Pigtail connections are very handy if there is more than one wire to be connected to a device. Making electrical connections to a device in an electrical box is easy if there is only one cable in the box. But what if there are two or more to be connected? Now what will you do? Connecting them all under one terminal isn’t an option and should never be attempted. The proper installation method is to connect the wires and add a pigtail. But what in the world is a pigtail and what does that have to do with electrical wiring?
A pigtail connection consists of a piece of electrical wire, rated for the amperage of the circuit being connected, used to connect two or more wires. The National Electric Code requires that you have a minimum of six inches of wire. This can be a scrap piece left over from the project that you are working on. Choose the same color wire as the ones you are connecting to. This will save you from confusion when connecting to the device.
As with an electrical installation, always make sure that the circuit power has been turned off before performing any electrical project. Safety should always be your first concern.
Strip about ¾" of insulation off of all of the wires to be connected together. Add the pigtail wire and now you are ready to connect the wires. Twist the wires together and be sure that the ends of the bare wires are all equal lengths. Use a wire nut to connect the wires together. Look to see that no bare copper is protruding out of the wire nut.
The other end of the wire now connects to the device. Now you are connecting only one wire to the device while connecting to all of the other wires of that color. Repeat these steps to connect the hot wires, neutral wires, and ground wires.
Pigtails are also very useful in extending the length of a wire that is too short. Never try to stretch an existing circuit. This could result in damage to the circuit wiring. Instead, connect a piece of wire to the existing circuit wire with a pigtail. This way, you’ll have plenty of wire to make a safe connection.
Grounding pigtails are green in color. These ground wires comes manufactured with a grounding screw connected or you can make your own. This screw is designed to connect to the back of the box and usually the box will have a tapped hole to screw it into.
- Always turn off power to the circuit that you will be working on.
- Know your limitations. If you are not electrically inclined or feel unsafe performing electrical projects, you may want to call a professional.
- Double check the circuit to be sure it is off by using a tester.
What You Need
- Wire Strippers
- Linesman Pliers
- Scrap Pieces of Wire
- Screw Drivers
- Wire Nuts