Separate lines and breakers for one receptacle??????

Discussion in 'Electrical Forum discussion & Blog' started by skoby, Apr 4, 2014.

  1. skoby

    skoby New Member

    Messages:
    38
    Location:
    Massachusetts
    My kitchen outlets have a separate breaker for the tops and bottoms of each receptacle.

    I have no idea why someone would wire it this way. Has anyone heard of this? If so, can you tell me the reason? Thanks

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  2. skoby

    skoby New Member

    Messages:
    38
    Location:
    Massachusetts
    Upon further investigation the whole house is set up this way. There's a switch as you walk into each room and it will turn off/on the bottom receptacles for the entire room.

    I have no idea why anyone would want to shut off every bottom receptacle in a room. Seems odd to me.
  3. bluebinky

    bluebinky Member

    Messages:
    388
    Location:
    Santa Clara, CA
    The two wires in the front look almost white. Are they more red in real life?

    If those two breakers do indeed serve the one outlet, then they need their handles properly tied together -- or be on one tandem (240V) breaker.

    The counter-top receptacles should not be switched. Switching half of the other receptacles is so you can plug in floor lamps and have them switched at the room entry. If you had/have proper overhead lighting, then the outlets would not "need" to be switched.

    The pros must all be out working. I'm sure one will step in soon with a more thorough explanation.
  4. skoby

    skoby New Member

    Messages:
    38
    Location:
    Massachusetts
    It's definitely orange (flash makes it hard to see). The wire says Colonial Flex Type NM 600 Volt 12/3. I can understand having a plug switched for floor lamps but this is occurring on every receptacle in pretty much every room (even in rooms with overhead lighting).

    I removed the switch from the kitchen and will be removing the switch in the living room (I don't need them). I'll also tie the breakers together for safety.

    This was a custom home. My home inspector who used to build houses said there were designs that were 10 years ahead of its time. The wife who built it was an architect and her husband was an MIT graduate/inventor so who knows what they were thinking. I'm not really sure but I have never come across wiring like this.....
  5. jadnashua

    jadnashua Retired Defense Industry Engineer xxx

    Messages:
    21,924
    Location:
    New England
    I'm not sure what is there is a problem. While it would have saved wire to use a multi-wire circuit and a ganged CB, I don't think you have to (one of the pros will chime in to verify). It is not uncommon to have multiple circuits in the same box, so especially when you see the tabs are broken, you would need to check all of the wires for power if you wanted to work on it.

    Having each receptacle powered from a separate circuit means you aren't likely to overload things if you tried to plug two high-current devices into that duplex receptacle.

    As to switching receptacles, as long as the switch is the proper size, that's okay, too. Maybe a bit unusual, but there's nothing against it. Code covers certain things, but the rest, based your desires, is optional.
  6. bluebinky

    bluebinky Member

    Messages:
    388
    Location:
    Santa Clara, CA
    Wow, I'm surprised I haven't been beat up by one of the pros yet...

    Oops, the requirement for tying the breaker handles together is somewhat new (2008 NEC, I think). The way it is is (probably) fine, unless you start redoing things. Sorry if that causes any confusion.
    Another (newish) requirement is that the neutrals of a multi-wire circuit would be tied together instead of being wired through the receptacle.

    Are you looking to change the wiring, or just curious about what you are seeing?
  7. hj

    hj Moderator & Master Plumber Staff Member

    Messages:
    26,519
    Location:
    Cave Creek, Arizona
    If you were in AZ I would think you bought my old house, because that is how I did all the bedrooms, (except for the part about switching all the bottom receptacles). That way, if something tripped a breaker, (2 for each room), the other side would still be active. As far as switching all the bottom outlets they did that so you could plug a lamp into any of them and control it with the wall switch.
  8. petrie

    petrie New Member

    Messages:
    56
    Location:
    Wisconsin
    My living room has all the bottom receptacles (5) connected to 3-way switches. They used 14/3 to do this and 15 amp breakers in panel, so I don't plug my vacum cleaner into these outlets.

    Using one 12/3 is cheaper than two 12/2 for running the kitchen small appliance circuits. However, I think a more common method would be to feed each outlet with only one leg in an alternating pattern. Because of counter space I think a person is more likely to run two kitchen applicances off of two seperate receptacles, not the same receptacle. If it was my kitchen I'd probably seperate the legs...one to each outlet.

    I've seen receptacles wired such that instead of using both screw terminals, a pigtail is used on only one terminal so that power to each receptacle is delivered through the wire and not through the receptacle. I'm no electrician, but I prefer this method.

    Also I've taken out outlets that were wired two wires to a screw(like your above picture) and one was loose or pulled right out. If room in box I think using one wire with screw, pigtailed to other two wires would be preferable.
    Last edited: Apr 5, 2014
  9. jadnashua

    jadnashua Retired Defense Industry Engineer xxx

    Messages:
    21,924
    Location:
    New England
    A multi-wire used to feed each receptacle in a duplex would require a ganged CB because they share the neutral. But, running 12/2, I think it's fine to treat them as individual devices once you've broken the tab. In a multi-wire circuit, it shares the neutral, so that is why you must remove power from both branches. With separate 12/2, each circuit has its own neutral.
  10. DonL

    DonL Banned

    Messages:
    3,971
    Location:
    Houston, TX
    That house may have been wired for Emergency or filtered power.

    Maybe LED lighting. Just a guess.


    It could be nice, If wired properly.
    Last edited: Apr 5, 2014
  11. skoby

    skoby New Member

    Messages:
    38
    Location:
    Massachusetts
    I can see having one or two outlets especially in rooms with no overhead lighting but EVERY outlet can be annoying at times. It limits what I can put in the room because some things you don't want to accidently shut off (computer, clock, etc)

    Oh well, Nothing I can't live with. :)
  12. Vegas_sparky

    Vegas_sparky Eat kitty

    Messages:
    237
    Location:
    LV,NV/ Nowhere,UT
    The receptacles don't have to stay as half hots. You can disconnect/wire nut the switch legs, tuck them in the box, and jump the constant to the now vacant receptacle terminal. Make sure your neutrals are correct. As silly as the wiring may seem, it does offer flexabilty as to where you can put the switched fixtures in the room.
  13. ActionDave

    ActionDave Electrician

    Messages:
    346
    Location:
    Colorado
    The kitchen pic looks like a way to make sure you would trip a breaker on overload by having each half of the outlet powered by a separate circuit. You could have the toaster and the microwave plugged into the same spot, running at the same time.
  14. jadnashua

    jadnashua Retired Defense Industry Engineer xxx

    Messages:
    21,924
    Location:
    New England
    You want to explain that? If I feed each half of a duplex with its own feed, one plug doesn't care at all what is plugged into the other one...they are entirely separate. Now, if you didn't break the tab, you may not get either breaker to stay on, but that's something different entirely.

    Feeding each half separately is often done with 12/3 and a shared neutral, but that's not what is going on here.
  15. cacher_chick

    cacher_chick Test, Don't Guess!

    Messages:
    3,244
    Location:
    Land of Cheese
    Where I am, it is very common to wire duplex kitchen receptacles from the two required countertop circuits. To have a switched countertop circuit would be strange.

    It would be common to switch half of a duplex receptacle in a living room or family room where the chances of having a floor lamp plugged into that circuit would be great.
  16. ActionDave

    ActionDave Electrician

    Messages:
    346
    Location:
    Colorado
    Yes I can explain - typo. Should say "would not".
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