What is a Receptacle Wiring Diagram?

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  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: O. Wallace
  • Last Modified Date: 11 October 2019
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A receptacle wiring diagram is a drawing which graphically illustrates the layout of an electrical receptacle, also known as a power outlet. As with other wiring diagrams, the goal of a diagram of receptacle wiring is to show how the circuit should be laid out. Diagrams for basic receptacles are free on many websites which cover electricity and wiring topics, and people can also draw out their own if they have experience with wiring.

Electricians set up wiring diagrams before they start a project as a way of mapping the project out. This ensures that they know where receptacles are going, which circuits they will be connected to, and how they will be connected to each other. In new construction, a whole-structure wiring diagram can also be used by other construction personnel who need to make allowances for the needs of the electrician. Ideally, wiring diagrams are kept on hand along with the rest of the documentation which pertains to the wiring of a structure, so that if there is a problem, it will be easy to consult the wiring diagram to get orientated in the electrical system.


There are a number of different types of power receptacles. Each type requires a slightly different approach to wiring which can be laid out in a wiring diagram. Receptacles can also be controlled by switches, in which case the wiring can become slightly complex, especially if multi-switching is used to control an outlet. A receptacle wiring diagram can cover the variety of receptacles used, and show how the wiring will meet or exceed code requirements for safety and performance.

In some cases, a power receptacle comes in a package with a receptacle wiring diagram which is provided for the benefit of the installer. More commonly, the manufacturer assumes that the receptacle is being installed by someone knowledgeable, and no wiring diagram is provided. Examples of wiring diagrams can also be found in books which are designed to familiarize people with the electrical code, usually with annotated discussions talking about common wiring mistakes and issues which can cause an outlet to fail a code inspection.

Working with electricity does not have to be dangerous when the work is performed competently. Taking steps like drawing out a receptacle wiring diagram before work starts will make electrical work much safer, in addition to easier, as it establishes the blueprints for the job before the work even takes place, rather than forcing people to make things up as they go along.


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Post 1

One of my grandfather's was an electrician, and as far as I know, he never got hurt on the job. Electricity can be dangerous, but as long as your know what you're doing, safety really isn't an issue.

I find it interesting that sometimes power receptacles just come in a package all ready to go, complete with the diagram. For some reason I always assumed that electricians had to take care of everything themselves, from beginning to end. That sounds really convenient though!

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