How to Avoid Problems When Replacing Electrical Outlets
I replaced some outlets and now circuit breakers are tripping off, what did I do wrong? Outlet Wiring Connections, Wiring Switch Controlled Outlets, Common Problems When Replacing Electrical Outlets and How to Fix Them.
Electrical Wiring Methods for Replacing Outlets
Electrical Question: I replaced some outlets and now circuit breakers are tripping off, what did I do wrong?
I have 6 outlets in a room that I replaced. The bottom half of the outlets are wired separate from the top half. When I wired the light switch I noticed it had two black wires on the bottom screw and one white wire on the top screw. I turned the power on and the light came on. At first I did not touch the switch. Then I turned on the switch and the main breaker blew along with 3 other circuit breakers. What happened?
This electrical question came from: Royce, from Carlton, Minnesota.
Dave the Electrician’s Reply:
Thanks for your electrical wiring question Royce.
How to Replace Electrical Outlets
Application: Replacing a 120 Volt Receptacle Outlet.
Skill Level: Beginner to Intermediate – Best if wired by an Certified Electrician or Licensed Electrical Contractor.
Tools Required: Basic Electricians Pouch Hand Tools and a Voltage Tester.
Estimated Time: Depends on personal level experience, ability to work with tools and the number of outlets that will be replaced.
Precaution: Identify the outlet circuit, turn it OFF and Tag it with a Note before working with the wiring.
Notice: Installing additional outlet wiring should be done according to local and national electrical codes with a permit and be inspected.
Electrical Wiring for Receptacle Outlets
- Outlet Wiring Connections
First make sure the circuits to this area are off, and then check all of the wiring and connections. Make sure that any bare ground wires do not come into contact with the side receptacle terminal screws.
- Wiring Switch Controlled Outlets
Because there is a switch that is wired with the wall outlets, then I am assuming that at least one of these outlets is a switched outlet. With that in mind I would ask you if you removed the bridge or tab that is found between the top and bottom outlet?
- Outlet Circuit Breaker
This question stated that the main and three other circuit breakers have tripped, so there is a very good chance that there is more than one circuit that is supplying power to this area and it is very possible that during the process of replacing the outlets that the connections have created a direct short between two circuits.
- Multi-Wire Outlet Circuit
Another possibility is that there is a multi-wire circuit that feeds this area and that the wall switch has been wired to the neutral wire which has created a direct short back to both lines of the multi-wire circuit, which would trip of two circuit breakers.
Common Problems When Replacing Electrical Outlets and How to Fix Them
- When replacing electrical outlets it is very important to identify the circuits that supply power to the outlet and area where you will be working.
- Make sure to replace the wire connection configuration the same way they were configured with the original outlet.
- If there is a switch that controls part of the outlet then the outlet must have the bridge or tab removed in the same manner as the original outlet.
More about Wiring Electric Outlets
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Be Careful and Be Safe - Never Work on Energized Circuits!
Consult your Local Building Department about Permits and Inspections for all Electric Wiring Projects.