2 Hot Wires In An Outlet: What It Means & How To Wire It

Encountering two hot wires in your electrical outlet? It’s not uncommon and can be found in both regular and GFCI outlets. But what does it signify, and how should you handle it?

Both regular and GFCI outlets can have two sets of hot wire. One hotwire always remains on for transmuting power from the power supply and feeding the other wires. Another hot wire transmutes the voltage to other devices. Some outlets even have 3 sets of each wire.

If you ever try rewiring the outlet, you might get confused by seeing two hotwires. However, having two hot wires is not wrong, but you must be careful. This guide will let you know the purpose of having two hotwires and the precautions to follow in such cases.

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Why does my outlet have two hot wires?

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The primary reason for having two hot wires is one remains “always on” to feed the other wires with both the hot and neutral wires.

The other hotwire transmutes voltage to other devices. 

When outlets are set up with two hot wires, the outlets are separate and will be connected with the help of a bridge.

A single wire should supply power to both outlets.

When you put up two hot wires in a single outlet, it is because the outlet has a constant on and switched plug. 

That is why one outlet requires hot wires.

However, this can change from outlet to outlet.

The reason to have more than one hot or neutral wire will differ depending on the circumstances.

The reasons only vary if the hot wires transmit through one wire and the voltage runs through the other. 

Such conditions are called outlets being daisy-chained together. 

Using more than one wire in the branch circuits is common.

There are some ways where the configurations are done relying on some specifics. 

The two hot wires share the neutral wire, which gets used at different times depending on the nature of the alternating current. 

The problem will occur if the neutral wire fails.

This failure will cause some odds in the hot and neutral wires, like a doubled-up voltage leading to smoke or fire hazards. 

Having and using two hot wires in a single outlet is not one, but many. 

Various reasons depend on various situations. 

Besides, there could be issues with two hot wires in the same outlet.

So, you have to wire them carefully.

Some old or duplex buildings will have alternative voltage requirements and methods by which the voltage will get supplied to the outlet.

So, here there is a need for two hot wires. 

Sometimes, you will require two hot wires when renovating any building. 

Sometimes, the configuration and use of two hot wires can be incorrect, as it could cause switch loops. 

You may also need two hot wires in one outlet depending on the channeling amount of voltage.

It isn’t easy to work with high voltages.

Whatever the situation is, it is always best to consult a professional so that they can look at the specifics and tell you the need for the number of hot wires in your outlet.

Also read: Can You Have 3 Sets Of Wires In One Outlet? (+How To Wire Them Correct)

Can I put two hot wires together?

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The two hot wires that you will put together will have different functions. 

One hot wire transmutes the voltage from the power panel to other wires. 

The other hot wire will carry the voltage to other devices.

In a circuit, the power only stems from the primary voltage supply source. 

After that, the circuit will have various wire setups to carry the voltage to other wires. 

Outlets are made to give the sockets consistent and equal voltage from the same power source instead of having separate power sources for different outlet sockets. 

It is done by one hot wire, one neutral wire, and one ground wire.

If you think of joining two hot wires or not, do not do it in the same terminal, especially if the circuit is not designed for that. 

Putting them together in the same terminal will overheat the circuit or terminal.

If the wires are not tightened well, that will cause arcing.

Putting two wires together is very unsafe as there will be no difference in the voltage of the wires and current flow.

You end up with a short circuit, electrocution, and death. 

Despite such risks, working with two hotwired outlets is confusing. 

Besides, these outlets are designed this way for some benefits you may receive later in some situations.

What happens if I connect two hot wires?

The hot wires are always carrying current from the main power source.

So they are always full of power. 

If you join them together, there will be a great current flow.

It can further overheat the circuit and wires and result in a short circuit or fire hazard. 

However, connecting two hot wires highly depends on the voltage amount running in each hot wire. 

If both carry sufficient currents, you will receive a short circuit due to current overflow.

The air space between the two points becomes more ionized if the wires are closer.

Such high ionized air space breaks down, and sparks occur between the two exposed wires.

You get a short circuit at the end.

You may also witness malfunctioning, electrocution, tripping some more outlets or circuits, or more dangerous results.

How do I wire an outlet with two hot wires?

Knowing how to wire an outlet with two wires gives you information like the amount of voltage supply, the components used in the circuit systems, etc. 

The circuit’s wiring and functioning let you know whether you can put two hot wires in the outlet effectively and how it will be done if applicable. 

