Electrical Wiring in the Home/Older Circuit Breaker Question



I'd like to switch out an old outlet in my dads home (40yr old house) that was on a double 20amp breaker.  The outlet had only a single 12ga romex to it so I removed the old outlet (kind with one of the prong openings rotated 90 degrees from the other) and replaced it with a  new 20amp outlet.  Testing the new outlet I found it didn't work.  I opened the breaker up and found that both the white and black wires of the romex were each wired to one of the circuit breakers in the double breaker - essentially giving me two hots and a ground in the box. Since the neutrals and grounds are wired to the same bars in the breaker box, I was thinking I could just cap the white wire at the outlet and connect the ground and neutral on the outlet to the ground from the romex wire?  An alternative would be to disconnect the white wire at the circuit breaker and use a wire nut to extend the wire to be able to connect to the neutral bus in the breaker.  Is either of these a preferred way to approach this?  Is there another way I should consider?  Thanks!


I have to assume there are no other outlets on this circuit that will be effected by this change your about to make and to the best of your knowledge you know this to be true. Usually there are no more than one dedicated AC outlet to a circuit.

Simply connect the white wire that is currently connected to the double 20 amp breaker to where all the white and bare ground wires are connected. If it will not reach as you say just extend it with a wire nut and piece of white 12 gauge wire. Leave the bare ground wire connected where it is. You should change the "double breaker" to a "single" and "blank up" the space that will be left with a plastic "blank up".  Once these changes have been made your done in the panel.

On the receptacle end the black wire will connect to the brass colored screw and the white to the silver colored screw, the bare ground will go to and probably already is grounded to the metal box. If you use a "self grounding" receptacle there is no need to get another green or bare ground wire from the box to the receptacle. If the box is plastic then the bare ground wire will go directly to the green screw on the receptacle. Turn the breaker on and check your voltage and polarity.  


---------- FOLLOW-UP ----------

QUESTION: Thanks Bob.  You are right - I don't believe there are any other outlets on this circuit (we did a pretty exhaustive check).  Lest question: Instead of changing the breaker, can I just remove the metal band linking the two breakers switches (so they operate independently) and leave one unused and off instead of pulling it out and installing a blank?


You can leave the 2 pole breaker if you must and its not necessary to remove the metal band. Just clearly mark what the breaker feeds so there is no confusion. Obviously unless the panel cover is off there is no way to know only one side of the breaker is being used unless you clearly mark it on the outside. In other words you could mark the side of the breaker not being used as "spare" and the side that is being used "120 volt recept" which gives some indication only half the breaker is being used.

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Licensed Master Electrician (32 years) 6165B Contractor in Closter New Jersey with 40 years total experience in Residential - Commercial - Industrial work. Emergency Service - General trouble shooting and repair work - ONAN & GENERAC generator installation - Paddle fans - Kitchen & Bath exhaust fans - AC lines - Smoke detectors - Telephone lines - Cable TV lines - Computer network cabling - Exterior lighting - Recessed lighting - Security lighting - (200 - 150 - 100 amp service up grades) - Electric Heat - New circuits - New appliance hook ups - and more ! FREE ESTIMATES 201-358-1552 Fully Insured


Licensed contractor in Closter New Jersey.

"The Frank Williams School of Electrical Construction". My dear old boss is 100 ! and still going God Bless him. I started working for "Tenafly Electric" right out of high school at 19. He was tough but I learned more working for him in 8 and half years than most guys. We did mostly industrial work while doing some commercial and residential so I was fortunate to be exposed to all 3 areas of electrical construction. The guys I worked with were all good guys and I stay in touch with some of them still. Most of us went into our own buisness's which says something about the caliber of the guys I worked with. We had some interesting clients : Wella Corp. of shampoo fame, Farah Fawcett etc, I didn't buy shampoo for 10 years. It was a great place to work. Pan Am the former airline just before they went under, another great place to work, nice clean environment. C&C Metals, the largest button manufacturer in the US at that time, a not so clean environment but a very interesting place to work, lots of machine's cranking out buttons of all kinds but you had to be on your toes, it was a potentially dangerous place to be . All kinds of action going on around you.

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