How to Replace an Electrical Outlet

Published On: May 10, 20220 Comments on How to Replace an Electrical OutletTags: Last Updated: January 31, 20244.5 min read

Replacing an electrical outlet is a likely endeavor for property owners. Some people upgrade from the old two-pronged outlets to newer alternatives. The replacement is also due to a faulty outlet, discolored prongs, enlarged sockets, and cords falling out. Hiring a residential electrician is the best way to ensure safe replacement when dealing with home and business outlets.

Electrical outlet

Here are the steps involved in such replacements.

1. Turn off the Power

The first and most crucial step of all electrical repairs and replacements is to turn off the power. Turning off the power prevents accidents and allows effective repair and replacement without worrying about electrocution. Electricians will find the main service panel (circuit breaker) and switch off the correct circuit breaker. The electrician will then use a voltage tester to ensure there is no power supply to the outlet.

2. Unscrew the Cover Plate

All electrical outlets have a cover plate held in place with a screw. Unscrew all screws holding the cover and receptacle to replace the outlet. Start by removing the center screw holding the cover plate. Residential electricians will perform another test after removing the cover to confirm no more current is flowing through the wires. Old and damaged wires may not indicate current on the tester, so that several probes might be necessary.

 3. Unscrew the Receptacle

The receptacle is held in place using mounting screws that go into the support structure. Hold the top and bottom sides and remove all screws before pulling the receptacle out of its box. The receptacle holds wires that supply the current to the outlet. Most units have three wires; black, white, and green. Other units have four; two black and two neutral. Note down the wiring in place to choose the suitable replacement options.

4. Remove the Wires

The wires supplying current to the outlet are attached to the receptacle using small screws. Removing the screws will free the wires, allowing the electrician to detach the receptacle entirely and replace it with a new one. The wires also need further examination before attaching them to a new receptacle. A little trimming and cleaning/wiping is enough in most cases, but some wires may need replacement.

Replacing electrical outlet

5. Connect a New Receptacle

Once the wires are free and in good shape, the electrician can attach a new receptacle from the new outlet set. The process should be effortless when using a matching electrical outlet. Use pliers to connect the wires in their positions on the brass terminals and screw them down. When using a different receptacle, the live, neutral, and grounding wires must be attached correctly, and cover any extra wires with tape used for electrical repairs.

6. Mount the New Receptacle

The next step after attaching the wires is to screw the new receptacle to the wall. If the new unit is a match, the process is as easy as screwing down the mounting screws in their correct positions. For new designs, the electrician might need to drill holes in the support structure to accommodate the screw positions in the new receptacle. The receptacle should be straight and tightly fixed in its box with no loose sections.

7. Screw the Cover Plate

This phase is a reverse of the second step. Place the cover plate in its correct position to cover the receptacle and hold it with the center screw. The electrician will then turn the power on and test the installation to determine if the current flows to the outlet as intended. Most electricians test the current before covering the receptacle and may test the outlet once more after finishing the installation routine.

Tools Needed to Replace an Electrical Outlet

A standard ground fault circuit interrupter (GCFI) is easy to replace using basic tools. Most electricians only need a screwdriver, pliers, a non-contact voltage tester, and electrical tape. A new electrical outlet/receptacle can be 15-amp or 20-amp, and each unit is purchased complete with all the necessary screws. Electricians also bring along a drill when dealing with an upgrade and unique receptacles that may not match the original. The outlet may also need new wires.

Tips for Replacing an Electrical Outlet

Replacing an electrical outlet is an effortless task for anyone with the right tools and basic instructions. Those without experience will face various challenges, such as determining which wire goes where and ensuring they don’t bend awkwardly behind the receptacle. Wrong connections can result in short circuits when the power is turned back on, instantly damaging the new outlet. When in doubt, it’s best to leave electrical outlet repairs and replacements to a residential electrician.

Here are tips for a successful electrical outlet replacement:

  •    Don’t unscrew anything before turning off the power
  •    Always use a tester to ensure there’s no current
  •    Keep the wires a safe distance from each other
  •    Use a matching receptacle with the same number of wires
  •    Cover all unused wires with a tape
  •    Fit the outlet tightly in its box
  •    Invest in best-quality products/brands

Reputable Residential Electrician

Hiring a reputable residential electrician is the safest way to repair and replace faulty or old outlets. Electricians have the skills, gear, and experience needed to complete safe and efficient repairs. They can eliminate incorrect installations and provide professional insights for maintaining safe, high-performing outlets.

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