Too many Wires! Help with new wall outlet

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Its far easier, to install a new outlet in a new box fed from a convenient nearby location....
it elminates the risk of mucking something up, thats working but may not have been to code to begin with.
it elminates the issue of a jammed tight overfilled box. will there be room for ALL the wires plus the outlet?
the easy way is just install a new everything........
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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.

To me it just sounds like someone didn't have a long enough wire to run a 220 circuit and put in a junction box.
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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. -------
Claims to know a lot - yeah, right..
220 ?? what makes him think that ?
And what is a "normal" wiring for red/white/black, and a duplex outlet than only has 2 screws (silver/gold) and a ground ?
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On 04/02/2013 05:37 PM, ps56k wrote:

Connect the red wire to ground :-)
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On Wed, 3 Apr 2013 22:48:31 +0000 (UTC), Red Green

unless they are tied breakers in residential code "in Canada.". Not sure what American code allows - generally American code allows some things that would be unthinkable under Canadian code.

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On 04/02/2013 02:32 PM, snipped-for-privacy@mailcity.com wrote:

I seriously doubt it.
This may be a junction point for an "Edison Circuit" in which case he's partly right, but you would want to use only red, white, and bare or black, white and bare depending. If it is in fact an Edison circuit then the potential between the black and red will be 240VAC (used to be nominally 230V, then before that 220V)
It may also be, if this is in a room with receptacles controlled by a light switch, that one of the colored (that is, not white or bare/green) wires is switched by a light switch. If that is the case you can choose to use that for half the recep and the other half for unswitched just in case you want to have a lamp plugged into this recep that is controlled by a switch.
Keep in mind that you're probably exceeding the allowable box fill by current code to add a recep to this box unless this is a 1900 box (4" square) with a plaster ring or a deep switch box will be OK according to this link
http://www.groverelectric.com/howto/12_Popular%20Metal%20&%20Plastic%20Boxes,%20Their%20Uses%20&%20Wire%20Fill%20Capacities.pdf
but a standard switch box will not.
In any case I think you need to do some investigating with a meter, or if you're not comfortable with same, find someone who is.
good luck,
nate
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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.

One other clue would be what height is the box. If it's receptacle height, the chance the wires are travelers is low. If the box is at switch height, the chance the wires are travelers is high.
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OP here again....
Things are starting to make sense a little.
The box in question is the standard duplex outlet box -- about one foot off the ground and about 2"x4" made from that hard thick brown plastic that se ems to be the standard for all the boxes in this house and looks to be nail ed to a stud.
It is a couple of feet off from a corner, it has a mate, along the same wal l, also a couple of feet off from the corner.
It's a den, and the location of the box seems to be the prime spot someone would want an outlet to be if they wanted to plug in a lamp. As I said, it 's mate down the wall is controlled by a wall switch that is directly acros s the room. No ceiling fixtures.
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On Tuesday, April 2, 2013 4:33:32 PM UTC-7, snipped-for-privacy@mailcity.com wrote:

seems to be the standard for all the boxes in this house and looks to be na iled to a stud.

it's mate down the wall is controlled by a wall switch that is directly acr oss the room. No ceiling fixtures.
OP again, with a PS. I do have an $80 Klein multimeter. I do work on some electrical "stuff." Have replaced clothes dryer elements, motors in washing machines, light switches, etc. Been shocked more times than I care to adm it.
Oh, and the house has a split buss panel. Loads of fun to work with...
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On Tue, 2 Apr 2013 16:33:32 -0700 (PDT), snipped-for-privacy@mailcity.com wrote:

ground and about 2"x4" made from that hard thick brown plastic that seems to be the standard for all the boxes in this house and looks to be nailed to a stud.

would want an outlet to be if they wanted to plug in a lamp. As I said, it's mate down the wall is controlled by a wall switch that is directly across the room. No ceiling fixtures. There is a pretty good chance you can add an outlet without any problems. Just take your tester and test the wires. Put your tester on a voltage scale at the highest setting (AC volts). Touch one lead of the tester to the bare ground wire. Use the other lead to test the white first. It should be 0v.
Then test say the black (once with the switch on and once with the switch off). Touch one lead to the bare ground wire and the other lead to the black. It should read 120v. Test it again with the switch off. It will either read 0v or 120v.
Do the same test with the red wire. Just note if it is the black wire that changes with the switch off or the red.
You shouldn't have to break the splices to make this test.
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On 04/02/2013 07:33 PM, snipped-for-privacy@mailcity.com wrote:

