I'm connecting a new outlet to an old one. The old receptacle has
holes in the back for backwiring and four screws on the side for
The guy at the hardware store said you could only hook one hot wire
and one neutral to the receptacle. The other connections had to be
pigtailed prior to connecting to the receptacle.
Seems like there are ample connection points with the backwire hole
and side screws. If the hot wires are all connected to one side of
the outlet and all the neutral to the sides, then why do I need to
pigtail? Why can't I just use the outlet as a connection point (note
the fin connecting top to bottom is still in place)? Seems like it
would be functional electrically - is it just a code thing?
Not knowing the wiring scheme in your outlet box, he may just be advising
you of the safest way to wire it. In some cases there are two circuits
brought into a junction box , sharing a neutral, for several runs of
outlets, lights or whatever. When you have this situation, you cannot have
the neutral conductors dependent upon a device, which is to say, they must
be pigtailed. When you pigtail outlets, if one outlet fails, the others
I think you can only hook one neutral wire to the outlet because you
don't want the neutral of a downstream outlet be dependent on one
another device -- if someone removes the outlet, all the others on the
circuit now have an open neutral. The hot wire is not so important for
safety, in my opinion, because all the downstream outlets will be dead
if you remove the upstream outlet.
Also, the more wires you have attached to a device the harder it is to
shove it into the box, even if the box is plenty big. Don't ask me how
I know that.
And even if you, or people working with your permission, won't do dumb
things, some future owner might, leaving a surprise for some
farther-future owner. Best to do things right up front, to give future
idiots less opportunity to screw up.
And never underestimate the kind of dumb things people might do. In my
house, I had an outlet in the master bedroom that had open ground, as
did the outlet in the master bathroom. The other outlets in the master
bedroom that were on that circuit were fine. The electrician found the
problem--the wiring went from the last good outlet up to the attic, to
go over a door, and then down. Someone had cut the wires up there, and
wired in a socket. (A single outlet socket, not the usual dual outlet
socket. I didn't even know they made singles). Whoever did that had
not bothered to hook the ground to the outlet--they just left the two
ends of the cut ground line sitting there.
On or about Sat, 12 May 2007 15:12:47 -0500 did zxcvbob
Not to mention possibly dangerous. I once had to wire a 240V outlet
for an electric range with 6-gauge wire. That outlet box sure looked
big before I tried to shove four of those monstrous wires into it.
As it turns out, a sharp edge in the box punctured one of the wires,
and upon turning on the circuit, I had a very dark house. It didn't
trip the 40A double breakers it was attached to, or even the box
breaker. It tripped the outside breaker where the power comes in from
All because of a tiny cut in the insulation that was nearly impossible
I'll take the spaghetti of half a dozen 15A runs meeting inside a
switch box over that.
lets you chain them.
Some people like pigtails because a defective outlet won't shut down the
whole circuit. Or sometimes it is just easier to pigtail because the wires
are too short to get to the outlet otherwise.
He might be thinking of a switch; it is forbidden to take a connection off a
switch, you must pigtail.
By the way, backstab connections are very bad; backclamp are okay.
Can you explain why this is? I would have guessed that if someone
removed the outlet they would reconnect the wires that were previously
attached to it. If you had just pigtailed and disconnect the
receptacle, the pigtailed end would still be hanging loose in a
It's not for that reason. IF, you have an Edison circuit, which is one where
two hot legs of different potential, share a neutral, and you loose the
continuity of the neutral, you get a 240 volt circuit between the two hot
legs. Even momentarily this can cause havoc
On Sat, 12 May 2007 18:22:47 -0400, "RBM" <rbm2(remove
in a house you would have to go from recpt to recpt with 12/3 or 14/3.
The rare case where you do feed a recpt with a 3 conductor cable, only
that box is required to have the neutral pigtailed.
As a rule, if the box only has black and white wires, you do not have
a Edison circuit.
Why would he be inclined to put both hot legs on the outlet? If you opened
up an outlet box with a multiwire circuit in the box, one leg would be on
the outlet and the other leg would be under a wire nut feeding the other
RBM had asked why put both legs on an outlet?
I agree with Chris; this not uncommon AIUI here in Canada. Because
instead the whole of say first duplex outlet being on Leg A and the
whole next duplex outlet say on Leg B both the outlets have that
little tag which is bridging the live/hot side of the upper and lower
pins together removed and lower and upper (live side) are wired. The
'total' capacity of the circuit is that of the #12 wiring and its
circuit breaker; 20 amps.
Our house for example has a few outlets where these 'Split outlets'
are used; effectively doubling the capacity of that outlet to 15 amps
Leg A and 15 amps Leg 15 B.
Our house has outlets wired with the then standard #12 AWG (115v
circuit breakered at 20 amps) or in the case of these few 'split
outlets', 115/115 3 wire #12AWG with 'double pole' 20 amp circuit
We did not pigtail, daisy chaining the 12AWG through the outlets which
here was/is OK to code. That meant in most cases four #12s per duplex
box plus grounds.
Apart from physical damage to a couple of 'bench outlets'; got to
replace them, but they are completely 'off'' by a master switch when
workshop unoccupied, no problems at all with outlet wiring in our 37
year old house.
You have me thinking though about one situation where I picked up the
live for a new switch for an added light socket at bottom of basement
stairs. Probably all of one amp to a single 100 watt bulb!
It is all safe and works fine; but! The switch box the added switch is
wired comes from is congested. Already have a physically larger box
standing by as a replacement to give more space; when I get around to
But; did I pigtail that? Or come off the screw on the live side of
that switch? Since this a lighting circuit using #14AWG, volume of
wire inside lighting switch box not too hard to deal with.
Thanks for the thoughts.
Good point. The typical scenario I'm referring to goes like this: 1980's
house roughing. You have two bedrooms back to back about 60 feet from the
panel. You want to run separate 15 amp circuits to each. You can drag two
14/2 cables, one per room, or drag one 14/3. If you bring the multiwire,
you'd bring it into an outlet box on a common wall to both rooms and split
one circuit for each room at that point. In the box where you brought the
two circuit cable, you have an outlet. That outlet and only that outlet
cannot have the neutrals dependent upon the receptacle, and must be
pigtailed. Once you've exited that box, each circuit are just two wire
single circuits, and all neutrals can be dependent upon the receptacles
The clerk doesn't know what he is talking about. You don't need to
pigtail the neutral except for the reasons RBM gave. Which is almost
never in a house.
Pig-tailing the splices makes a better connection for more than one
reason, but it is not required by the code.
Also, backstabs are cheaper and faster. That never equals better, but
they sell them. They are legal.
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