How to Connect Wires to a Receptacle and a Switch

Whether running wires to a switch or a receptacle, you need to know the proper way to connect wires to the terminal screws.

We’ll show you what color wire goes on each screw terminal and where it doesn’t matter.

What to do Before Connecting the Wires

Make sure you turn the power off at the circuit breaker. Test the wires with a non-contact voltage tester to confirm there is no current. If they’re not turned off you risk getting an electrical shock.

Steps to Connect Wires to Terminal Screws

If your box has existing wires with loops, it’s best to cut them off and create new ones.

Strip off 3/4 inch of insulation. Grab the wire with a pliers and bend it into a clockwise loop. Hook the wire under the screw and close the loop by pushing the wire back against itself. Tighten the screw down with a Phillips screwdriver. Do this for each wire connection. Sometimes the green ground screw will be a flat head. Fold the wires back into the box, then screw the receptacle or switch to the holes in the box.

Connecting to a receptacle

Wires on a receptacle must be connected to the correct terminals. The white wire always goes to the silver screw while the red or black wire goes to the brass screw. The bare copper wire (ground) goes to the green screw.

Connecting to a regular switch

If you’re connecting to a regular switch that controls one light, the wire order doesn’t matter. If you’re connecting to a three-way switch, the wire order is critical. Depending on the complexity of your wiring, you may need to contact an electrician.