How to Wire Split Receptacles

Most electrical wall outlets feature two receptacles, both of which draw power from a single set of wires running to a single circuit.

Duplex receptacles can be split-wired so that each receptacle is protected by a separate circuit.Duplex receptacles can be split-wired so that each receptacle is protected by a separate circuit.
In a split-receptacle outlet, however, each receptacle is wired to a separate circuit. Sometimes the two receptacles share the same neutral, but sometimes they are completely isolated from each other, as where one of the receptacles is an orange receptacle going to a power-filtered circuit. Proper wiring of split receptacles is important for preventing tripped circuits and receptacle failure.

Turn the main power off at the breaker panel. Make sure the two-pole circuit breaker is in the "Off" position.

Install the wire at the circuit breaker. The red and black wires from the cable should be installed in the two power lugs on the circuit breaker. The white wire should be attached to the breaker panel's neutral bar. Attach the copper wire to the panel's neutral bar.

Hold the receptacle right-side up (with the round ground holes pointing down) and break the tab between the two brass screw terminals on the right side.

Connect the black wire to the upper brass screw terminal on the right of the receptacle.

Connect the red wire to the lower brass screw terminal on the right side of the receptacle.

Connect the white neutral wire to the upper screw terminal on the left side of the receptacle.

Cut two 3-inch lengths of copper wire from an unused portion of wire cable. Connect one to the green ground terminal on the receptacle and the other to the green ground terminal on the junction box.

Join together the ends of the copper wire from the cable, from the receptacle and from the junction box. Connect them with a wire nut.

Attach the receptacle to the junction box with supplied screws, and screw on a receptacle plate.

Turn the main power back on at the circuit panel. Turn the two-pole breaker back on.

Things You Will Need

  • Electrical junction box
  • Duplex electrical receptacle
  • Multi-circuit electrical cable
  • Double-pole common-internal trip circuit breaker
  • Wire nut
  • Screwdriver
  • Needle-nose pliers
  • Duplex receptacle plate

Tips

  • If you need the two circuits to be completely isolated, you'll need to run two separate three-wire cables from separate breakers in separate panels (e.g., one from the main breaker panel and one from an electrical power filter).
  • If keeping the power off at the breaker panel for an extended period of time is unfeasible, you may turn it back on after the two-pole breaker is installed, but make sure the breaker itself stays in the off position.

Warnings

  • Improper wiring of multi-wire circuits can cause damage to electrical equipment, pose a fire hazard and create the risk of electrocution. If you are not thoroughly familiar with AC wiring, have this job done by a licensed electrician.
  • Consult and follow any installation instructions that came with the circuit breaker or the receptacle.
  • Never touch or perform connections with live wires. Always make certain wires are carrying no voltage before working with them. When in doubt, use a voltmeter to test them.

About the Author

Scott Knickelbine began writing professionally in 1977. He is the author of 34 books and his work has appeared in hundreds of publications, including "The New York Times," "The Milwaukee Sentinel," "Architecture" and "Video Times." He has written in the fields of education, health, electronics, architecture and construction. Knickelbine received a Bachelor of Arts cum laude in journalism from the University of Minnesota.