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I was swapping a standard outlet in my kitchen out for one with USB ports in it. When I cracked it open, I noticed the existing outlet had 4 hot wires on it (2 black connected to the upper hot terminal and 2 red conncect to the lower hot terminal), with one white and a ground (See Photo) I opened the other outlets around my kitchen and it appeared they were all wired this way in series.

The new USB outlet only has one hot terminal. Initially I pigtailed all four of the hot wires together and attached to the new hot terminal. I flipped the breaker on and it overloaded.

Next I removed the two red wires from the pigtail and twisted them off together without connecting them to the new outlet. Then I connected only the two black in pigtail to the hot and everything seems to work fine now.

Does this seem OK? Any advice? Thanks for the help![enter image description here]1

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    it is two separate circuits on 2 breakers and it is daisychained to a second plug that is also split ... it is so that you can run 2 toasters without popping a breaker .... note: there may 240V between the red and black if the two breakers are on separate phases ........ whoever wired that plug did a sloppy job – jsotola May 24 '18 at 4:34
  • Thanks, so its ok that I wired it up the way I did, by just not connecting the red wires to the new outlet? – secoulte May 24 '18 at 4:40
  • Ewww... Backstabs and screws! Backstabs are bad enough just because they fail a lot generally. But (kitchen circuits must be 12AWG and backstabs only work with 14. – Harper - Reinstate Monica May 24 '18 at 12:22
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    I did not wire the new outlet with backstabs as I know they are not preferred. – secoulte May 24 '18 at 15:25
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Critical issues here :

  • Side tab cut, not broken off. That is not safe as the 240V between them could easily arc, illegal per NEC 110.3 as the receptacle's instructions say to break off the tab entirely, not cut it. This defeats the safety testing done by UL since UL did not test it that way.
  • Backstabs are not compatible with 12AWG wire, the wire size now required in kitchens.
  • Bending the wires onto the screws is very shabbily done (poor conductivity, and NEC 110.12).
  • Backstabs and screws both in use (I believe that's not allowed).
  • Two separate circuits feeding the same yoke, but they are not handle-tied for common maintenance shut-off. (Alternatively, a 2-pole breaker can be used to accomplish the handle-tie, but never a double-stuff/duplex/2-in-1-space type.)
  • Neutral must be pigtailed - correct. This is so a receptacle can be removed without severing neutral for the other circuit.

The fix is what you did: pigtail the hots and use screws only. Do that on the other receptacles... or, switch to the $3 Leviton screw-to-clamp type, which support 2 wires under each screw. And break the tabs off properly, they have break lines, a few flexes should do it.

When you are able, put the 2 circuits on a 2-pole breaker or handle-tie them.

  • Thanks for the advice. I am in Canada so we may have different code. I will get an electrician friend to look over it. I appreciate it. Yes I attached the two black hot to the new receptacle using a pigtail and nutted the red hot together as a bypass. Everything is connected to the new outlet using screws. These have been like this for probably 10-15 years since the kitchen was remodeled, long before we bought the house. – secoulte May 24 '18 at 15:31
  • Also, in the breaker box, the two circuits are already handle tied and the neutral is pigtailed back in the box, so they did do some things right. – secoulte May 24 '18 at 15:33
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Your question isn't fully clear. If you just attached the red wires (both) to the new outlet that was probably ok. But, the two blacks need to be wire nutted together as there is a feed to another outlet (somewhere). Also, sometimes a red and a black wired to an outlet means that the (typically red) is switched. Such as where you want one outlet to always be hot (clocks, electronics that 'forget' with loss of power) and want something switched (lights plugged into the 2nd outlet). In a kitchen it is more likely as jsotola wrote that it was two separate circuits. Also FWIW most electricians will not use the push-in's for connections - they tend to be unreliable over time.

  • Thanks. You have it. I used the blacks on the new outlet, but nutted the reds together. As far as I can tell it neither the reds or blacks are on a circuit with anything else except the other receptacles in my kitchen and everything is working. There are no applicable switches. The new outlet does not have backstabs or pushins as I know they are not preferred. This outlet would have been wired when the kitchen was remodeled about 10 years ago, long before we bought the house. – secoulte May 24 '18 at 15:28

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