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I'm in the process of replacing a few of the 2 prong outlets in my home with GCFI outlets. My house is old and does not have a ground wire through it so from what I've read it is unsafe to install standard 3 prong outlets.

I replaced one outlet in my living and it seems to work fine. I tested it with the GCFI tester and it says I have my hot and neutral reversed, but it says that about the other GCFI outlets in the home that were replaced before I purchased it.

I went into my bedroom to replace an outlet there. I cut the power to the room and removed the outlet. When I went to cut the power on so I could test for the hot wire I had no power at all in the room. No lights, no outlets. Everything else in the house is fine.

Is it possible that removing the outlet can affect the power to the whole room?

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  • How many wires were connected to that outlet? If the answer is more than two, then yes, the power to the rest of the room could be passing through that outlet.
    – DoxyLover
    Dec 24, 2021 at 23:02
  • Outlets are often used for connection points to other outlets/lights. Should still have power on one set of black/white wires, but beyond that point will be dead(without power).
    – crip659
    Dec 24, 2021 at 23:08
  • There are 4 wires to the outlet. 2 black, 2 white. If I put an outlet on there will it fix power to the room? Also, how do you recommend I test for the line wire if there is no power to the room at all when I flip the breaker? Dec 24, 2021 at 23:11
  • Yes it’s possible. If there were four wires (two black two white) going into the back of the outlet then the outlet was actually connecting the two cables together and providing power to the rest of the room. You can solve this by either wiring up a new outlet in the same way or even better you can connect the blacks together and the whites together and then use a pigtail to power the outlet itself. If you want to use a GFCI to protect downstream, that will require you to wire in a specific way. Dec 24, 2021 at 23:41
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    Hot-neutral reverse is a false indication. Throw that tester away - or better, throw away the label that lists what the lights mean. Those testers are simple 3-light affairs that do 3 tests in one shot. But the label is tuned for pass-fail testing of brand-new wiring in new construction - not for troubleshooting faults in old wiring. Most of its advice is dead wrong and will waste your time. Dec 25, 2021 at 2:51

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Yes, that's normal. You might be thinking every outlet and light gets its own cable "home run" all the way back to the panel, but no. Power is distributed by taking it to junction box 1, then taking it onward from there to junction box 2.

That's why most receptacles have 2 hot and 2 neutral wires in the box.

Plain receptacles are designed to double as "splice points" - that is, they support 2-4 wires on the hot side and 2-4 wires on the neutral side. These simply connect directly to each other; they are designed to be used as splice blocks to take power in and distribute it to the receptacle and also 1-3 onward lines.

Note that grounds must be pigtailed per Code requirements, because ground must stay continuous even if you remove the receptacle. (that rule also applies to neutral on some circuits). You can actually pigtail hot and neutral also, in which case you don't need to use the receptacle as a splice block at all.

With GFCIs, people often make the mistake of thinking they must use all 4 screws on the GFCI, even though it's obviously not a splice block. (well actually if you read the instructions, GFCI screws can take 2 wires each).

My usual recommendation is to just put both wires on "Line" and use a GFCI receptacle everywhere you want GFCI protection. Load should only be used if you understand how GFCI downline protection works, and if you are willing to identify every downline receptacle: which is to say, read and follow the instruction # 8(C) and in your case, Code NEC 406.4(D)(2).

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  • I don't feel confident editing an answer by Harper. I will just comment that I think he must have meant GFCI screws can take two wires each. Dec 26, 2021 at 13:45

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