enter image description here

All modern receptacles have places for additional hot/neutral wires so you can add more outlets in series, but they all have a single screw or hole for the ground wire.

Why don't they have two ground holes?!? I see many receptacles wired where the installer simply twisted the wires by hand, or only used electrical tape, or used a wire nut but did not use the proper size, or did not know how to properly use a wirenut (only doing a single twist)! Sometimes the connection is good when they install it, but since there is so little space behind a GFCI for example, they had to manhandle the wires back into the box, and this caused their halfass attempt at a connection to come loose the second I pull it out of the box.

I am so tired of replacing receptacles only to find that the previous installer didn't know how to continue the ground line properly.

It would seem that adding a second hole would be preferable to the dangerous situation that arises when someone does not have/know how to use a wirenut correctly.

Is there any good reason they make them this way?

  • 15
    The goal is that ground is a safety return path for a circuit, specifically, the SINGLE outlet it is connected to in this case (not other items downstream). There is only one situation where that outlet should be supporting a return path,which is if the box or outlet or devices plugged into it) need it. Should something else in the wall or downstream the ground is tied to need to use the ground, you should not be utilizing the chassis of the outlet to complete the circuit. Your required to be wired directly to ground. The frame of the outlet is not it. This promotes safety, not them being lazy
    – noybman
    Nov 20, 2019 at 2:29
  • 4
    @noybman That comment would make an excellent answer!
    – Tashus
    Nov 20, 2019 at 16:52
  • 2
    This is an excellent question, and I’m glad you asked it! Nov 20, 2019 at 22:21
  • 3
    You should never wire outlets in series. Nov 21, 2019 at 8:08
  • 3
    @Freeman OP did not state that wire nuts are a "halfass unsafe twist connection." The actual quote is "force people to use a wire nut or attempt some halfass unsafe twist connection" where two options are mentioned, one being a wire nut, the other being some sort of twisting connection
    – barbecue
    Nov 21, 2019 at 15:22

4 Answers 4


This is because removing a device isn't allowed to interrupt grounding connections

Removing a wiring device from the circuit cannot break grounding connections, or else you are violating NEC 250.148(B):

(B) Grounding Continuity. The arrangement of grounding connections shall be such that the disconnection or the removal of a receptacle, luminaire, or other device fed from the box does not interfere with or interrupt the grounding continuity.

As a result, manufacturers only put one ground screw or terminal on wiring devices, so that you're required to do the right thing and pigtail grounds using a splicing connector of some sort or another (whether it be a wirenut, a crimp, or a push-in type splicing connector).

  • 10
    @JimmyFix-it Do you mean a continuous ground wire which is stripped and looped around the ground screw (which is fine - you just need to disconnect the continuous ground from the receptacle to remove the latter), or do you mean two ground wires tucked under the ground screw (no, no, no, no)? Nov 20, 2019 at 11:10
  • 2
    @MartinBonnersupportsMonica, yeah you are correct. I'm not thinking straight. The bare ground wire looped under the terminal should be fine if it is unbroken... duh Nov 21, 2019 at 2:10

I am glad you are finding it convenient that some devices allow themselves to also be used as splice blocks.

However, that is prohibited for certain types of wires:

  • Any and all ground wires
  • Neutral wires on multi-wire branch circuits

That is because it will cause serious problems for other (e.g. downline) loads if those connections are severed due to removal of a device.

Further, grounds are only allowed to be attached via a shepherd's hook around the terminal screw. No backstabs are allowed (they're not particularly reliable) nor should a screw-clamp connection style be used.

Devices are not obliged to provide convenient splice points. There is nothing wrong if they don't. That is when you use a pigtail, which should be part of your repertoire. You should not be attempting a half-ass anything. If you can't execute a proper pigtail, skill up.

Don't be the newbie who judges how things are done, or criticizes the previous work; it's typically more competent than you realize. (Or not, but it's hard to be sure of that when you're new). As always, we're happy to help.

