The BIGGEST Mistakes DIYers Don't Know They Are Making When Wiring Receptacles | How To (2023)


In this video I show you some of the most common mistakes that are made when installing receptacles. Some of these are not done by just DIYers, I have seen professionals make some of the same mistakes. Hopefully this will help with some things I have found to look out for or at the very least, a good reminder!

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Klein Non Contact Voltage Detector:
Klein Outlet Tester:

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Now, when it comes to installing receptacles or other devices like them, I've seen a lot of very common mistakes or, at the very least, some very poor practices when installing these types of devices, so there's quite a few of them.

So let's go ahead and jump right in.

Let's go alright, so the first mistake I'm going to go over when discussing installing these receptacles.

This may seem very basic, but you might be surprised how many people don't know the difference as far as where the wires are supposed to go.

So, on this side here, you'll see, we've got these gold colored terminals.

If we flip it over the other side, we've got these silver colored terminals.

The gold colored terminals, are going to be for your hot wire.

Typically, it's going to be a black wire, that's coming in that's supplying the power and that's going to be connected over here to the gold side.

The neutral wire, which is the white wire, is always going to go over here on the side with the silver colored terminal screws.

If you were to put your black line wire on the silver terminal and your white neutral wire on the gold terminals, this is referred to as reverse polarity.

(Video) The BIGGEST Mistakes DIYers Don't Know They Are Making When Wiring Receptacles | How To

Now, the reason why that's so dangerous to where, if you have the line or the electricity wired into the neutral side, with these silver screws is because it's going to create an unsafe receptacle, it may work, but you are running a risk of having a short circuit or a shock or even possibly a fire.

So just remember that black is always to gold.

The white neutral wires are always to the silver terminals and green wires, and bare copper wires like this.

One here are always the ground wires and they will always go to this green ground screw here, all right so for this next mistake, this is a very common residential receptacle.

These type receptacles require for a hook to go around the terminal screws and then it gets tightened down, but one of the really big mistakes I see when people are installing these types of receptacles is when they take their wiring they're, stripping off way too much insulation.

So when they take their hook and they wrap it around the terminal screw and then they go to tighten it down, you can see this copper, that's extending on past the terminal screw by quite a bit and then also past the back of the receptacle.

The problem with this is once this is all tightened up and pushed into the back of the box.

What could happen is possibly your bare copper.

Your ground wire could rub up against this hot wire here and then it's going to cause everything to shore out.

You could also have instances with arcing, depending on how everything is in your box, which is obviously something that you don't want that could ultimately cause a fire.

Conversely, I've seen people, and this is a little bit of a dramatization, but I have seen them like this, where they cut too little insulation off that hook when they wrap it around that terminal screw.

As you can see, even though that hook is around that terminal screw once we would tighten down the terminal screw on top of it.

If we flip it here to the bottom side, you can see that insulation is underneath of the head of that terminal screw well, when that terminal screw gets tightened down and it clamps down this wire, it's going to be making a lot of contact with that insulation, which is obviously wider than the copper portion of the wire and you're not going to get a good connection there.

So you also are going to have a bunch of issues here.

The outlet itself may not work or it may work intermittently or you could have a case of where it short circuits or causes overheating and a really easy way to check and make sure that you have the correct amount of insulation stripped off of the wiring.

Is you can use a strip gauge they're on pretty much all of the receptacles that are out there, and you can just put your wiring up into that strip gauge just to either confirm that you've stripped off the proper amount or if this wire wasn't stripped already, you can just lay it up in there, make a mark and then strip it from that mark off, and you know that you're going to have the perfect amount of insulation removed from the wiring in order to have that good connection, and so this is what a good connection would look like all right.

So talking about the wiring being connected to the receptacles.

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That leads me to the next mistake that I'm going to talk about, and that has to do with these hooks again, and so I'm just going to put this hook over this terminal screw and then I'm just going to go ahead and tighten that down all right.

So does anybody see the mistake with this wire on this terminal screw yeah it's put on in the wrong direction, it's being put on in a counterclockwise direction and the problem with that is, if you can see all this copper up here at the top and then here at the bottom, it's not awful, but what ends up happening.

If you put your wiring on in a counterclockwise direction, you may have seen it as I was tightening that down it's actually going to promote the wire being pushed away from the terminal screw.

So it's not going to be in nice and tight in the middle of this terminal screw, which could lead to not as good of a connection as you would want.

So what you'd actually want to do is you'd actually want to take that hook and instead of wrapping it around in a counterclockwise direction.

We want that hook or that loop to go around the terminal screw in a clockwise direction.

As I tighten down the terminal screw, it's going to promote pulling that wire in closer to the center of that terminal screw, which is going to give us a much better connection.

