspect a 20 amp breaker - code for countertop outlets in kitchens around here. IF it is, you will have 120 from both black and red to white, and 240 from black to red (ok, 115 and 230, or something close). Check what circuit it is and whether it has to be a "separate" circuit or if it can have multiple outlets by code. If multiples are allowed, you can add either another "split" or a duplex on either the black or red side. On a "split" you need to remove the link between the 2 dark screws on the one side of the outlet.
I
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On Tue, 2 Apr 2013 21:02:13 +0000 (UTC), Red Green

Actually, the OP should use the special tool made for inexperienced homeowners who want to do wiring, but dont know how. The tool is called a telephone book. Go to the "E" pages, find the word "electrician", and call one of them.
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On Tue, 2 Apr 2013 11:32:27 -0700 (PDT), snipped-for-privacy@mailcity.com wrote:

two red wires and two black wires (all solid copper 12-gauge). The two black wires were fastened to each other with a "rubberized cap" of some sort. The two white wires were fastened to each other the same way and the red wires were fastened to each other the same way.

220-circuit and all I need to do was to unfasten all the wires, wire nut off one of each color and then take the remaining three wires (red, white and black) and fasten them as normal to my duplex outlet and reinstall into the wall.

You should check with a tester. With the power off, take off the caps and leave the splices together. If it is for 220, the breaker that turns the circuit off should be a double pole breaker.
You should have 120 volts between red and white and also black and white. The red to black should read 220.
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On 4/2/2013 1:32 PM, snipped-for-privacy@mailcity.com wrote:

Not necessarily and not even terribly likely unless it's later than the age of the house--70s era didn't require 3-w/g for 240V. If it was pulled recently for dryer circuit then it's possible it is.
If original would be far more likely to have only two conductors plus ground than three and is more likely a traveler for 3- or 4-way switches or an Edison circuit w/ shared neutral...if the former it's odd there's a wall plate; if the latter it's odd the box is empty other than as the junction box.
Either way, as another suggested, find the circuit breaker controlling it and probe to find out what circuit it is first and what it is, second. It's possible it's not suitable; possibly it is but can't tell from here from the data supplied.
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I was thinking it may have been for a window AC (240) or may be for a switched outlet (120).
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On Tuesday, April 2, 2013 2:32:27 PM UTC-4, snipped-for-privacy@mailcity.com wrote:

et. I took off the plate and found a bare copper ground wire. Also two whit e wires, two red wires and two black wires (all solid copper 12-gauge). The two black wires were fastened to each other with a "rubberized cap" of som e sort. The two white wires were fastened to each other the same way and th e red wires were fastened to each other the same way. Called father-in-law who claims to know a lot. He told me it was set up for a 220-circuit and al l I need to do was to unfasten all the wires, wire nut off one of each colo r and then take the remaining three wires (red, white and black) and fasten them as normal to my duplex outlet and reinstall into the wall. Correct?
You need to find out what circuit those wires are on. See what the voltage is between the colored wires and the white wire. Also see what the voltag e is between the two colored wires. Turn on/off nearby light switches and test again to make sure that's not a traveler on a three way switch. Then do he same with the breakers and see what breaker they are on.
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On 4/2/2013 2:32 PM, snipped-for-privacy@mailcity.com wrote:

wires, two red wires and two black wires (all solid copper 12-gauge). The two black wires were fastened to each other with a "rubberized cap" of some sort. The two white wires were fastened to each other the same way and the red wires were fastened to each other the same way.

220-circuit and all I need to do was to unfasten all the wires, wire nut off one of each color and then take the remaining three wires (red, white and black) and fasten them as normal to my duplex outlet and reinstall into the wall.

then, where it's going. You could have a 240 volt 4 wire circuit, a 120/240 volt Edison circuit, possibly a leg of a three way switch circuit. What you have could already be feeding something that requires a dedicated line. You need to find what circuit breaker(s) control the wires and find out what goes dead with them turned off, before determining if you can use any of it for an outlet.
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O.K. Thanks to you all. I do appreciate the help.
I have to admit, however, that most of your terminology has left me more confused than enlightened. Sorry, I did say I don't know much.
I do understand, I think that this box may need to be as is, left alone that is, as it could feed other outlets.
There is a near-by duplex outlet on the same wall that is controlled by a toggle light switch on the wall, if that is any help.
Anyway, what I THINK, I understand is that I need to turn off power, take off insulating caps and then turn on the power and use my meter to check -- one-by-one -- any current between the red and white wire.
Then check for current between the black and white wire.
So, what do I do if there is no current -- the current is 110 or the current is 220 -- or the house blows up? ;>
If the circuit breaker trips? Or any of the other things that may happen. Or I guess I can check and then report back with results.
I think I am at the path here, I just need to take the first steps...
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On Tue, 2 Apr 2013 13:07:11 -0700 (PDT), snipped-for-privacy@mailcity.com wrote:

