So I've been going through the house and have been updating our outlets and it usually involved connecting two sets of wires and a ground wire. Today however, I ran into a set up that consisted of one set of wires (one black wire, one white wire and one ground wire) and am unsure how to proceed.

So here is an image I took of all of the wires that need to be connected to an outlet:

enter image description here

This was the original outlet, where the wires were inserted into the socket that I have circled in white. The white wire was connected to the left side, black wire was connected to the right side, and the copper wire was connected to the screw on the bottom. enter image description here

And this is the outlet I am trying to update it with: enter image description here

As of now, I have tried:

  1. black wire to top brass terminal, white wire to top silver terminal
  2. black wire to top brass terminal, white wire to bottom silver terminal
  3. black wire to bottom brass terminal, white wire to bottom silver terminal
  4. black wire to bottom brass terminal, white wire to top silver terminal

And of course, I had the copper wire connected to the grounding terminal on the bottom with each of these set ups, but none of these set ups seem to work.

Can anyone point out where I am making an error?


  • All those combinations are correct. Normally I warn people not to experiment, but you confined your experimentation to very sensible values. Did the outlet work before? Have you tried turning on every switch in the area? Jan 22, 2020 at 6:00
  • Yes, it did work before. And when I was carrying out my tests, I inserted a lamp into two different outlets that was connected to the same switch: one was the outlet I was testing and the other was an outlet that I had just switched before this one and is functioning correctly so I don't think it was a mistake in that area. I'll try switching out the outlet with a new one and will see if that changes fixes my problem tomorrow.
    – tncoghk
    Jan 22, 2020 at 6:07
  • 1
    If you know that both this current outlet and the previous one that you replaced are controlled by the same switch it may make sense to go back and re-check the work on the previous one. It is possible that a wire ended up with a loose connection. It could be a loose connection in a wire nutted bundle in the back of the electrical box.
    – Michael Karas
    Jan 22, 2020 at 11:22
  • 3
    I think your error may be in thinking that one set of wires does one outlet and the other set does the other outlet. In normal usage, one set of wires brings power in, and the other set takes power out to the next outlet. You have now found the end of the chain.
    – David G.
    Jan 22, 2020 at 13:08
  • 2
    BTW, a friend of mine in the insurance business says to never use those push-in connectors (always use the screws, like you're doing) to reduce the risk of fire.
    – Duston
    Jan 22, 2020 at 15:03

2 Answers 2


Are the tabs on the outlet intact? I am thinking the outlet prior may have a broken tab so the feed is not making it to this outlet. Many times only 1/2 of a switched outlet is switched we snap the tab between the top and bottom screw on the hot side take the switch to 1 and always hot to the other. In the case with 2 cables or 2 blacks and 2 whites in the box 1 is the hot the other feeds the next device , if that tab is broken on either side the next outlet will not get both the hot and neutral.


Is this outlet connected to a GFCI outlet? If so, the GFCI may have tripped during your experimentation, effectively disconnecting these wires from power.

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