OK then here is what I would do. go ahead and get yourself a cheap meter like we all suggested if you don't have one already, test the voltages. I then expect to see the following:
Black to ground - 120V or thereabouts all the time. Red to ground - 120V or thereabouts only when the light switch is on. (red and black may be reversed, if that is the case just make a note of it.) White to ground - 0V all the time.
If that is the case then your assumption is correct and you can install a receptacle assuming that the box is deep enough. Everything below is ASSuming that you've found what you expect to find and that the box is large enough to handle the device (3-1/2" deep or thereabouts.)
I personally would get a receptacle with provisions for "back wiring" (NOT back stab - don't ever use those!) so you can get rid of the wire nuts. This will likely be a "spec grade" receptacle which is not a bad thing - they cost a little more but are higher quality. Personally I don't use anything else on work that I am doing myself. contractors will use less expensive materials because they're legal and they're trying to keep costs down. But I digress...
when you have your shiny new recep in your hand, you will see two brass screws on the right side as you are looking at the face of it with ground down, and two nickel plated screws on the left side. Somewhere will be a green ground screw as well, which you will need to use since you have plastic boxes.
What you're going to want to do now is decide if you want to split the recep or not. What I mean by that is whether you want one of the receps of the duplex to be switched for a lamp or if you want them both to be hot all the time.
If you want to split it - turn off the breaker controlling the circuit, then separate all the wire splices save for the ground. You will probably find it easier to just cut the wires off and restrip because you want nice straight wire ends. Take the recep in your hand, look at the "hot" (brass screw) side and you should see a little tab connecting the two plates behind the screws. Break that off, but leave the one on the neutral (nickel screw) side alone. There should be two holes behind each screw where you can shove wires in and then tighten down the clamps with the screw; put the wires that are switched by the light switch (I'm assuming red) under the upper brass screw and the wires that are always hot (I'm assuming black) under the lower brass screw. Put both white wires under one of the nickel plated screws, doesn't matter which one. Tighten all the screws down. Now take a short scrap of bare copper wire and add it to the splice of the two ground wires - you may need a larger wire nut, I think yellow will work for #14 but you might need a red one for #12 - and loop the other end and connect it to the green ground screw on the recep. Now you're ready to put it back in, attach the cover plate, then check your work.
If you don't want to split it, follow the directions above except do not break the tab, and don't connect the switched wires to the recep at all, just leave them spliced together as they are.
Let us know what you find!
nate
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On 04/02/2013 08:03 PM, Nate Nagel wrote:

Forgot to add, test black to red as well, should be 0V (assuming you've found everything is as above) with the light switch on. If not, then there's a problem. (shouldn't have to do this, but testing everything is a good practice.)
nate
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On Tuesday, 2 April 2013 19:33:32 UTC-4, snipped-for-privacy@mailcity.com wrote:

seems to be the standard for all the boxes in this house and looks to be na iled to a stud.

