Circuits can be wired in series or parallel, but in a house electrical circuit, load elements are always wired in parallel. There are two reasons for this. First, when two loads are wired in series, the voltage across either of them is halved. Second, when one of the elements fails in a series circuit, power is cut to all the elements. In contrast, batteries are often wired in series to increase their overall voltage. The best way to wire electrical sockets is to follow the usual colour code, black-to-brass and white-to-silver, which will wire them in parallel.
- Skill level:
- Moderately Easy
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Things you need
- Utility knife
- Wire splicer
- Twist-on wire connector
Turn the power off at the main breaker before you make any electrical connections.
Cut about 6 inches from the sheathing of the incoming hot wire and the outgoing auxiliary wire using a utility knife, and pull the sheathing off with pliers.
Remove 1/2-inch of insulation from the black and white wires with a wire splicing tool.
Wire in parallel by connecting the black wire of the incoming cable to the top brass screw on the outlet. Either insert the end of the wire through the self-clamping hole behind the screw, or make a clockwise hook in the end of the wire with pliers and wrap it around the screw, then tighten the screw with a screwdriver. Connect the black wire of the outgoing cable to the bottom brass screw in the same way.
Connect the white wire of the incoming cable to the top silver screw, and the outgoing white wire to the bottom silver screw.
Twist the two bare ground wires together and attach them to the green ground screw. If the electrical box is made of metal, wrap one of the ground wires around the ground screw on the box and tighten it as well.
Connect two outlets in series by connecting the black wire of the incoming hot cable to the brass screw of the first outlet and the black wire of the outgoing cable to the silver screw. Then twist together the two white wires and cap them with a twist-on wire connector. At the second outlet, connect the black cable to the brass screw and the white wire to the silver screw.
Tips and warnings
- Cheaper Christmas lights are sometimes wired in series, which is why they all go out when one of them fails.
- Wiring two receptacles in series is not recommended and may violate local codes.
- Be sure the power is off before you make any electrical connections. If you are not sure, test the ends of the wires with a voltage tester.
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