So, as you can see, it's pulled in here nice and tight, and we have a really nice solid connection here, and this is especially true for this stranded wire here, it's going to be promoting or pushing each one of those strands out away from the terminal screw, but if we take that same strand of wire and wrap it around in the correct direction, the clockwise direction you'll see that it actually wants to pull it in closer.

So, as you can see, all those strands are in there much tighter.

We don't have any of those stray strands that are basically reaching up to this second terminal up here, everything's in there nice and tight by going around in a clockwise direction, now really quickly, if you're, finding value in this video, if you could do me a huge favor, all that I ask is that you hit that thumbs up button right down below or leave a comment down.

The comment section letting me know what you think of the video so far.

It really does help the video out to spread out to other people and hopefully be able to help them out as well.

I really appreciate it: let's get back into it all right, so for this next mistake or really a very poor practice, and this is one that I've seen electricians do because my house was wired in some places like this since then I have corrected it, because I really think that this is a really poor way of doing it is on these residential outlets, if we flip it over here to the back.

If you see these four holes here, this is where you can insert up to 14 gauge wire into these holes to connect the wiring to the receptacle itself.

This is known as speed, wiring, also known as backstabbing, and the way that this works we've got our silver terminals here and a white wire.

All you have to do in order to make this connection is push the wiring into one of those holes and once it seats as you can see, it doesn't just pull out, and while this seems like a really great way of doing things, because it is so quick and easy to do, there's a lot of problems that can come from this now.

If you're going to have a problem and you have a defective device, you may see issues right away other times.

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It may take time in order for issues to develop and the reason that it may take a while is that the more that the device is used, the more that it warms and cools the more that it's moved around, that little piece of metal, that's inside, that's making connection and holding this wiring in may become loose and if it becomes loose over time, what can end up happening is the wire starts to back out and may fall out completely if it doesn't fall, all the way out and it just starts to have a really poor connection.

Well, then, you could have arcing and heating and a bunch of other issues and to kind of illustrate this wire being backed out.

As you can see it's in there, nice and tight.

You need to depress.

There's a little tab inside of here usually use a screwdriver to depress it and then pull it out.

If you wanted to remove the wire, I'm going to show you right here where I can remove this wire without depressing that tab, just by pulling on it and twisting the receptacle back and forth, and it's just that easy for that wire to come out so for this next mistake.

This is a big one.

As you can see here, I've got two terminal screws and just imagine that the whites both of these terminal screws are taken up as well and they're wanting to connect another receptacle or another device of some sort, and they want to use this as a way to tap into the circuit.

Well, what they'll end up doing is they'll loosen one of the terminal screws they'll leave that wire in place they'll take their new wire and they'll put it in.

On top of the wiring- that's already there, so that's what they do.

They leave their wires that are already there in place.

They take their new wire coming in, so they can connect to something in order to power a new device, and then they just sandwich the two together underneath of one terminal screw.

These devices are not made to have more than one wire under the terminal screw, so this is against code and it's also incredibly dangerous to do over time.

What can end up happening is, since we don't have proper pressure from the terminal screw on the wiring and there's variables to where these wires can move.

One of these wires can eventually fall out from underneath of the terminal screw, which then also has the other wire being loose, and then that can cause all kinds of problems with the minimum of the receptacle not working or damaging it all the way up to causing a fire.

It would be far better to avoid doing this at all and just use some pigtails in order to connect all of your devices and the new device that you're wanting to install the next thing.

I want to talk about as far as installing these receptacles or devices that are like them.

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That is really going to make things a whole lot faster, easier and make sure that your connections are going to be as tight as they should be.

Is it comes down to the tools that you use now? A lot of people are using their standard phillips, head screwdriver in order to loosen and tighten the terminal screws on the receptacles, and while a phillips head will work, it can also cause issues.

If you get down to the point of where it's becoming hard to turn, if you go to keep trying to turn it look at what happens, the phillips head wants to just kind of come out of that terminal screw and that terminal screw can still be tightened down a little bit more.

So with a phillips head.

You can't always get this tightened down as much as you should, and then there is the robertson bit or a lot of people call it the square bit the robertson bit is what I've been using for quite a while now, because it is extremely effective at tightening down these terminal screws, but there are a couple of options out there that are actually better than the robertson bit.

So what I'm using now are these two bits right here over here is milwaukee's ecx bit and over here is klein's.

Combination bit.

If you see here, you've got this long blade here kind of mimics a flat head, so you can get a lot of nice torque on that terminal screw.

If we flip it up here to the top side, you can see it's kind of squared off, so it's more like that robertson bit, so you can get right into the middle of that terminal screw and also help to add to that torque and get a nice grip on that terminal screw.

