How to Replace a Split Circuit Outlet

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A split circuit outlet allows you to have two individual circuits connected to a single duplex outlet. The top outlet is powered by one circuit and the bottom outlet is powered by another. So, what do you do when one of the outlets goes bad and the whole piece needs to be replaced? After all, you can't find split circuit outlets for sale in your local hardware store, right? Well, that's partly right. In this article I'll show you how to replace a split circuit outlet.

Things You'll Need

  • Screwdriver
  • Voltage tester
  • Duplex outlet
  • Needle-nose pliers
  • Electrical tape
  • Wire strippers
  • Turn off the power to the outlet you are going to be replacing. Remember to turn off BOTH circuits that feed the split circuit outlet.

  • Remove the plate and the screws holding the outlet to the wall box. Gently pull the outlet out of the wall. Use your voltage tester to probe the outlet's terminals and double check that BOTH circuits are off.

  • If the split circuit is sharing a neutral, there will be only one white wire attached to the outlet. If each circuit has its own neutral, there will be two white wires. If that is the case, be sure to keep the right neutral with the right circuit.

  • Disconnect all of the wires on the outlet. There should be two "hot" wires, one on each terminal, the ground and the neutral(s).

  • Look at the terminals on your new duplex outlet. Notice that between the terminals there is a metal tab that bridges both terminals. Use your needle-nose pliers and bend the tab on the hot side of the outlet (the darker terminal side) back and forth until it breaks away. If the outlet had two neutrals attached to it, do this on both sides of the outlet. If there is only one neutral wire, do not remove the tab on the neutral side of the outlet (the side with the silver terminals).

  • Use the wire strippers to remove about 3/4 inches of insulation from the end of each wire and bend the exposed copper into a hook. Connect one hot wire to each of the hot terminals and tighten down the terminals. Connect your neutral(s) to the neutral side the same way. If you have two neutrals, the neutral wire that goes with the hot wire will get connected directly across from it on the outlet. Then connect the ground wire to the green ground screw.

  • Wrap a strip of electrical tape around the terminals and gently push the wires back into the wall box. Secure the outlet to the box and replace the cover plate.

  • Turn both circuit breakers back on and test the split circuit outlet for power. If you have a plug-type tester, it will indicate that the outlet is wired correctly.

  • Clean up, throw your old material away and you're all finished replacing your split circuit outlet!

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