How To Replace An Electrical Outlet

Replacing an electrical outlet yourself can be quite easy. With a little time, effort, and the correct installation procedure, you can save money.

The average person can complete most minor electrical repairs safely. Before performing any type of electrical renovation, always turn the electricity off. If your electrical power supply is controlled by circuit breakers, pinpoint the breaker responsible for regulating the wires you will need to touch. Switch this breaker to the off position. If fuses control your current electrical load, seek out the specific fuse controlling the wires you will be using. Unbolt the fuse, taking care to handle only its insulated edge. When disabling power from cartridge fuses, use only one hand to open the board and grip the fuses. When the fuses are embedded in a block, simply grasp the block's lever and pull outward. You can remove the fuse from the clips by means of a fuse puller. After shutting down the main source of power to the wires selected, always test them with a circuit tester. Do so before beginning any electrical procedure.

Electricity is dangerous only if it is allowed to course beyond the recognized wiring structure. Gravity will always pull the released power toward the earth in the easiest, quickest path possible. Shocks and fire are the result of this released flow. Electricity runs through a home using alternating current. Alternating current consists of a "hot" wire, usually black, and a neutral wire, usually white in color. Sometimes there is a third wire, typically a bare copper or green-coated wire. This is called a ground wire. Most shocks or fires occur when the "hot" and the neutral wires are permitted to touch or when a "hot" wire comes in contact with metal. While making repairs, always assume all wires are "hot". Never allow the wires to intersect or come in contact with metal. Each time you make an electrical repair, reconnect all ground wires as well.

To prepare for your repair, gather the following items: circuit tester, continuity tester, screwdriver, wire nuts, and a replacement switch. When choosing your new replacement switch, make sure it matches the faulty one. Distinguish the type of switch by locating the number of terminals on the body. Switches with two terminals are called single-pole switches. Other switches are classified as three-way and four-way and have extra screw locations. Turn off the main power source, following the above procedures for your individual main panel. Pursue the following steps to replace a wall switch:

1.) Loosen all mounting screws located on the switch.

2.) Clutch the mounting strap, consisting of 2 metal rings located on the top and bottom of the switch.

3.) Carefully withdraw the switch from the box, making sure not to touch any bare wires or screw terminals.

4.) Locate the screw terminal connected to a black wire.

5.) Test for electrical current by placing one probe of a circuit tester onto the screw terminal with the black wire. Place the other probe onto the ground screw, bare copper wire, or metal box that houses the switch in the wall. Duplicate this test with the other screw terminals. The wires are safe to work with when the circuit tester does not light up in any of the locations it has touched.



6.) Inspect all of the wire connections, tightening any connections that are loose with a screwdriver. The screws are located on the side of the switch body.

7.) Return the switch to its wall box and test.

8.) Make a mental note of where the wires are attached to the switch and unscrew the wire connections.

9.) Disconnect the switch from the wires.

10.) Test the switch by affixing the clip of a continuity tester to one of the screw terminals and the probe to another screw. For three- and four-way switches, place the clip and the probe of the tester to different colored screw positions. Activate the tester by flipping the handle. If the tester does not light up, it is safe to continue with the proceeding steps.

11.) To replace the faulty switch, connect the wires to the new switch. Make sure to connect the ground wire to the wall box if the switch has a green ground screw.

12.) Gently urge the new switch back into the wall box, carefully slipping all of the wires in.

13.) Tighten all of the mounting screws securely.

14.) Fasten a cover plate to the wall switch.

By following the same procedure, a dimmer switch can also be mounted. Simply make sure the dimmer you wish to install has the same amount of wires or screw terminals as the existing switch. A three-way dimmer switch can be added by connecting the red wire of the dimmer to the black circuit wire. If the dimmer possesses a green ground wire, you can attach it to the circuit ground wire or to the metal box.

Minor home repairs can be costly when you have to contract a professional. By learning a few simple techniques, many of these repairs can be performed by you. Not only does it save money, but allow you to fix an existing problem when it arises. With a little time, know how, and effort, you can solve common maintenance problems on your own.

© High Speed Ventures 2011