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How to Make Pigtail Electrical Wire Connections

01 Make Sure Power Is Shut Off

As with any electrical repair installation, always make sure that the circuit power has been turned off before connecting a pigtail. Use a circuit tester to verify that the power is off before proceeding. A non-contact circuit tester provides an easy way to test for power before you touch any wires.

02 Make the Pigtail Wire

Using wire cutters, cut a piece of scrap wire 6 to 8 inches long, the same color and wire gauge as the circuit wires. Strip about 3/4 inch of insulation from each end of the wire, using a wire stripper. Some devices, including switches and outlet receptacles, may have a strip gauge embossed on the side of the device to show precisely how much insulation to strip from the wires.

03 Connect the Pigtail to the Device

Loop the bare wire at one end of the pigtail around the screw terminal on the device in a clockwise direction, using needle-nose pliers. Tighten the screw terminal down to secure the wire loop. The loop of wire should fit tightly around the screw shaft, with no copper wire exposed.

04 Connect the Pigtail to the Circuit Wire

At the other end of the pigtail, connected the bare end to the circuit wires, using a wire nut or other approved wire connector. Make sure no bare copper wire is exposed. Tug on the wires to make sure they are secure.

If you are connecting a green grounding pigtail to a metal electrical box, thread the green grounding screw attached to the pigtail into the threaded screw opening in the back of the electrical box. The free end of the grounding pigtail attaches to the other grounding wires with a wire connector.

When metal boxes are used, there may be two grounding pigtails: one attached to the metal box, and one attached to the device, with the free ends of both pigtails joined to the circuit grounding wires using a wire connector.

With plastic electrical boxes, there will be only a single grounding pigtail linking the circuit grounding wires to the device.

05 Complete the Work

Once all wire connections are complete, tuck the wires back into the electrical box, secure the device to the box, and mount the cover plate. Turn on the power and test the operation of the device.

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