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Wire Connections to an Outlet


electrical outlet wiring repair

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Summary: Electrical Outlets Question:
I have replaced a good amount of receptacles in my home, and I'm the type of person that worries about every last thing possible and mainly about burning my house down.




Check Out What Others Are Sharing at Ask the Electrician:
Fine- very good. Ray from Bridgeport, Connecticut

How Tight the Screws Should be for Wire Connections to an Outlet



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Electrical Outlets Question:
I have replaced a good amount of receptacles in my home, and I'm the type of person that worries about every last thing possible and mainly about burning my house down.
I know that loose connections are bad and very dangerous.

Whenever I loop a wire around a receptacle screw terminal I make the screw very tight to ensure and snug connection (as tight as I can with my screwdriver).

What I want to know is if this will be okay. I have read somewhere that you can flatten the wire from over tightening the screw and create extreme heat.

I just want to know if this will burn my house down, or if it is okay left alone. We have not had any problems with any receptacles, and they are all cool to the touch.
If you could get back to me with that answer, that would be great.
Thanks a lot. Matt


Hi Matt - Great Electrical Repair Question!
First of all - would you PLEASE tell me where you found the information about tight screws. You are the second person to share this concern and it is false, especially when it comes to solid wire on an outlet screw terminal. There may be a slim possibility of flattening a #14 wire down to the point of breaking the wire off, but I have never seen such a problem on an outlet.

I have personally stripped out the screw a few times, and even broke the screws off when tightening down #12 solid wire on outlets. The only place I would advise caution would be inside the panel when tightening the mounting screws down on #14 solid wire where it attaches to circuit breakers and especially neutral and ground busses. The mention of an overheating Tight Connection where the wire is flat is in my mind incorrect.

Electrical Connections
Tight connections do not cause fires, loose connections do. Loose connections arc when the wire or circuit is under a load. I should point out that wiring outlets are typically done using two methods - Series and Parallel. The Series method can create problems because the load of the whole circuit travels through each device, whereas using the parallel method this is not the case - only the load for each individual device is fed through that device or outlet.

Here is a brief explanation of these methods where two sets of romex type-nm cable wires are in each outlet box:

Series Wiring
Series is where the two wires of each color are attached to the outlet terminal screws, blacks on the brass colored screws, white on the silver colored screws, OR the wires are stripped and pressed into the rear push-a-matic connections for some brands of outlets.

This method can cause problems, especially when space heaters or large load devices are plugged into the circuit, the load is placed through each outlet wired with this method.

Parallel Wiring
The Parallel method is where the two wires of each color are pigtailed or spliced using wire connectors to a third wired which is then connected to the outlet. With this method the load travel trough the splices, not the outlets.

Splicing Wires
As long as the splice is done properly by twisting the right length of wire and firmly screwing on the wire connector there should never be a problem. Now I know that there are situations with older homes where there are the smaller metal outlet boxes that do not have enough room for the pigtail splices, so in this case you will need to use the screw terminals. The ground wires for each method are typically twisted and spliced using a ground crimp. If a high consuming device is used such as a space heater then I would install a dedicated circuit and outlet for it.
Thanks!

Thanks a lot for your quick answer to my question, I feel better about it now.
I saw that you mentioned pig tailing the wires together by twisting them and then using a wire nut. I have always used the Ideal brand push in wire connectors in receptacles. Will these be okay left alone? If a wire should pop out in the future due to heating from a heavy load, is there a good chance that this could burn my house down, or will something simply stop working?
Thanks a lot.



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Complete Guide to Home Electrical Wiring

Perfect for Homeowners, Students,
Handyman, Handywomen, and Electricians
Includes:
Wiring GFCI Outlets
Wiring Home Electric Circuits
120 Volt and 240 Volt Outlet Circuits
Wiring Light Switches
Wiring 3-Wire and 4-Wire Electric Range
Wiring 3-Wire and 4-Wire Dryer Cord and Dryer Outlet
How to Troubleshoot and Repair Electrical Wiring
Wiring Methods for Upgrading Electrical Wiring
NEC Codes for Home Electrical Wiring
....and much more.




Electrical Tips to Help You Wire it Right

The Safest Way to Test Electrical Devices and Identify Electric Wires!

The Non-Contact Electrical Tester
This is a testing tool that I have had in my personal electrical tool pouch for years, and is the first test tool I grab to help identify electrical wiring. It is a Non-contact tester that I use to easily Detect Voltage in Cables, Cords, Circuit Breakers, Lighting Fixtures, Switches, Outlets and Wires. Simply insert the end of the tester into an outlet, lamp socket, or hold the end of the tester against the wire you wish to test. Very handy and easy to use.

The Quickest Way to Check for Faulty Electrical Wiring!

The Plug-In Outlet Tester
This is the first tool I grab to troubleshoot a problem with outlet circuit wiring. This popular tester is also used by most inspectors to test for power and check the polarity of circuit wiring.
It detects probable improper wiring conditions in standard 110-125 VAC outlets Provides 6 probable wiring conditions that are quick and easy to read for ultimate efficiency Lights indicate if wiring is correct and indicator light chart is included Tests standard 3-wire outlets UL Listed Light indicates if wiring is incorrect Very handy and easy to use.

Strip Off Wire Insulation without Nicking and Damaging the Electric Wire!

The Wire Stripper and Wire Cutter
My absolute favorite wire stripping tool that I have had in my personal electrical tool pouch for years, and this is the tool I use to safely strip electrical wires.
This handy tool has multiple uses:
The wire gauges are shown on the side of the tool so you know which slot to use for stripping insulation.
The end of the tool can be used to grip and bend wire which is handy for attaching wire onto the screw terminals of switches and outlets..

The wire stripper will work on both solid and stranded wire. This tool is Very Handy and Easy to Use.





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tight screw outlet connections - 321