it's mate down the wall is controlled by a wall switch that is directly acr oss the room. No ceiling fixtures.
I think you have something that's really quite common for dens and living r ooms: a series of outlets in which one or more can be controlled by a wall switch. In most/some/all areas, the Code allows such a scheme as an alterna tive to a switched ceiling fixture. (In practice, someone always manages to plug the TV into the switched outlet.)
One of the hot wires (I'd have used the red, but it would be at the discret ion of whoever installed it) will be switched. The other will be live all t he time. Both will be on the same circuit (breaker/fuse) and so there will not be any voltage difference between them.
If every outlet in the room is daisy-chained with both the red and black, t hen any of them could be reworked to be switched or not, by connecting it t o the other wire. Often, the outlets "downstream" of the one they wanted sw itched will be wired without the switched wire.
You could connect the hot side of your new outlet to either the red or the black, depending on whether you wanted it switched or not. You could even c ut the linking tab on the new outlet, connect red to one half and black to the other, and have only one of the two plugs switched. Would save you the trouble of figuring out which wire is which! (This *looks* like the "split" or "edison" circuit of which others speak, but isn't, since both halves of the outlet are on the same leg and the same breaker.)
These schemes are well documented in all of the glossy D-I-Y electrical boo ks at the big box stores, along with techniques for adding an outlet to the m.
Kind of odd why someone would remove an outlet and cap it off like that. An y hints as to why?
Chip C Toronto
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Blurb continued...
As stated before, the technically incorrect but easiest way to think about house wiring is that the power comes from the generating station on the red and black wires and goes back to the generating station on the white wire. You can use that same analogy when it comes to the individual circuits in your house as well. The power comes from the electrical panel on the black or red wires and goes back to the panel on the white wire. Again, it doesn't, but that way of thinking about it will at least help you better understand the reasons behind doing certain things certain ways.
For example, there is a standard wiring convention when wiring 110 volt electrical outlets. You will notice that the screw connections on one side of the duplex receptacle will be chrome plated, whereas those on the other side will be bare brass. The 120 volt wiring convention is to always connect the light coloured wire to the light coloured screw, and the dark coloured wire to the dark coloured screw. So, if you are mounting a duplex receptacle in an electrical box, you would connect the black or red pigtail to either of the bare brass screws on one side of the duplex receptacle and the white pigtail to either of the chrome plated screws on the other side of the duplex receptacle. The same convention holds true for wiring the male and female ends of extension cords; the dark coloured insulation always goes to the dark screw and the light coloured insulation always goes to the light coloured screw. You'll notice that on switches, both screws will be identical because the switch should always be on the black or red supply side of the circuit, not the white return side of the circuit.
The reason for this convention is safety. If homeowners, electricians and appliance manufacturers all follow this wiring convention, that will ensure that the on/off switch for 110 VAC appliances will always be on the power supply wire (that is, the red or black wire). And, this is important from a safety perspective because it ensures that the on/off switch will shut off power from coming into the appliance. In the time before electrical plugs and receptacles were "polarized", both prongs on a cord plug and both slots of an electrical receptacle were the same size. So, you could plug a 110 VAC appliance into a receptacle with the plug either right side up or upside down. The appliance would work equally well either way. However, in one of these positions the on/off switch to the appliance would be on the power supply wire and would shut off the power going into the appliance. In the other position, the on/off switch would be on the white neutral wire and would shut off the power getting out of the appliance. So, if there were a short circuit in the appliance, having the switch on the power supply wire would ensure that there would be no power in the appliance when the appliances on/off switch was in the off position. But, if the plug was upside down, then the on/off switch would be on the white wire, then there would ALWAYS be power in the appliance as long as it was plugged in. So, you could still get a shock from the appliance even if it was turned off. That's cuz the switch is now only preventing power from leaving the appliance via the white wire. The power can still come into the appliance via the black or red power supply wire and leave the appliance via some other route, like through YOUR BODY!!! Thus, if you happened to be touching a faucet while you were touching a toaster with a short circuit in it, you could end up getting 110 volts at 15 amps across your heart even if the toaster was turned off at the time, and that could potentially kill you. Thus, by sticking to this dark wire to dark screw wiring convention, we always end up with the appliance on/off switch on the power supply line, and that ensures that appliances can't give you a shock if they're turned off.
There is also a standard wiring convention used when wiring the plugs, receptacles and terminal blocks of 220 volt appliances, all of which will have provision for connecting THREE wires as well as a ground wire. Normally the ground wire terminal will be easy to identify because it will be grounded to the electrical box by an electrical conductor, and the remaining three connection points for the red, white and black wires will be arranged in a row. The wiring convention for 220 volt appliances is that the white neutral wire is ALWAYS connected to the middle terminal in that row of three connection sites, and the red and black wires are connected on either side of it. It doesn't matter which side you connect the red or the black wires to, as long as the white is in the middle and the red and black are on the outside, you're good to go. If your stove or dryer doesn't come with a cord and you want to connect one to the terminal block of the appliance, the same rule applies, namely "white in the middle, black and red on the outside". If you're wanting to wire a receptacle for a stove or electric dryer, then again, the same rule applies. First identify the ground wire terminal, and the remaining three connection points will be for the red, white and black wires and they should be arranged in a recognizable "row". Always connect the white in the middle of those three sites and the red and black on either side of the white.
Every dryer cord will have 4 prongs sticking out of it. The straight ones are for the red and black wires, the "L" shaped one is for the white wire and the round one is for the ground wire. Range cords also have 4 prongs, but they will use 3 straight prongs for the red, black and white wires and a round one for the ground wire. Configuring the plug and receptacle differently (with an "L" shaped prong instead of a straight one) is done so you can't stick a 30 amp dryer plug into a 50 amp range receptacle or vice versa.
The heating elements in both electric dryers and stoves require 220 volt power, but you still need to run the white wire to the stove or dryer. The reason why is that there will be circuits within the stove or dryer that require only 110 volt power. For example, the electric motor that turns the dryer drum or the light bulb inside an oven will both require 110 volt AC power, not 220 volt power. So, in an electric stove the heating elements will be connected between the red and black wires because they need 220 volts, but the electrical outlets provided for convenience on the stove console will be connected between the white wire and either the red or black power wires, because the convenience outlet is intended to provide only 110 volts to power 110 volt appliances. And, this is also why you can have TWO convenience outlets on a stove instead of just one. One of those convenience outlets will be powered by the black wire, and the other one by the red wire. Since the main black and red wires going to a stove are fused at 50 amps each in the electrical panel, any circuit between the red and white OR black and white wires inside the stove will give you a 110 volt 50 AMP CIRCUIT which probably won't stop pumping out the electricity if there's a short anywhere in that circuit, and 50 amps going through wiring rated at 15 amps is a great way to start a fire. That's why for the electric outlets provided for convenience on range cooktops, there will be a 15 amp fuse right in the range somewhere that fuses each convenience outlet down to 15 amps. If you have two cooktop plugs, one will be driven by the red wire and one by the black wire, and each will have a separate 15 amp fuse on it.
Also, if you stop to think about it, if the black supply wire is feeding a 110 AC voltage sine wave into the white "return" wire and the red supply wire is also feeding an equal but opposite voltage into that same white "return" wire, then theoretically, there should be no voltage in the white wire since the two sine voltage waves would cancel out. Similarily, the resultant current sine waves from the red and black wires would cancel each other out when they both meet at the white "return" wire. If the world was perfect and all electrical loads were purely resistive, like light bulbs, toasters, electric ranges and coffee makers, then the voltage and current sine waves from the two power supply wires would indeed cancel each other out, and there would be theoretically be ZERO voltage and ZERO current in the white wire. However, in the real world there are electric motors and television sets and computer monitors, all of which have some "impedance". In an electric motor, for example, the magnetic fields created by the electric motor windings impeded the flow of current through those same motor windings, so the motor windings themselves cause the current sine wave coming out of the motor to lag behind the applied voltage sine wave. Also, television sets and those old CRT style computer monitors have huge capacitors in them. In a capacitor, the current OUT of the capacitor is highest when the CHANGE in voltage is highest, and that occurs when the voltage sine wave passes through the point of ZERO voltage. Thus, capacitors cause the current sine wave coming out of those computer monitors and TV sets to actually preceed the applied voltage sine wave. So, even though the red and black wires carry equal and opposite 110 AC voltage sine waves, the impedance of "reactive" loads like electric motors and TV sets cause timing differences in the resulting current sine waves coming out of those loads. So, the current and voltage sine waves generally DON'T cancel out in the white wire, and there can be significant voltages and currents in the white wire as a result. So, to be safe, treat every wire as having dangerous voltage in it.
--
nestork


