How to Install a Split Receptacle

Gain control over your electrical switches with a split receptacle. Every bedroom and kitchen should have one.

Have you ever wondered how your bedside lamp can be turned on and off by the switch at the door, but the alarm clock plugged into the same outlet remains on at all times? The seemingly complicated electrical work is all made possible by a split receptacle. And while it may sound like a job for a professional, installing a split receptacle is quite manageable for someone with minimal electrical work experience.

Code may require that adjacent receptacles be on different circuits. You can split receptacles to achieve the same effect. Run three-wire cable from the service panel to the boxes for the two circuits. Codes may call for connecting both circuits to a double-pole breaker. That way an overload on one circuit shuts off both, deadening all wires in each box.

When wiring a series of split-circuit receptacles, connect one outlet of each receptacle to the red wire and the other to the black wire. Be sure to break off the brass connecting tabs.

In the steps below, we show you how to do this job safely and effectively. Follow along to check this task off your weekend to-do list. 

  • Working Time 1 Hour
  • Start to Finish 1 Hour
  • Difficulty         Projects Kind of Hard

What you need

Tools

  • Long-nose pliers
  • Voltage tester

Materials

  • Receptacle
  • Three-wire cable
  • Two-wire cable
  • Wire nuts
  • Boxes
  • Double-pole circuit breaker

How to do it

Step 1 Remove Connecting Tab

On each receptacle, twist off the tab that connects the two brass terminals. Now the two outlets are disconnected from each other.

Step 2 Connect Wires

Make certain no power is present in the cable or boxes. At each receptacle, pigtail the red, black, and white wires. Connect the red and black pigtails to separate brass terminals and connect the white pigtail to a silver terminal.

Step 3 Connect Breaker

At the service panel shut off the main breaker. Connect the white wire to the neutral bus bar and the ground wire to the ground bus bar. Connect the red and black wires to a double-pole breaker. Snap in the breaker.

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