I purchased a home recently and am looking to replace an electric range with a gas one. Currently, there is a 240v outlet for the electric range but not a 120 for the gas, so I am looking to remedy that. There is an electrical receptacle immediately behind where the range sits that isn't currently being used, so I want to put an outlet there.

I took off the wall cover and I am a bit confused by what I am seeing (picture attached). I have a bit of DIY experience with putting in outlets and switches, but nothing very complicated and I want to be sure that I do this right.

There are three sets of wire coming from different holes in the receptacle; two of them have only hot and neutral wires and the third appears to have hot, neutral and two grounds. All three sets of wires have been twisted together with their corresponding wires and capped off. Can you advise me on how to wire this in correctly?

Thank you for your time, I appreciate the help.enter image description here

  • Two grounds from one cable assembly seems more than odd. Can you confirm that one of those grounds isn't actually a separate conductor that is fished to a grounding electrode for an old originally ungrounded circuit? – NoSparksPlease Nov 7 '19 at 19:09
  • Good catch! It looks like one ground comes from the cable that protrudes from the middle hole of the receptacle. The other ground comes in through a small hole in the left side of the receptacle wall, then runs up the back of the receptacle where it is twisted together with the one from the cable. – Gayle Nov 7 '19 at 19:21
  • I would try to track that ground, maybe into crawl space, to see where it is connected. Then try to confirm if it is a code compliant connection before slapping a receptacle on there. – NoSparksPlease Nov 7 '19 at 19:26
  • You might want to fix the missing clamp on the KO in back as well while you're in there – ThreePhaseEel Nov 8 '19 at 1:01

Add a fourth wire to each set - that is 4-12" long. I like 8-9". Put the wire nut back on. In fact, this is a good time to switch to red wire nuts if they're yellow.

These short wires are called pigtails. Attach them to the receptacle screws in the usual manner. You can shuck down Romex or buy THHN wire, and you need one wire of each of these:

  • Ground: MUST be green, yellow/green, bare, or stripped bare. (do not strip stranded wire bare; you'll get a birdsnest.)
  • Neutral: MUST be white or gray.
  • Hot: MUST be any unmentioned color. OR a white/gray wire with colored tape markings near each end.

    • You can get all 3 from a white wire by stripping and remarking.
    • If you use stranded THHN, the pushing into the box will be super easy, but attaching to the receptacle will be difficult. Consider screw-and-clamp type receptacles for that.

I prefer to attach the pigtails to the receptacle first, and at a comfortable workbench. Then you only have to be in the awkward position for long enough to wire-nut. I also put stranded on terminal screws, which is hard, so better done at a bench.

Now, you have a big problem with cubic inches. This box already has 6 conductors + 1 for all grounds; at 2.25 cubic inches/wire this box is already overfull. The pigtails won't add any (pigtails are free) but the yoke (outlet) will add 2 wires' worth. So let's give ourselves some more cubic inches in a tasteful way, using a Legrand Wiremold Surface Conduit Starter Box. It's intended to surface mount and be a launch point for surface conduit, but it's good for just adding some cubic inches too.

  • I think I understand this, I'm generally familiar with the concept but I've not done it before. Two questions: first, do I just use regular 12g wire? Do I need to get wire that is insulated in black/white to match the existing wire? Second, won't 9" of wire be too much to fit into the box once the outlet and all four sets of wire are involved? It seems that space is at a premium. – Gayle Nov 7 '19 at 19:21
  • If you do pigtail a receptacle match colors with #12 awg, 9" is longer than I would use. – NoSparksPlease Nov 7 '19 at 19:29
  • @NoSparksPlease I work 99% in conduit, where they charge me 2.25 cubic inches per wire regardless of length, so since I'm already paying for the length, I'll just skip the contortions and make life easy on myself. Thanks for reminding me about the cubic inch issue, which arises in cabled boxes too. – Harper - Reinstate Monica Nov 7 '19 at 19:54
  • @Gayle edited. Yes, you need to match... kinda. You can shuck down Romex or buy THHN wire(s). You raise a very good point about space being at a premium; that handy-box is practically already full and statutorially already overfull! We must address that. Edited. – Harper - Reinstate Monica Nov 7 '19 at 20:02
  • Thank you all for the advice! The project is done and we have power to the outlet. I appreciate the help. – Gayle Nov 8 '19 at 4:51

As an alternative to the other answer, and to avoid the issue of box fill with the junction box you show, you could also convert your existing 240V receptacle to a 120V one for the new range (sounds like you won't have a need for the 240V one for now, right? You can always convert back later). You would need to verify that:

  1. You can get a new, single pole breaker and a filler plate for your panel.
  2. The wiring to the 240V receptacle has at least one black (or other color) wire, one white wire, and one ground wire (green or bare), or is run in metal conduit as a ground path.

If those are met, you could swap out the breaker (will need to use smaller gauge pigtails to connect the larger gauge wires), and swap out the receptacle (same thing - you will need pigtails). Now you will have a dedicated 120V circuit for the gas range. If you need to go back to 240V for an electric range in the future, that will be easy to do as well since you will just need to swap the breaker and receptacle back.

  • Thank you for providing a different option, I appreciate that. The 240v receptacle is in a place (inside the cabinet close to the floor) that is very difficult to access for the sort of work that you describe. Coupling that with replacing the breaker and whatnot, it seems that this solution (while totally valid) is a little more complicated than I want at this point. – Gayle Nov 7 '19 at 21:04

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