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When a marginally knowledgable person stumbles on to a electrical mystery, with a box that will be jammed when they are done adding a outlet to a already full box the easiest thing.
Forget about the mystery, since at best it will be overfull......
Its far easier to add a box close by fed from a convenient location.
Boxes and wire are pretty cheap. Far cheaper than calling a electrician.
I have some friends who were tough to deal with. They re arranged their kitchen and tried to insist on moving outlets to save $$$.
I said if you want me to do this job and remember I am FREE, then you are buying the necessary supplies!
They were unhappy but not stupid. They papered over one blank box to save the cost of a blank plate, if I had known I would of given them one.......
Espically when dealing with old work running a new wire and outlet is often the easiest solution.
My moms house had a dead outlet:( I checked it out and somehow the black wire right where it entered the box had broke off.... With only a tiny bit showing I wire nutted it and put a blank plate over the now empty box.
Then installed a nice new box and outlet a foot away. Not only was it more convenient, but a far easier job that I knew would last forever since the home was being sold...
Incidently I did lots of work the home inspectors passed everything:)
Except the first buyers inspector flagged the lack of GFCI on the garage sump pump. The deal fell thru for other reasons....... But I added the GFCI.
Home buyer number 2 had his inspection, and flagged the electrical for ONE thing, claimed the same garage sump pump shouldnt be on a GFCI:(
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wrote:

because the original installation could have been a switched receptacle that has been removed?
If there was room for the outlet then, don't you think there will be room for an outlet now?