So just to kind of give you a visual as to how much better these work.

This is a standard phillips head.

So I'm going to get it down to where I can tighten as much as possible with this and now it's popping out.

So, let's see if we can't take one of these newer bits, put it in there and get it to tighten down a little bit more.

So, as you can see, I was able to rotate it a little bit further than I was able to with the phillips head, and it was pretty easy to do so.

I have links for both of these down in the description down below now, if you like electrical projects or other projects for around the home I'll post some links right over here of some videos and playlists that you might be interested in now.

I hope this video was helpful and maybe you found it to be interesting and if you did, if you could do me, a huge favor hit that thumbs up button right down below and, of course, if you have any questions or comments at all, you can leave those down in the comment section and I'll catch you all in the next one see ya.


What are the common mistakes in wiring? ›

Among the common errors: damaging the jacket of non-metallic sheathed cable; mixing line- and low-voltage wires; not using a splice box when installing a new light fixture; overcrowding holes with too many wires; and putting HVAC ducts too close to carbon-monoxide and smoke detectors.

Can you wire a receptacle wrong? ›

But here's the catch: If you connect the circuit wires to the wrong terminals on an outlet, the outlet will still work, but the polarity will be backward. When this happens, a lamp, for example, will have its bulb socket sleeve energized rather than the little tab inside the socket.

What is something you should not do when wiring a receptacle or light switch? ›

Don't Reverse Hot and Neutral Wires

Connecting the black hot wire to the neutral terminal of an outlet creates the potential for a lethal shock. The trouble is that you may not realize the mistake until someone gets shocked, because lights and most other plug-in devices will still work; they just won't work safely.

What does improper electrical wiring effect? ›

At worst, improper electrical wiring can be a fire hazard resulting in significant damage. These are a few signs to look out for to diagnose a wiring problem. Switches and wires that are charred or otherwise damaged indicate a short in the system, which will generate large amount of heat and corrosion.

What are the three most common circuit problems? ›

Most Common Types of Faults
  • Surges. A power surge is a sudden spike in voltage supplied to a circuit. ...
  • Short circuits. A short circuit is when a Live wire comes into contact with a Neutral wire or an Earth Wire. ...
  • Open circuits.

What happens if you wire a receptacle backwards? ›

Reversed polarity creates a potential shock hazard, but it's usually an easy repair. Any outlet tester will alert you to this condition, assuming you have a properly grounded three-prong outlet.

What is the correct way to wire a receptacle? ›

To maintain proper polarity when wiring a receptacle, connect the black hot wire to one of the hot bronze-colored terminals. Connect the white neutral wire to one of the neutral silver-colored terminals. When wiring standard switches, the wires connected to the switch are both hot.

What are the rules for receptacles? ›

Receptacles are needed in every room of a home such that no point on a wall is over 6′ from an outlet. This means that you need an outlet within 6′ of a doorway or fireplace. A long wall, however, may have up to 12′ between outlets.

How does an electrician check for faulty wiring? ›

When they check the wiring in your house, electricians will look for signs of fraying or damage. Such signs include exposed wire dangling from ceilings or coming out of the wall, wires that pop out of the protective coating, or cracking in the insulation caused by brittleness.

What not to do with an outlet? ›

3. Not overloading an outlet.
  1. Plug major appliances into their own wall outlet.
  2. Don't turn on too many things at once. (For example, if you're vacuuming the living room, turn off the TV during that time.)
  3. Use energy-efficient LED or CFL light bulbs.
  4. Ask an electrician to install extra outlets.
Nov 24, 2020

What is the most common cause of electrical problems? ›

Since loose connections are the number one leading cause for electrical failures by contributing to over 30% of all electrical failures and are a major cause for power outages, we've devised a solution to monitor those failure points and prevent unexpected downtime.

What are three warning signs of an overloaded electrical circuit? ›

Signs of Overloaded Circuits
  • Dimming lights, especially if lights dim when you turn on appliances or more lights.
  • Buzzing outlets or switches.
  • Outlet or switch covers that are warm to the touch.
  • Burning odors from outlets or switches.
  • Scorched plugs or outlets.
Nov 17, 2022

How do electricians find faulty wiring? ›

When they check the wiring in your house, electricians will look for signs of fraying or damage. Such signs include exposed wire dangling from ceilings or coming out of the wall, wires that pop out of the protective coating, or cracking in the insulation caused by brittleness.

How many outlets can be on a 20 amp circuit? ›

Ideally, you should spread as many outlets around your home as possible and assign them to a single circuit. Just keep in mind the maximum load for a single circuit. A good rule of thumb is to assume that there will be a maximum power draw of 1.5 amps for each outlet, allowing 10 outlets for a single 20-amp circuit.


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