  • 2
    Unless there is but a single cable entering the box, always, that's when.
    – Mazura
    Nov 20, 2019 at 19:12
  • Would this be a perfect place to provide a link to what a pigtail is and how to correctly make one?
    – CXJ
    Nov 21, 2019 at 14:35
  • 1
    @CXJ Here's a link to another one of Harper's answers, which goes into a bit more detail about pigtails. diy.stackexchange.com/a/123816/95658
    – Doug Deden
    Nov 22, 2019 at 1:34
  • Obviously a pigtail is preferable- but when people refuse to use them, and the result is a improperly connected ground, or no ground at all (I have seen this multiple times! as if they were like "uh oh, theres no place to continue this copper wire, I guess we dont need it"), wouldn't it just be safer to have two ground screws, so newbies can still have a safely connected ground? Sure it might result in a loss of a ground sometime in the future, if someone disconnects that receptacle and leaves it disconnected, but that would be better than the alternative.
    – cds333
    Nov 22, 2019 at 8:03
  • 1
    That's kinda what we do in metal boxes. @cds333 once again, the receptacle can't be a splice point, because the splice will fail if removed. I don't understand what the resistance is to doing the work to Code? How to do this is well understood and a proven technique. You seem to be fighting for the right to do electrical work without learning to do it properly. Nov 22, 2019 at 16:44

In addition to what @ThreePhaseEel said, the purpose of having two screws on each side is not so that receptacles can be wired in series. While that is allowed, the purpose is for "split receptacle" setups, where only one outlet is controlled by a switch (or each is controlled by a separate switch). This is done by breaking the metal tab that joins the two screws.

Here's an example.

Split Receptacle

  • 1
    Or an outlet that is fed by two different circuit breakers -- e.g., a kitchen outlet intended to handle two high amperage loads?
    – bobwki
    Nov 21, 2019 at 19:07
  • @bobwki I wonder if that would be up to code? My gut says no, but I've been wrong before. Nov 21, 2019 at 20:41
  • I'm not an electrician, but every kitchen receptacle I've seen has been split, and I assumed that that was the actual reason such devices included two screw terminals (actually I was going to ask that question until seeing this answer).
    – canadianer
    Nov 22, 2019 at 0:00
  • 1
    @Adonalsium: No, it's allowed. You can even have a shared neutral, as long as both circuits are opposite phase. It's called a Multiwire Branch Circuit (MWBC for short). In my experience they're not very common, but I'm not a professional electrician. Nov 22, 2019 at 0:03
  • 3
    You'll pretty much end up with opposite poles, because two circuits serving the same yoke must be handle-tied. That's for common maintenance shutoff, so you don't plug a vacuum into one socket and trip breakers til it turns off, call it good, and get nailed by the other socket's circuit. Handle-tying pretty much forces the tied breakers onto opposite poles. Nov 22, 2019 at 1:00

Hot and neutral wires are working wires. Ground wire is a security/reference wire. Any connection may loosen over time.

When hot wire gets loose, you'll notice it immediately - the devices behind the failure stop working properly. Same apply for the neutral wires.

On the other hand when the ground wire gets loose you want to have as few devices affected as possible. And one uninterrupted wire is the way to go. You also want to have as few hubs as possible as well - its faster to check 5 boxes than 15.

When the ground wire gets disconnected somewhere you'll lose the ground protection and you'll realize it at the time of another failure, which is too late. In the worst case You will become a grounding wire for a while. It may also result in different ground potentials over the house and some devices may malfunction because of that.

  • Depending on what "loose" means, and depending on what you have plugged into the outlet, your first notice of a "loose," current-carrying connection could be the smell of hot insulation. Nov 22, 2019 at 21:21
  • There's a point here that needs stating clearly - if the ground wire fails, the devices keep working and the user may not realise.
    – Criggie
    Jan 8, 2022 at 11:43

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.