Electricity is largely what makes your house operate on a day to day level—especially if you are binging Netflix everyday like we are. But, if your electrical outlet burnt out on you, there goes the next few episodes. You need it back ASAP! We’re here to help.
Replacing an electrical outlet is one of the more simple tasks that homeowners can do for themselves. So, put on your electrician’s hat!
Note: Keep in mind, however, that electricity must be respected.
- Always turn off power at the electrical panel
- Double check the outlet with an electrical tester to make sure the power is off
- Don’t hesitate to call a qualified electrical contractor whenever you feel that you’re in over your head
Also, be sure to have the right tools for the job. Here’s what you need from your local home center or hardware store:
- A good quality wire stripper
- Good quality needle nose pliers
- Good quality screwdrivers
- A good quality non-contact electrical tester
Note: Look for tools, such as screwdrivers, that are made for electrical work — they’re non-conductive to reduce the danger of getting shocked.
Notice anything about all of the items listed above? They are all good quality! It is extremely important that you look for top-of-the-line equipment, because the better the tools, the better the handiwork. (You’ll basically have your very own professional toolkit!)
Alright, now to get going on actually fixing that electrical outlet. First, some basic information on electricity.
Outlets will be connected to a black “hot” wire and a white neutral wire. Outlets are wired in series with the electricity flowing to the devices through the black hot wires and returning to the electrical panel through the white neutral wires. Outlets are typically connected in a long series serving a room or even two rooms. That completes the circuit.
Hint: If you open up an electrical outlet box and find two sets of cables in the box, it means you’re in the middle of the circuit. If you open up a box and there are only two wires, that’s the end of the circuit.
Follow these steps to fix your broken electrical outlet:
- 1. Check the outlet first with a lamp or other electrical device that you know works. If it won’t turn on, then there’s a problem with that outlet.
Pro Tip: Some electricians use a device called an electrical outlet receptacle tester that lights up if there’s power to an outlet.
If the outlet you’re replacing is the only one on the circuit that doesn’t work, you know that you have power to the outlet because everything else works. The problem is with the outlet itself.
If there’s no power in a circuit, then you either have bad wiring or a bad breaker. Uh oh! This means you’ve left Do-It-Yourself territory. Time to call an electrician!
- 2. Turn the power off at the breaker and test the outlet to make sure the power is off.
- 3. Remove the outlet from the wall and inspect it for obvious problems such as wires disconnected from the terminals.
- 4. Gently pull the outlet out of the wall and note where the wires are connected. (One side is for the hot wire and the other side is for neutral.)
- 5. Look at the old outlet to see if the break-off tabs connecting the terminals are in place or if they have been removed.
Note: Professional electricians have specific reasons why they remove the tabs or leave them in place. For a DIYer, it’s easiest and safest to copy what you see in front of you. If the tabs are there, leave them on the replacement outlet. If they’re gone, use your needle nose pliers to break them off the replacement.
- 6. Just like three-way switches, outlets have screw terminals that are color coded.
- The black or hot wires attach to the brass terminals
- The neutral wires attach to the silver terminals
- The copper or green grounding wire attaches to the green terminal.
- 7. Screw the replacement outlet back into the electrical box and attach the cover plate.
- 8. Turn the power back on at the electrical panel and test the outlet.
And with that, your Netflix, or your smoothie blender, or your iPhone charger (or whatever other electric necessity gave up on you) should be back up and running!
If for any reason these steps did not lead you to a solution or you need further assistance, give GEM a call! We are more than happy to help get your life back on track. Book an appointment with a technician today.