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Mike, Master Electrician
Category: Electrical
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I am changing an outlet, 2 white wires 2 black, 1 red and 1

Customer Question

i am changing an outlet, 2 white wires 2 black, 1 red and 1 ground
JA: I'll do all I can to help. How long have you been dealing with this?
Customer: 10 minutes
JA: Do you plan on doing the work yourself?
Customer: yes, I did the other 3 bedrooms
JA: Anything else we should know to help you best?
Customer: in the other bedrooms i had 2 reds, and this one there is only 1
Submitted: 1 year ago.
Category: Electrical
Expert:  Kevin replied 1 year ago.

Hello and welcome to Just Answer. My name is ***** ***** I will be happy to assist you with your electrical question.

1) What is your question? Please provide details?

2) Receptacle not working or other rooms not working or what?

3) Is the wall receptacle controlled by a wall switch where 1/2 is always live and the other 1/2 is switched?

Customer: replied 1 year ago.
Just got the house and changed the outlets, It is a 1/2 hot 1/2 switched
Expert:  Kevin replied 1 year ago.

Thanks for confirming.

1) Since the receptacle is split wired, you will need to remove the tab located in between the 2 brass screws. If you pull out the wall switch, most likely it will contain the red wire that is switching the 1/2 to ON or OFF.

Look at the original receptacle and confirm if the brass tab was removed. Let me knows the results and we can take it from there...........Thanks...........Kevin:)

Customer: replied 1 year ago.
the brass tab was removed, The wall switch has a black and white wire only.
Expert:  Kevin replied 1 year ago.

1) Then the black wire that extends from the switch is the switched loop wire which needs to be terminated to 1 of the brass screws when the tab is removed. This black wire will only turn that 1/2 of the receptacle ON or OFF.

2) The 2nd black wire and the red wire need to be pigtailed together onto the other brass screw and this should provide the always hot portion to the other 1/2 of the receptacle.

Expert:  Kevin replied 1 year ago.

The replacement receptacle requires it's brass tab also removed.

Customer: replied 1 year ago.
do i need a pigtail or can i put the red and black on the same term.
Expert:  Kevin replied 1 year ago.

You need a 6 inch pigtail splice. Splice the 2 house wires together with a wire nut and then the single pigtail wire will terminate to the other brass screw.

Code only allows 1 wire per screw terminal, thus the reason for the pigtail.

See diagrams shown below for a pigtail:

Customer: replied 1 year ago.
the black from the switch and the red together?
Expert:  Kevin replied 1 year ago.

No, the black from the switch needs to reside on it's own separate brass screw since it is switching that 1/2 portion of the receptacle.

The 2nd black and the red need to be pigtailed to the 2nd brass screw.

Customer: replied 1 year ago.
okay i did that and it didnt work, there is 2 outlets with red wires, if that make a difference.
Expert:  Kevin replied 1 year ago.

1) Do you have either a 2 wire lead AC voltage tester (a contact type) or a multi-meter available? You need to identify the always live circuit feed (hot and neutral). The switched loop black wire also needs to be identified to correctly switch that 1/2 portion of the receptacle.

2) Are the 2 receptacles installed side-by-side in a 2 gang wall box or separate boxes?

Customer: replied 1 year ago.
no the outlets are about 8 feet away
Expert:  Kevin replied 1 year ago.

You need a voltage tester to confirm the wires in place.

Customer: replied 1 year ago.
okay I know which black is always hot, that one goes by itself and the other two are pigtailed.
Expert:  Kevin replied 1 year ago.

Since the switch contains a white wire, it is being used as a hot feed to the switch. You need to confirm if that white wire on the switch is always hot. If not, then it needs to e spliced to either a black or to a red hot wire in order to extend power to the switch.

The white switch wire needs a constant 120 volts whether the switch is ON or OFF. The black wire extending out from the switch to the receptacle will only have 120 volts when the switch is in the ON position.

Expert:  Kevin replied 1 year ago.

Since the switch contains a white wire, it is being used as a hot feed to the switch. You need to confirm if that white wire on the switch is always hot. If not, then it needs to be spliced to either a black or to a red hot wire in order to extend power to the switch.

The white switch wire needs a constant 120 volts whether the switch is ON or OFF. The black wire extending out from the switch to the receptacle will only have 120 volts when the switch is in the ON position.

Customer: replied 1 year ago.
There is no power in either the white or black wire that is acctached to the switch
Expert:  Kevin replied 1 year ago.

Then most likely, the switch cable is originating from the receptacle box. White on a switch is always used as the hot circuit feed. The black is then used as the switched loop wire that extends to the receptacle. If no 120 volts on the switch white wire, then the switched loop black wire will also be dead.

You need to identify where the switch cable originates from. My guess would be from the receptacle box. A continuity tester can confirm this. If any white wires inside the receptacle box are painted black or contain black electrical tape, then those are used as hot wires and not as neutral wires.

If the downstream receptacles contain a red wire, then most likely it is the same red wire that originates in the upstream receptacle box. Once again, a continuity tester can confirm this.

Expert:  Kevin replied 1 year ago.

If the wall switch box only contains 1 white and 1 black, then power is originating somewhere else. Probably from the receptacle box is my guess.

Expert:  Kevin replied 1 year ago.

Process of isolation and elimination:

If the receptacle box contains 2 whites and 2 blacks, then 1 set is being used as the circuit feed and the other set is extending to the switch. Confirm which of the white and black in the receptacle box is always hot. This then leaves you with 1 black and 1 white which probably feeds to the switch. Splice the switch white wire to the receptacle black hot wire. Then test for 120 volts ON and OFF on the switch black wire.

Expert:  Kevin replied 1 year ago.

Once the wires are identified and working, get some white electrical tape and a black sharpie marker and label the wires accordingly as switched loop, hot circuit feed, switch feed, etc. This way, you won't have problems in the future if replacing these devices.

Customer: replied 1 year ago.
only one black wire has power in one outlet
Expert:  Kevin replied 1 year ago.

Yes, that is what i would expect. It is being used as the circuit feed along with it's companion neutral.

Expert:  Kevin replied 1 year ago.

Do you have a multi-meter that is capable of measuring Ohms and/or continuity?

Can't guess on this since all wires must be accounted for if you did not label them prior to removing the original receptacle. Otherwise, this becomes a time consuming guessing game:)

Expert:  Kevin replied 1 year ago.

Give me the exact count and wire colors that are in the switch box and in the receptacle box?

Also back out the devices and send me pictures of each box so I can see what you have in place?

Are the 2 boxes wired using Romex cable or conduit or other?

Customer: replied 1 year ago.
the outlet farthest away has a hot black and white, it is romex, so the outlet farthest away has 1 hot white, 1 hot black, then one red, black, white and ground
Expert:  Kevin replied 1 year ago.

If this the wire count in the downstream receptacle box or the original receptacle box where you replaced the device at?

Do you have a multi-meter that is capable of measuring Ohms and/or continuity?

Customer: replied 1 year ago.
all the wires are the same, i dont have a reader
Expert:  Kevin replied 1 year ago.

OK, very good. There is nothing more that I can offer unless you have a multi-meter readily available that can also measure Ohms and test for continuity.

I will opt out of the question and perhaps another expert here has a better idea and they can assist you. No need to reply back to me, you will be notified once your question has been picked up. Thanks.

Expert:  WCohn replied 1 year ago.

Kevin is 110% right if you are not properly tooled up with test equipment you have no business messing with your electrical system. It okay to be a do it yourselfer, but you have to be safe and equipped.