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What is the "right" way to join 7 different wires in a single electrical box?

Here's the situation. I opened up a four-gang light switch. There were four switches controlling five lights.

As expected, the four switches were interrupting the hot (black) wires.

The neutral (white) wires also went through this box.

The previous electrician had connected all the neutrals together--five lines going off to the lamps and the house neutral source--all told, 6 conductors. The solid copper wires were stripped about 1 inch, twisted together, and shoved in a wire nut that was probably intended to be used with about 3 conductors.

I had never seen 6 conductors twisted together like that.

I was replacing one of the switches with an RF switch so that I could control a patio light remotely from the car. The RF switch required neutral itself so that it could operate even when the circuit was open. So I had to add another pigtail from this neutral mess, and now there are seven neutrals all just twisted together in one big heap and shoved in a wire nut that was probably intended to be used with about 3 conductors.

Is there a "proper" way to do this or is this pretty much the state of the art?

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It depends a lot on your regional code, i guess. –  Asaf Chertkoff Apr 12 '11 at 8:16
    
Be careful with the Ohmmeter, Joel :-) The neutral wires should of course NOT be shorted out against ground (they should read infinite, not 0), and the neutrals all need to be connected if you want current to flow and your lights to work. –  cdonner Apr 28 '11 at 2:31

3 Answers 3

up vote 11 down vote accepted

You can get push-in connectors that can take up to 8 wires (assuming you have 14- or 12-gauge wire):

Picture of 8-wire push-in connector

(Though there is some question about whether they're up to code. :)

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I really like these new connectors. My local inspector says if they carry a UL/CSA listing for a mechanical connector, they are fine. I guess it is a matter of semantics as these new type of connectors are not specifically mentioned in the NEC, but rather a general requirement for the UL/CSA standard listing. –  shirlock homes Apr 12 '11 at 10:31
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@Shirlock - You should add this comment as an answer to this question. –  Tester101 Apr 12 '11 at 11:52
    
I used push-in connectors on my recent kitchen remodel to great benefit. They make things a bit bulkier, so it's harder to fit everything into the electrical box, but it's worth it in time saved. Twisting several wires together with a wire-nut is doable, but rather difficult for someone who isn't a professional electrician. –  bengineerd Apr 12 '11 at 20:59
    
I'm lazy tester. LOL. but I still like those connectors. –  shirlock homes Apr 12 '11 at 22:02

Since the neutrals do not need to be bonded together in this situation, you could put three together in one red or blue wirenut with a pig tail coming out for your RF switch, and then put the remaining white neutrals in a separate wirenut.

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2  
wait... what? Since there's only one actual neutral connection coming into the box, that one has to somehow connect to all five lamps, doesn't it? –  Joel Spolsky Apr 12 '11 at 18:02
    
every white is a neutral in this question. Maybe there are separate runs to the panel there. I certainly would not assume there is only one neutral. Easy way to check is put an OHM meter from each white to bare ground, they should read 0 ohms, that will confirm. Still shouldn't make any difference. Nome of the whites are hot, cause they all were connected together before. If you want to be absolutely sure, put a bridge conductor between the two new bundles, but again, if any one in the bundle goes 0 ohms to ground, the entire bundle is neutral. –  shirlock homes Apr 12 '11 at 21:55
    
BTW, nice to see you here Joel. thanks for starting this site. –  shirlock homes Apr 12 '11 at 22:00
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Ok I reread your question. Is there a single hot feed for all the light circuits? If so, then the bridge between the two bundles is necessary. Sorry, my bad! –  shirlock homes Apr 12 '11 at 22:09
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Yeah, I should have taken a picture while I was there to explain it better. There's a single romex run to the panel which feeds everything. –  Joel Spolsky Apr 12 '11 at 22:43

Add pigtails between wire nuts. You might need 3 or 4 chained together for your situation, depending on the size of wire nut you use.

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Exactly right. good comment. + vote –  shirlock homes Apr 12 '11 at 21:59

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