I recently changed a few receptacles and am seeking confirmation that I duplicated functionality in one particular receptacle. This receptacle is in the middle of a circuit. It had 2 screws for neutrals, 2 for hots, 2 back stab connectors for the neutral side and 2 for the hot side. And the usual screw for ground. One white wire was stabbed into the top neutral side, one stabbed in the bottom. On the hot side, one black was stabbed into the top slot, one black in the bottom slot. There was a single red wire attached to the top screw, hot side. And the ground was connected.

I asked around and followed one set of instructions. The new receptacle has only 2 screws on the neutral side, 2 on the hot side. And a screw for ground. I did as directed and connected one white to the top neutral screw, one to the bottom neutral screw. I maintained the same top-bottom order as was before. I then connected the one red wire to the top hot side screw and pigtailed both black wires and connected them to the bottom hot screw. And connected the ground.

So, did I duplicate the original configuration? I understand the red wire usually indicates connection to a switch. But I see no switches anywhere that draw power from this receptacle. I don't think the black tab between the hot side screws was broken, but when I went to check on this, the receptacle had mysteriously disappeared. I can't find a switch that is seemingly tied to this receptacle so I can't check for switch functionality. I would appreciate any advice on what the original configuration represented, did I duplicate this functionality, and am I safe as currently configured?

  • Color means little. How are the cables grouped? Does the circuit work as expected? Jun 29 '17 at 7:27
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    Am sure whites are neutrals & properly connected. Also sure blacks are hots. Unsure where red wire goes. Can't locate any switch that draws power from this source. Assuming there's a switch tied to this receptacle, would it function properly with the configuration I described? Was it properly configured as I described before replacing the receptacle? Because the old receptacle vanished, I cannot verify if the hot side tab was removed. I replaced 5 indoor receptacles, 1 light switch, 1 outside light fixture and 1 outside receptacle, all on the same circuit. Everything works fine.
    – RJ Smith
    Jun 29 '17 at 12:30
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    What bothers me is 2 neutrals but 3 hots. Given your attention to detail it sounds to me like this was a switched line once, but the last guy defeated it, either by removing/retasking the switch, or by replacing the receptacle and ineptly not breaking off the tab. Jun 29 '17 at 14:40
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    If you have any switches in the room you can remove the cover and see if there's an abandoned red wire which would probably indicate it was switched at one time. Jun 29 '17 at 15:35
  • @RJSmith, you're not looking for a switch that draws power from this outlet, but rather one that could control power to half of this outlet, assuming the tab connecting top and bottom was broken. As you have it now, the switch will do nothing, because the unswitched hot is supplying both halves through the tab.
    – Nate S.
    Aug 15 '19 at 17:06

If everything works fine you did it right. The red can be a switched line or a hot and possibly a spare. If you did replace wire for wire there is nothing to worry about with your work other than the possibility of a switch or device you have not found if I counted correctly there was the same number of hots as neutrals so it is not a spare.

  • Can two blacks safely be pigtailed and screwed down under an outlet's hot screw? Not too thick or anything?
    – cr0
    Jan 19 '18 at 14:32
  • @cr0 What you're doing is not a pigtail, by definition; you need to use a wire nut. It is also a code violation
    – Nelson
    Aug 10 '20 at 6:02
  • @nelson almost all back and side receptacles use 2 wires under 1 screw 4 wires for 2 screws.
    – Ed Beal
    Aug 10 '20 at 6:55

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