DIY Wiring Diagrams for Electrical Receptacles

–Check local regulations for restrictions and permit requirements before beginning electrical work– The user of this information is responsible for following all applicable regulations and best practices when performing electrical work. If the user is unable to perform electrical work themselves, a qualified electrician should be consulted.

–Most wiring diagrams on this site include a green dot representing the integrated grounding terminal found in most metal outlet boxes. However, some older metal boxes and most plastic boxes don't have a terminal like this.
–By code, the number of conductors allowed in a box are limited depending on its size. Conductors include wires, devices like switches and receptacles, and some other metal parts. Check here to calculate the number of conductors allowed in a box before adding new wiring, etc.

This page contains wiring diagrams for most household receptacle you will encounter including grounded and ungrounded duplex outlets, ground fault circuit interrupters (GFCI) as well as 20amp, 30amp and 50amp receptacles for 120 volt and 240 volt circuits.

wiring diagram for a grounded duplex receptacle

Grounded Duplex Receptacle

This is the standard 15 amp 120 volt wall receptacle outlet wiring diagram. This is a polarized device. The long slot on the left is the neutral contact and the short slot is the hot contact. A grounded contact at the bottom, center is crescent shaped. Don't use this receptacle when no ground wire is available.

This receptacle can typically be found in living room and bedroom wall outlets. One of these may be controlled with a switch and/or wired to other receptacles in the circuit. For a 15 amp receptacle like this, 14/2 cable with ground should be used to feed the circuit.

wiring diagram for a non-grounded, polarized duplex receptacle

Ungrounded, Polarized Duplex Receptacle

This is an older version of the receptacle in the first diagram. The slots are different sizes to accept polarized plugs, but it lacks a grounding slot. This device does not make use of a ground wire. There is no protection against electrocution as provide by the grounded receptacle.

When replacing an ungrounded, polarized receptacle use this type and not the grounded type above, unless it is grounded by a jumper wire to a metal outlet box that is tied to the house service panel ground through a continuos metal conduit.

wiring diagram for a non-grounded duplex receptacle

Ungrounded, Non-Polarized Duplex Receptacle

This is the oldest version of a wall receptacle that you will find. It lacks a grounding contact and the plug slots are both the same size. These devices did not make use of a ground wire and both plug slots were treated the same. The wires used with these receptacles were usually both black.

With this configuration any wire in the circuit may be hot at all times and there's no protection against electrocution. When replacing an ungrounded device in an older circuit like this, use the polarized one above and not the grounded receptacle at the top unless it is grounded to a metal outlet box that is itself grounded to the house electrical system through a continuos metal conduit.

Wiring a Ground Fault Circuit Interrupter

wiring diagram for a  ground fault circuit interrupter

There are two sets of terminals on a ground fault circuit interrupter (gfci) receptacle: the line terminals and the load terminals. The source from the circuit should be connected to the line terminals and any standard duplex outlet or other device connected to the load terminals will be protected by this gfci. In a kitchen where only one outlet box is available and both a switch for a garbage disposal and a gfci receptacle are needed, a a switch/gfci combo can be used as in the diagram at this link.

wiring diagram for a two gfci

To wire more than one GFCI receptacle in the same circuit, connect the source to the line terminals on each device using a pigtail splice. The load terminals are not used for this circuit. See more GFCI wiring diagrams at this link.

20-Amp 120-Volt Duplex Receptacle

wiring diagram for a 20 amp 120 volt receptacle

A 20 amp, 120v duplex receptacle like this should be installed in a circuit using 12 awg or larger cable and a 20 amp circuit breaker. These receptacles are usually found in kitchen wall outlets where two branch circuits are needed to serve small appliances and a refrigerator.

When using this device for heavy appliances like washing machines and microwaves, it should be connected to a dedicated 20-amp/120-volt circuit breaker. As of 2014, a GFCI receptacle is now required in a laundry room for the washing machine.

20-Amp 240-Volt Appliance Receptacle

wiring diagram for a 20 amp 240 volt receptacle

This outlet is commonly used for a heavy load such as a large air conditioner. The outlet should be wired to a dedicated 20-amp/240-volt circuit breaker in the service panel using 12|2 awg cable.

With this wiring, both the black and white wires are used to carry 120 volts each and the white wire is wrapped with electrical tape to label it hot. This circuit doesn't make use of a neutral wire and the ground wire is connected to the ground terminal on the device. The slots are configured to accept only plugs from compatible appliances.

30-Amp 240-Volt Receptacle

wiring diagram for a 30 amp receptacle to serve a dryer or electric range

A 30 amp circuit was once the norm for large, high voltage appliances like kitchen ranges. This type of receptacle provides 240 volts and 30 amps of current. The smallest cable allowed for used with a 30-amp circuit is 10 gauge, but 8 gauge may also be found. A 3-conductor cable is needed to carry a total of 240 volts and a neutral return. The circuit is wired to a dedicated 30 amp circuit breaker.

This arrangement makes it possible to power the heating elements in the appliance using the two 120 volts combined and one 120 volt wire to power timers and lights. This circuit is still used for clothes dryers but not for most new installations of kitchen ranges, for that a 50 amp circuit (pictured below) is now used.

50-Amp 240-Volt Receptacle

wiring diagram for a 50 amp receptacle to serve a dryer or electric range

This wiring diagram is used for 50 and 60 amp circuits. The receptacle should be wired to a dedicated 50 or 60 amp circuit breaker using 6 awg cable. The 50 amp circuit is required for new installations of some large appliances requiring 240 volts. Two wires carrying 120 volts each can be combined to provide high voltage to heating circuits and one of the 120 volt wires can serve lights or other low voltage circuits in the appliance. The neutral wire provides a return path for the circuit and the ground wire provides extra protection from electrocution not found on older 30 amp, 240 volt appliance hookups.