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What is an Electrical Pigtail?

April 26, 2023

An electrical pigtail is an electrical technique that is often employed to combine a couple of wires or to lengthen short wires, leaving a conductor like an outlet or switch that can connect to electrical devices. It is a rather simple technique that every homeowner can perform if they attempt to learn.

How Does it Work?

Pigtail is usually not a standalone project and is often used to make other electrical replacements or repairs. For example, you can employ the electrical pigtail when grounding a receptacle or switch, where the green grounding pigtails link the device and metal box to the circuit grounding wires.

Another way to use to electrical pigtail is to connect the hot wires leading to the light fixtures and the screw terminal using a short black pigtail wire. This is to get a wall switch to control more light fixtures.

The NEC (National Electric Code) has a pigtail wire length requirement of 6 inches long.

How to Make a Pigtail

It is ideal to learn to make a pigtail on your own when you need to. Here’s exactly how to do this:

  • Tools/Materials Required
  • Screwdriver
  • Scrap wire pieces
  • Wirecutter
  • Circuit tester
  • Needle-nose pliers
  • Wire connectors (push-fit connectors or traditional wire nuts)


  1. Start by shutting off power. Turning off the circuit power is a safety precaution that should not be taken lightly. Do this first, and if you need to verify that the power is truly shut off, use a circuit tester.
  2. Go ahead and start on the pigtail wire. Begin by cutting the scrap wires 6-8 inches long, with the wire cutters. Using a wire stripper, strip ¾ inch insulation from all the wires.
  3. Using the needle-nose pliers, loop one end of bare wire from the pigtail round the device’s screw terminal in a clockwise direction. Tighten the terminal to keep the wire loop secure. Check that the loop of the wire fits perfectly around the screw shaft, having no exposed wires.
  4. The other bare end should be connected to the circuit wire with a wire connector. Also check that it fits tightly, with no exposed copper; you can tug lightly to confirm.
  5. To connect a metal electrical box and green grounding pigtail, thread the grounding screw connected to the pigtail until it becomes a threaded screw that opens in the back of the electrical box. The pigtail’s free end will attach with a wire connector to other grounding wires.
  6. Round off your work, check that all the wire connections have been made. Tuck the wires into the electrical box and then secure the device to the box. Don’t forget to mount the cover plate.
  7. Turn the power back on and test that it all works perfectly.

If this seems a little too advanced for you, or you’re too busy to pull this off, you can hire an electrician to make things easy for you. At Yes!, we are licensed electrical professionals that handle all electrical challenges, including solving problems that require electrical pigtails. Book an appointment with us today.

Last Updated: September 18, 2023