If it feeds other outlets, you can still use it.

would be a good guess) with the switch on or off. The other wire will have 120 with the switch on and 0v with the switch off.

insulating caps and then turn on the power and use my meter to check -- one-by-one -- any current between the red and white wire.

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The reason they want you to turn off the power is so you can take the wire nuts off safely, so your test meter has bare wires to contact.
Isn't that a catch-22? Until you have the wire nuts off, you have no way of telling if you got the right breaker. You won't know when the power is off.
Worse, with that many wires, you may have more than one circuit, from more than one breaker. It's not impossible that the red and black wires are on separate circuits. They shouldn't be, but still could be.
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wrote:

When I was 9 or 10, we had trouble with one outlet or light. My father had died and my mother called an electrician. He unscrewed all the fuses and then screwed them in one at a time until the problem showed up again***. I was sort of humiliated that I hadn't thought of that. (My mother hadn't even asked me to fix it, but I thought I should.)
***This works best in the daytime.

one breaker. It's not impossible that the red and black wires are on separate circuits. They shouldn't be, but still could be.
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For tracing sockets, you can plug in a radio. Turn it up loud, and find the fuse that makes the noise stop and restart. Tracing circuit breakers (not Federal Pacific Electric) can be done by the Jesus method, or by overload the circuit deliberately. Go see which one tripped. . Christopher A. Young Learn more about Jesus www.lds.org . .
When I was 9 or 10, we had trouble with one outlet or light. My father had died and my mother called an electrician. He unscrewed all the fuses and then screwed them in one at a time until the problem showed up again***. I was sort of humiliated that I hadn't thought of that. (My mother hadn't even asked me to fix it, but I thought I should.)
***This works best in the daytime.
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For under $ 40 at Lowes you can get a tester for this. You plug one in the socket you want to find, the other device is held in your hand and move it up and down the breaker box. It will light up and beep at the breaker that goes to the circuit. All this is done with the breaker on.
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On 4/2/2013 4:46 PM, Stormin Mormon wrote:

Trying to steal my material there Stormy? I had to use "The Jesus Method" the other day on a job. It's fun to scare people and listen to the wires slapping the conduit when they jump around inside it. ^_^
TDD
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wrote:

one breaker. It's not impossible that the red and black wires are on separate circuits. They shouldn't be, but still could be. Didn't get in on the start of this thread, but if the red and black are on outlets, they are likely splits - and they WILL be on different circuits - but by law they need to be on tied breakers od fuse pulls that cannot have one fuse removed at a time.. Thing is, you don't know who wired it, when, and how - so you don't bet your life on it.
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On 4/2/2013 3:42 PM, snipped-for-privacy@snyder.on.ca wrote:

than one breaker. It's not impossible that the red and black wires are on separate circuits. They shouldn't be, but still could be.

In the US, the NEC did not require common disconnect for a multiwire branch circuit. (An Edison circuit is a multiwire, but a multiwire can be 3-phase.) Then the NEC required a common disconnect for multiwire that supplied a split wired receptacle - one circuit to each receptacle. Now the NEC requires a common disconnect for any multiwire branch circuit.
I have not seen many split wired receptacles with 2 circuits, but they are around, most likely in kitchens. Elsewhere likely half the receptacle is switched.
If the wire is actually #12 it could be to supply a 220V receptacle. I suspect it is #14.
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On 4/3/2013 1:15 PM, bud-- wrote:

commercial locations. Typically 120 volt on top and 240 volt on bottom, and in a few commercial kitchens with typical Edison wiring, but before GFCI protection was required. With GFCI regulations, it would be a little expensive for a residential application.
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I think Canada has the right idea. The US could require adjacent outlets to be on a different circuit. Two circuits for the kitchen but alternate them. It would be nice to be able to tell by looking at the outlets which circuit they were on. I would use different colors, but no one has ever accused me of being an interior decorator.
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