Installing a new electrical outlet is easy to do as long as you take the necessary precautions.
First make sure you find the circuit breaker that feeds the old outlet. Go to the electrical service box in your home. See if the circuit breakers are marked as to where they are located. If they aren't marked then you will have to shut each circuit breaker off one at a time and test the outlet you are replacing. Most outlets run off of a 15 amp breaker so stick those switches. You can plug a light into the outlet and leave it on to see if it goes out when you flip the breaker off.
If the outlet isn't working properly then you may need to get a simple circuit tester and check the wires to the outlet to make sure the electricity is off. You could also short against the black and white wire with an insulated screwdriver to trip the breaker, but not necessarily a safe way to find out which one it is.
Once you have the electricity shut off you can remove the front cover plate, if you haven't already. Unscrew the old outlet and pull it out of the box. You will have at least two wires connected to the outlet, three if it is a grounded circuit to the main service box. You should have one white and one black wire with the ground being copper. If you have a very old house and the wiring hasn't been changed over then most likely you only have two wires and the colors may vary. The most common are white and black.
The white wire is the neutral wire and also referred to as the ground. The black wire is the feed or hot wire that supplies electricity. Before you remove any wires take note of where they are on the old outlet so you can replace them onto the new one. Many new outlets have two options of connecting the wiring. You can either connect to the screws on each side or slide the wires into the back of the outlet in their correct slots - they are usually marked for the color of the wire or say hot for the hot side.
Once you get the wires connected make sure they are tight and then slide the outlet back into it's box and tighten down with the new screws. Replace the cover plate and then go back to the service box and flip on the circuit breaker. If the circuit breaker trips back off quickly then you have somehow shorted out the wires or mis-wired the outlet. Recheck the outlet and make adjustments. Try the breaker again and make sure it doesn't trip. If all is well then plug in your electrical appliance and make sure everything works.
Electricity is definitely nothing to play around with, if you don't feel confident in replacing an outlet play it safe and have an electrician take care of it. It is pretty cool to be able to do it yourself as long as you take the necessary precautions.
Good luck and stay safe!
The author Mike Webb was an automotive technician at a Chrysler Dealership for 15 years and an agricultural technician for 5 years. He won the prestigious Toptech award from Chrysler in 1996 and is an ASE certified Master Technician. He currently owns and operates the Okinawan School of Karate with 2 locations. To learn more about Mike Webb you can go to his website: http://www.karatebenefits.com
The above article may be published freely as long as no content is changed and all links are included. Copyright Mike Webb 2007
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