How to Replace an Electrical Outlet

The replacement of an electrical outlet is a simple and safe homeowner task. However, many homeowners are very intimidated, when it comes to any type of work involving the electrical systems of a home.

We would recommend that you research the concepts of your electrical service, in a typical residential home on the internet, to become more familiar with the terms as well as the concept of the electrical service into your home. The only reason that homeowners are intimidated by electricity, is that they do not understand it, and feel that due to this lack of understanding, there is something very magical and sophisticated about the electrical service and the resultant distribution throughout you home. This is not the case, and an hour of research on the internet will clarify the simplicity of the majority of electrical systems in the home.

This webpage is NOT intended to provide you with any sophisticated knowledge of the electrical systems in your home. This webpage is intended to safely and easily instruct you on the proper procedure to replace a simple outlet in your home.

How do I know that my electrical outlet should be replaced?

1.) The first and most obvious situation is that it does not work anymore, or if a duplex, quad, or other arrangement of outlets, one or more of the actual outlets, has stopped working.

2.) Any plug that is inserted into the outlet is loose and wobbly in the outlet. The plug should install relatively tightly and there should not be much movement in the plug, once inserted into the outlet.

3.) There is no grounding prong in the outlet. Older receptacles were designed and functioned without the separate grounding lug or prong. This requires you to always use an adaptor that allows you to plug your three prong, male plug into a receptacle that is designed for only two prongs. This becomes an inconvenient situation and is not as safe as having the contemporary three lug receptacle.

4.) You simply want to update the receptacles in the home with more contemporary and modern receptacles. It is an easy task and if you are that type of person, go ahead and replace all of the receptacles.

How do I go about replacing the electrical outlet?

1.) Identify the electrical outlets or outlets that you will want to replace, based upon the ( 4 ) noted issues that have been described.

2.) Purchase the appropriate quantity of outlets from the local hardware store or builder supply store. Make sure that all of the outlets are the same, the same color, as well as the same design.

3.) This is a good opportunity to replace the outlet cover also, if consistency and a new outward appearance is warranted.

4.) MOST IMPORTANT STEP! Turn off the circuit breaker, or remove the electrical fuse that is supplying the electrical service to the particular circuit that the outlet is on. The most efficient method of ensuring that the electrical power has been turned off, is to plug a lamp or simple light into the outlet. Make sure the light is turned on and the lamp is illuminated. Turn off the appropriate circuit breaker or remove the appropriate fuse to deactivate the outlet. Confirm deactivation by making sure the light is not illuminated.

5.) Remember that there are switched outlets. What this refers to, are outlets that are controlled by a wall switch. This wall switch could control one, or all of the actual outlets in the receptacle. Make sure that you are not tricked by the turning off of the switch, making the outlet inactive. This is NOT the same as turning off the circuit breaker or removing the electrical fuse.

6.) One you have clearly determined that the outlet is de-energized, and this means all of the outlets within the receptacle. Make sure your lamp does not illuminate in any of the outlets in the receptacle! It is now time to remove the cover plate on the outlet. In most circumstances the outlet cover is installed with one single small screw in the center of the outlet cover, if a duplex outlet. If the outlet is a quad ( 4 ), then there are normally additional screws securing the cover plate.

7.) Once the cover plate has been removed, we suggest that a vacuum be used to suck any of the dust and dirt that may have accumulated within the electrical box, out from the outlet itself. This will enable you to more easily work on the outlet.

8.) Remove the actual electrical outlet from the electrical box that the outlet is secured to. This is assuming that there is an actual box in the wall. There are circumstances where the installation of the outlets was very non professional, and there is no actual box to contain the receptacle. If this is the case, then you must install an electrical box, prior to attempting to replace the receptacle itself. The removal of the receptacle is normally achieved by removing two small screws, that hold the receptacle in the electrical box.

9.) The new receptacle is normally supplied with the screws for re-installation included. However, make sure to keep the old screws, just in case.

10.) Once the receptacle is removed from the electrical box, pull the receptacle out of the wall until the old receptacle is easily worked on. Yes, there will be occasions when the original installation did not allow enough wire to accomplish this task. The intent of this operation is to make the removal of the wires as easy as possible. Unscrew the wires from the old outlet.

11.) Normally there are three wires within the old receptacle. These three wires are identified as a positive, a neutral and a ground. The basic intent of outlet replacement is to simply replace the old outlet with the new. Therefore, the black wire should be attached to the terminal on the new outlet in direct comparison to the attachment of this black wire on the old receptacle. The white wire, the same, and the ground wire should be attached to the less obvious green terminal on the new outlet. Depending upon the type of replacement outlet, there could be a simple screw connection, a push friction connection or a combination of both.

12.) Once the wires have been connected to the appropriate terminals on the new outlet, tuck the wires back into the electrical box located in the wall. Make sure that the wires do not become disengaged from the terminals of the new outlet as you tuck the entire assembly back into the wall box. This process can require some patience and skill when attempting to tuck the wires back into the small electrical box. The important aspect of this process is to make sure the wires do not disengage from the new outlet terminals.

13.) Install the new or existing outlet cover plate to the outside of the new receptacle. Remember to wash your hands and not touch the surrounding wall as you replace the cover plate. It is very common during the receptacle replacement to get your hands dirty and lean them on the adjacent wall. This obviously will cause some issues with any visual architectural awareness within the family. So wash your hands and do not lean on the wall!

14.) Using the same light as you did to test the original outlet, plug in the light into the new outlet. Turn the breaker back on or replace the electrical fuse in the panel box. Turn on the light and make sure that the lights functions in all of the outlets. This is important to ensure that all of the outlets in the receptacle are properly connected.

That’s all there is to it! Do not be intimidated, and take your time. Errors only occur if you hurry, did not take the time to ensure that the power is off, or rush the final termination of the wiring connections for the new outlet.