I am replacing a worn outlet. Upon removing faceplate & receptacle, I discovered 3 romex feeds into single box. Each has 3 wires: 1 black, 1 white, 1 copper As I understand it, usually black=hot, white=neutral & copper=ground.

Testing with a non-contact voltage tester: - one black wire is hot - one white wire is hot (both coming out of the same romex) - no other wires are hot

All grounds are combined to a pigtail with the pigtail lead going to the ground screw on the outlet.

All three white wires were connected to old outlet silver side; all 3 black wires were connected to outlet brass side.

The new outlet (just your basic, generic outlet) has screw-type connectors, not backstab (actually it looks like there could be backstab openings, but the gauge would have to be super small - existing wire will not fit): it has two brass screws for the hot leads, two silver for the neutral, one green for ground.

I've considered a few connection options:

  1. Connect the black hot lead to the top brass screw; wirenut the other two non-hot black wires with a pigtail & connect the pigtail to the bottom brass screw. Connect the hot white wire to the top silver screw, wirenut & pigtail as with the black.

    • or-
  2. Wirenut all three black wires with a pigtail, run the pigtail to the top brass screw; repeat for white running to the top white screw.

    • or -
  3. Hot black to top brass, wirenut the other two w/pigtail to bottom brass screw; one of the NON-hot white wires to top silver, wirenut one hot & one non-hot white w/pigtail to bottom silver.

I'm hesitant 'cuz of the one white lead being hot.


Thanks in advance for advice, guidance, direction, assistance...or just the number of a good therapist...;-)



  • 1
    Look at the old receptacle's silver screws. Do you see a tab of metal effectively connecting them? Good. Ok, now look at the brass screws. Do you see the same tab? Commented Jan 1, 2019 at 23:15
  • I assume that this outlet (and anything else it's likely connected to) were working before? If so, why would you want to wire up the new one any differently to how the old one was?
    – brhans
    Commented Jan 2, 2019 at 0:39

1 Answer 1


I would go with # 2 "Wirenut all three black wires with a pigtail, run the pigtail to the top brass screw; repeat for white running to the top white screw."

That has the advantage over the other methods that if you ever need to replace the outlet again, you can turn off power, remove the outlet, cap the pigtails and turn power back on so that the rest of the circuit has power until you replace the outlet.

However, as you already know, you need to figure out why one of the white wires (which should be neutral) is showing hot. There are two possibilities:

  1. It is an actual hot wire. That would be very strange, unless it turns out that this outlet is switched (and then actually a switched hot). But if that's the case then the original configuration doesn't make much sense.

  2. It is actually a neutral and is NOT hot, but really a false positive. This can happen if you are using an overly sensitive non-contact tester. A good non-contact tester should be able to distinguish between the neutral and the hot. However, if it is a little too sensitive then it may show the neutral as hot due to induced current over the length of the cable. So the question then is: How are you determining it is hot? If it is using a non-contact tester, then get a multitester and see what voltage reading you get between that white wire and the other wires - black hot should show ~ 120, other whites and grounds should show ~ 0.

  • 1
    Thx all! So I figured that the white might be a false positive and while I cant even spell multimeter right, much less use one correctly, I did figure out a crude way to test it. I happen to have a test lead with two alligator clips on one end & a two prong plug on the other. Attaching the black clip to the known hot black wire & the red to the ground, the light I have plugged into the other end works. Attaching the black clip to the white wire that tested hot however, does not. Voila! So I went with approach number two above. Thx again all!! Commented Jan 2, 2019 at 23:56

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