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How to replace a Receptacle

by Lorenz Prem
published on April 5 2009 7:08 pm

Replacing receptacles is a straight forward operation. You will be dealing with the electrical system of your home. While this can be dangerous, a competent homeowner can take care of this task. Over time the contacts in a receptacle can wear out. The plug may come out easily or even fall out.

There are different kinds of receptacles in use today. The most common will be the 15A kind. Each type has it's own pin pattern. You must replace each receptacle with a receptacle of the same. In most cases it is not possible to upgrade a receptacle simply by changing the receptacle. The wire and the main breaker panel must also support the new type of circuit.

The receptacle I am replacing is outdoors. The mechanical steps for replacing an indoor receptacle is the same. The receptacle is over 30 years old and needs to be replaced for safety reasons.

1) Begin by turning the power off in the main breaker panel. You can turn off only the circuit you are working on, or the main breaker for the entire home. The later will be safer, because it eliminates a lot of possibilities for human error.

2) Next check the power at the outlet with a circuit tester. This is important for several reason. The simplest among them is that you may have turned off the wrong circuit. With electricity it pays to be careful.

3) Remove the cover plate with a screw driver. It is held on with one screw located between the receptacles.

4) Remove the screws at the top and bottom of the receptacle. These hold the assembly in place. Once the screws are lose, pull the receptacle out of its enclosure.

5) Make a note of how the receptacle is wired. most often there are one or two sets of wires connected to the receptacle. One, if it is the last in a chain. Two, if it is in the middle of a chain. Other patterns are possible. Your task is to wire up the new receptacle exactly the same way. Draw a diagram, if it helps you remember.

6) Remove all wires from the receptacle. Sometimes you have to cut one of them. If you chose to do this, make sure there is enough wire left to install the new receptacle. Remove the old receptacle.

7) Begin wiring up the new receptacle. Install the wires to the same terminals you have removed them from on the old receptacles. In most cases the black wire is connected to the hot terminal. The white wire is connected to the neutral terminal, and the bare wire is connected to the ground terminal. your new receptacle should have marked terminals.

8) Push the receptacle back into the box. Install the two screws. The screws allow for limited play. Install the receptacle level and square.

9) Install the old or new faceplate with the included screw.

10) Turn the power back on. Test the new receptacle with a circuit tester. If the breaker won't stay on, you have made a mistake in the wiring. Inspect your work, and try again.

About the Author
"Lorenz is the founder of Hingmy. When he is not reviewing power tools or improving the site, he is building things in his workshop or playing hockey."