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I think you're right that he'll wind up with too much stuff per code for that box, assuming it's a small one, typical for a single outlet. He could install a larger box at that location. Or run a romex from that box to a new receptacle box nearby.
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That simplification works until you come across the first 240V circuit or an Edison circuit.

Actually for almost all the 120V circuits, it does come from the panel on the black or red and goes back on the the white. Exception would be any Edison circuits.

There are a lot of older 3 wire 240 volt receptacles out there too.
 Normally the ground wire terminal will be easy to identify

You could have one outlet or 10 outlets powered by either hot leg, the above makes no sense.
 Since

Forget about motors, which just complicate matters even more. Even with purely resistive loads, for there to be zero current in the neutral, the loads have to be EQUAL.

It's not the VOLTAGE that counts, it's the CURRENT. If the two loads on each hot leg are not equal, then you have current flowing in the neutral. You're always going to see a 120V sine wave.
the impedance of "reactive"

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Blurb continued...
Now, up until now we've been saying that the black and red wires in your house carried fresh voltage and current sine waves from the electrical panel and that the white wire carried the used voltage and current back to the electrical panel.
If you stop to think about it, if the black voltage and current supply sine wave is 180 degrees out of phase with the red voltage and current sine waves, then they SHOULD cancel each other out perfectly where they come together in the white wire. And that would mean that there should be NO voltage OR current at all in the white wire. That is, if the voltage sine wave is at +120 volts in the red wire, it should be at -120 volts in the black wire at the same time, so what would be the voltage when those sine waves meet in the white wire? +120 -120 0, or zero voltage in the white wire. And, the current in the white wire would also be zero because you can't have current without a voltage to drive that current.
If the world was perfect, and Lassie didn't kill chickens, and all electrical loads were purely resistive, like light bulbs, toasters, electric ranges and coffee makers, then the voltage and current sine waves from the two power supply wires would indeed cancel each other out, and there would be theoretically be ZERO voltage and ZERO current in the white wire.
However, in the real world there are electric motors and television sets and computer monitors, all of which have some "impedance". In an electric motor, for example, the magnetic fields created by the electric motor windings impeded the flow of current through those same motor windings, so the motor windings themselves cause the current sine wave coming out of the motor to lag behind the applied voltage sine wave. In television sets and those old CRT style computer monitors you have huge capacitors. In a capacitor, the current OUT of the capacitor is highest when the CHANGE in voltage is highest, and that occurs when the voltage sine wave passes through the point of ZERO voltage. So capacitors cause the current sine wave coming out of those computer monitors and TV sets to be out of phase with the applied voltage sine wave as well.
So, even though the red and black wires carry equal and opposite 110 AC voltage sine waves, the impedance of "reactive" loads like electric motors and TV sets cause timing differences in the resulting current sine waves coming out of those loads. As a result, the current and voltage sine waves generally DON'T cancel out in the white wire, and there can be significant voltages and currents in the white wire as a result. So, to be safe, treat the white wire as having dangerous voltage in it too.
--
nestork

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It's getting stranger.....

Assuming there is even a black and a red in most circuits. Again, unless it's 240V, or an Edison circuit, which usually is not the case, you only have one hot. Absent that, the current in the black and white are equal.
 And that would mean that

Again, only if the loads on each leg are exactly equal. Put a toaster on one and a 50W bulb on the other and you have current flow in the neutral.

Yes, that can effect the current in the neutral, but the bigger and more easily understood effect is that for the current in the neutral to be zero, the loads, even if purely resistive, have to be equal. And the above only applies in a 240V circuit or an Edison circuit.

In the circuits in the typical home, most of the neutrals have large currents flowing in them, because they are *not* Edison circuits. They consist of only one hot and one neutral coming from the panel. The current in the white (neutral) wire is EQUAL to the current in the black (hot) wire. If you plug in a hair dryer, you have 10 amps flowing in both of those wires.
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