How to Wire an Outlet in a Circuit

How to wire a circuit of outlets

Wiring a circuit of outlets is actually a fairly simple process when it is at the end of a circuit. The drawing at left illustrates the configuration. It shows metal boxes being used. Using plastic boxes will be very similar, only there will be no ground wire attaching directly to the box. A circuit including a light and a switch or even a three-way switch will be slightly different (see separate articles).

Tools: Basic tools necessary to wire an outlet include, a pair of needle-nose pliers, a utility knife, a flathead screwdriver, a heavy pair of pliers (or a wire cutter).

Materials: Romex wire (12 or 14 gauge), outlet boxes, outlets, wire splice connectors, wire staples.

Safety: Whenever doing electrical work caution should be taken to make certain that no electricity is flowing while the work is being done. A good rule of thumb when installing a new circuit is to hook up the hot-wire to the circuit box last. Remember: "load to source". Be sure that the circuit breaker is set to off, or that the fuse is removed.

Procedure: Mount the outlet boxes where desired within the frame. Boxes are designed so that they extend slightly less than 1/2-inch past the stud to which they are attached to accommodate drywall. Roughly run wire between the boxes, cutting as necessary, making sure that there is enough wire to attach it to the studs with staples approximately every 4 feet. Drill 1/2 to 5/8-inch holes to run wire through studs, making sure that the holes are kept far enough away from either edge to avoid puncture by drywall nails or nails used for siding. Staple the wire as appropriate, make sure at least one staple is placed near to each box or junction.

When wire is run, use a utility knife to strip away the outer layer of plastic which sheathes the wire to the point near where it enters the box. Remove the insulation from around the ground wire. With needle-nose pliers, or a wire stripper, take off about 1/2 to 3/4-inch of insulation from around the black and white wires. Then attach as illustrated in the drawing at left. When wiring is complete, be sure to put covers on all electrical access points to prevent a careless person from sticking a finger behind an outlet where there is a very good possibility of severe electric shock.

Note: No more than eight 15-amp outlets should be placed on a circuit using 14 gauge wire or six 20-amp general purpose outlets using 12 gauge wire. Allowing more can create a risk of overloading the circuit. Code and inspectors might specify different numbers of boxes in different areas. Circuits designated to have heavier loads, such as for a microwave or an air conditioner, may require smaller numbers of outlets or even a dedicated circuit.

Modern outlets have more than one means of connection. In the back there are holes that can be used for the black (hot) wire and the white (neutral) wire as opposed to the screw terminals shown in the drawing.

Screw Terminal Plug Replacement

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