For outlets like GFCI (Ground Fault Circuit Interrupter), it is very easy to install two hot wires.

You will only require a protected neutral wire with a double pole GFCI breaker to establish the cable. 

You have to fit and attach the double-pole GFCI with a pigtail.

After that, you can bring the neutral and two hot wires inside the breaker. 

The wirings are more or less the same in GFCI and regular outlets. 

The difference is that the regular outlets are smaller and do not have test and reset buttons like the GFCIs.

The GFCI outlets are used where the devices consume too much electricity and in wet areas to prevent moisture-related hazards, like bathrooms, laundry rooms, or kitchens.

Should I do it myself or call a professional?

However, it is always better to hire a professional to fix the hot wires in the outlet.

Fixing wirings related to electricity can be very dangerous. 

The electricians have better knowledge and experience than you.

So, you must call them if you want the installation and wirings to be perfect. 

Besides, some areas restrict laypersons from doing things related to electricity.

So, if you know, learn about the local electric codes before you start working.

Otherwise, you cannot fix the wires in the outlet without an expert.

Why do outlets have two black wires and two white wires?

Some outlets have two black wires and two white wires.

The black is the hot wires, and the white is the neutral wires. 

The hot wires carry the current from the main power and transfer it to the next.

The neutral wires do the same job. 

When an outlet has more than one wire, the wires use the same circuit to pass electricity to multiple circuits.

The outlet with multiple wires is called a middle-of-the-run outlet. 

One set has one black and one white wire.

One set supplies electric current to the fixture or switch, and the other completes the circuit and goes to the next outlet.

Is it safe to have two hot and two neutral wires?

It is completely safe to have two hot and two neutral wires. 

However, the wires must be attached to the right terminal and should not have direct contact with other wiring. 

An outlet is made to get electric current from the circuit breaker and pass it to power some device, for example, a light or a switch, and return the unused current to the breaker. 

The current enters through the hot wires from the outlets, light fixtures, and switches and returns with the help of neutral wires. 

Your outlet can easily handle these wires without any problem, provided all the wires are in the proper place and terminals.

They should never contact each other, especially in direct and bare contact. 

Here is a tip for the terminals:

  • Brass terminal for hot wires
  • Silver terminal for neutral wires
  • Green terminal for ground wires

When you work with the wirings, turn off the main breaker from the fuse or the main line.

Is there anything to change in a 4-wire outlet?

You may need to change the outlet with two hot and two neutral wires if you do not need the outlet. 

Since the four wires have their roles, you cannot change them unless the need for the outlet has changed.

Final thoughts

Though it is better to have one hot wire in an outlet, two hot wires in one is common. 

One hot wire always remains active and transmutes power from the main supply to feed the other wire. The second hot wire transmutes the voltage to several devices. 

Two hot wires in one outlet are fine if they are tightly attached to the proper terminals and not kept close or connected. 

Do not ever try to connect the two wires. That will cause excessive current flow and result in serious fire hazards and short circuits. 

Outlets with two hot and two neutral wires are also common and do the same job. Attach the wires to their terminals, and do not connect them. 

Make sure there are no loose connections. 

If you find any issues, call a professional instead of doing it yourself. 


How many wires can you put in an outlet?

Generally, you should not put more than one wire in one screw terminal. 

Otherwise, it will result in arcing or a loose wire connection.

It will cause fire hazards or short circuits.

How do I understand the colors of wires and screws?

The brass terminals are for the hot (black) wires, the silver terminals are for neutral (white) wires, and the green terminal is for the grounding, which is green.

Sometimes, the hotwires can be red, blue, or yellow.

Confirm with your electrician before connecting them with the terminals.

Can I run two wires from one hole?

One wire should pass through only one hole.

As the current flows in the wire, it will become hot and cold, along with expansion and contraction.

If you put multiple wires in one hole, the wires will expand while heating and cut into the box, damaging the wires and causing burns.

Data Source: National Electrical CodeElectrical wiringHome wiring.

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Arthur Smith

Howdy! I am Arthur Smith, an electrical engineer who is extremely passionate about electronics. I have lived in different parts of the US and currently reside in Wisconsin. I am one of those rare children who knew what he wanted to study and do in life right from the start. I was a curious child who wanted to know how switches work and how the AC works, and I would always observe my dad whenever he would handle the wires and fix things around the house. I currently work as an electrical engineer at a reputed company and write for this blog. And I read loads of books or play video games in my free time.

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