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I'm in the process of replacing all of the electrical outlets in our kitchen to match the color of a new backsplash. Three of them were straightforward. The fourth and fifth, however, were wired differently. Everything I've read talks about two wires plus a ground per outlet. The two remaining outlets, however, have two white, two black and a ground. They look like this.

Four wire outlet to be replaced

My question is whether I should have any special concerns about patching them into, respectively, a) a basic outlet similar to the one picture above or b) a new outlet that also contains two USB charging ports. The latter uses wire nuts rather than the normal screw in type (see below).

New USB charging outlet

I can easily wire the new basic outlet as the one it's replacing, pictured above. But I'm not sure if I should. Nor am I sure that I should wire three wires per wirenut for the second outlet pictured.

Anybody have any thoughts?

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Nice product placement, by the way. –  Tester101 Sep 18 '13 at 13:24
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up vote 4 down vote accepted

There should be no problem doing what you want.

One set of conductors brings power from an upstream device or outlet, while the other takes power to a downstream device or outlet. The two black conductors are electrically bonded through the receptacle, as are the two white conductors. You'll notice that the bonding tab on the side of the receptacle is still in place, which means that the two receptacles are connected together.

Bonded Receptacles

Replacing with a similar receptacle

If you're simply replacing the existing receptacle, with an identical (or similar) receptacle of a different color. Simply connect the new receptacle exactly as the original is connected.

  1. Disconnect the power by switching off the breaker, or removing the fuse.
  2. Connect the bare grounding conductor to the green grounding screw terminal.
  3. Connect the two white conductors to the silver colored screw terminals (one per terminal).
  4. Connect the two black conductors to the brass colored screw terminals (one per terminal).

NOTE: When terminating conductors at a screw terminal, always wrap the conductor in a clockwise direction. This will cause the conductor to be pulled in tight, when the screw is tightened down.

Proper conductor wrap direction

Installing a new fancy device without screw terminals

I'm not sure what conductor combinations the supplied twist-on wire connectors are rated for, so I'm going to assume they're only rated for 2 #14 conductors (check the documentation). So before you start, you'll want to pick up a couple Ideal yellow twist-on wire connectors.

  1. Disconnect the power by switching off the breaker, or removing the fuse.
  2. Connect the bare grounding conductor from the circuit, to the green grounding conductor from the device using one of the supplied twist-on wire connectors.
  3. Connect all the white conductors using a yellow twist-on wire connector.
  4. Connect all the black conductors using a yellow twist-on wire connector.

Additional Information:

  • If this was a ground-fault circuit interruption (GFCI) receptacle (which it is not), the procedure would be different.
  • If this was a split receptacle (half switched, or both halves supplied by different circuits) (which it is not), the procedure would also be different.
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That old outlet does not look like a GFCI, but it could be connected to one upstream (toward the breaker box) for protection. In this case, wire nutting black to black and white to white should not affect the downstream outlets (this essentially removes that specific outlet from the GFCI circuit). It could, however, affect the upstream GFCI if one exists (because there will be current on the black and white wires leading back to the breaker box). If you have problems with the suggestion below, or eventually include a GFCI for your kitchen (recommended), keep this in mind if nuisance trips do eventually occur.

In your picture, the tab on the hot side (black wires) of the outlet has not been broken off (meaning that both hot wires are always connected). I believe you will find the same thing on the neutral side (white wires). This would be an outlet that serves another outlet or switch further down the line. You can wire nut the black wires together with the black from your new outlet. Do the same with the white wires. There is only a single ground wire in your picture, I would look to make sure both grounds are wire-nutted together in the box with a third (the one in the picture) going to the old outlet's ground. Wire nut this ground to your green wire on the new outlet.

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Don't forget to use the proper sized twist-on wire connectors, as the ones supplied may not be rated for 3 conductors (an Ideal yellow should do the trick). –  Tester101 Sep 18 '13 at 12:28
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+1 The outlet has been used as the power source for downstream outlets or fixtures. While this is legal, occasionally an outlet goes bad and the downstream device may also be knocked out. The preferred approach is to attach like wires together with wire nuts and attach to each side of the outlet with short like-colored wires called pigtails. This is exactly what is being recommended in the answer. It is the better approach even if you are installing an outlet that does not have its own pigtails. –  bib Sep 18 '13 at 12:47
    
@bib I never use wire nuts in that situation. I also don't think it is a better approach, nor is it a worse one. –  Brad Gilbert Sep 19 '13 at 2:11
    
@BradGilbert Take a look at this answer –  bib Sep 19 '13 at 2:22
    
@bib That applies to multi-wire branch circuits; which this is unlikely to be a part of. It also only applies to grounded conductors. –  Brad Gilbert Sep 19 '13 at 2:39
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