I just bought a fixer upper that was built in 1976. I was having trouble with one of the outlets and pulled it out to take a look at it. I do know it's a 20 amp midcircuit receptacle, but there are actually 3 sets of hot/neutral wires and 1 ground running into the back of a duplex outlet receptacle. All six hot/neutral wires were connected into the back of a duplex outlet, which was looking a little fried. It looks like I'm dealing with a split or double circuit receptable, but I'm not sure how best to verify that and replace it. Any help you can provide me would be appreciated. Thanks!
Look at the side of the receptacle and see if the tab between the screws is broken off. This tells you if it is one circuit or two. It could also be a "half hot" receptacle if the tab is broken off.
You are not allowed to connect 3 wires to a receptacle. There are 2 terminals on each side so only 2 wires can be connected to each side. One wire goes to each screw maximum. Never use the push ins as they make a bad connection and are subject to failure as well as not being rated for 20 amp circuits. In a case like this you will need to pigtail the wires with wirenuts.
The old receptacle had all 3 sets of hot/neutral wires plugged into the back of the receptacle. I can't find any bridges like I'd have expected on a screw terminal receptacle, which is what I'd hoped to find.
Is there a reason why there are 6 hot/neutral wires and only one ground?
I knew the push ins were not a good idea and the one I'm looking at is looking kind of scorched, too.
How do I know which wires to pigtail, i.e. which are from the incoming circuits and which are to the downstream circuits?
You really should replace the receptacle and use the screws on the sides for connections. You may find there are 3 grounding conductors already pigtailed together in the box. The 3 white wires pigtail together and the 3 black wires pigtail together. It makes no different which one is the power feed and which one feeds downstream devices on the circuit.
Electrical contractor and electrical inspector for over 23 years with phone and networking expertise
I would also check the size of the overcurrent device and make sure it is not too big for the circuit. No receptacle circuit can ever be 30 amperes. #12 wire is 20 amps and #14 wire is 15 amps.
I've got a 20 amp receptacle with the side wiring ready to go. I just wasn't sure about how to configure the wiring with 3 feeds. I'll take care of that tonight. Thank you!!!
Pigtail the blacks and connect one wire to the copper side screw and pigtail the whites and connect one wire to the silver side screw. This takes care of the extra wires.
Finished the pig tails and everything is working fine. The electrical inspector is coming through in 2 weeks, though, just to make sure. :)
If all is finished is there a reason to wait 2 weeks?