4 wire outlet from backstab to pigtail

grandmumNovember 19, 2013

When an old outlet has 2 neutrals and 2 hots connected to it via the backstab holes, is it always appropriate to pigtail those connections instead?

I changed an outlet (first time for an old lady!) and realized the 4 wires were in the backholes.Maybe I should have looked it up first but I pigtailed them instead with wirenuts and put the pigtails on the screws....

Got me to thinking, is there any situation in wiring where it must be wired the other way (ie using the outlet as the junction point) ?

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bcarlson78248

In most cases its better to use wirenuts and pigtails so that power to other outlets does not rely on the backstab connections; however, sometimes space in the box is tight and its hard to fit in the pigtail and wirenuts. Its especially tight if the outlet happens to be a GFCI and the box is small.

If everything fits I don't think there is any case where it would be better to use the outlet as a junction point.

Bruce

    Bookmark   November 19, 2013 at 5:48PM
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ionized_gw

Is there a chance that this outlet was a duplex that was split to switched/unswitched on the same circuit or even on two separate circuits?

    Bookmark   November 20, 2013 at 2:25PM
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grandmum

It was a antique 2 prong outlet. It only had one screw on each side. However, it had 2 backholes on eachside which the 4 wires were connected too. I dont see any place a tab would be removed to split the plug like you suggest.

So I assumed, if a tab isnt removed on the outlet, the holes in back would be the same connection as a pigtail.

In other words, I didnt change the way it was wired by just adding the pigtails?

    Bookmark   November 20, 2013 at 5:01PM
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glennsparky

"In other words, I didnt change the way it was wired by just adding the pigtails?"

You didn't change anything, except for the better. Pigtails were perfect.

    Bookmark   November 21, 2013 at 4:39AM
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grandmum

Now I come to another dillema.

I changed another outlet, again with 4 wires. This time I didnt feel comfortable adding pigtails to it, it seemed kind of cramped in the box.

So instead of backholes, I just replaced the outlet and put all 4 connections on the screws.

But I got fancy and switched the way wires were designated. I kept the wires that came from the pipe above on the top screws (white to silver brass for hot of course) and the 2 set of wires coming from the side pipe I put them in the bottom. The old outlet they were mismatched, I figure whoever installed it didnt think about being neat unless there a reason why you would use different screws (tabs are not removed, standard duplex outlet)..... ?

The outlet tests OK.

I assume it was alright to do that, correct?

THanks again!

    Bookmark   November 21, 2013 at 10:06AM
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Ron Natalie

If the backstabs were legal, then so are using the screws.

The problem is however, that there are certain times (MWBC) where you should not be using the device to make the connection for the grounded conductor (neutral). Doesn't matter if you were using the screws or the backstabs.

    Bookmark   November 21, 2013 at 2:14PM
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