Steps for Changing a Faulty Outlet Safely

April 14, 2022

Steps for Changing a Faulty Outlet Safely

Whenever it comes to home maintenance, the majority of people believe that you should never attempt anything that might require the expertise of a licensed professional such as rewiring your house, installing a new roof, or installing new plumbing. However, with the proliferation of do-it-yourself YouTube videos on how to change a faulty electrical socket, you can complete some tasks without calling a technician.

The Electrical Wiring in Your Home

You may be one of many who feel intimidated by the prospect of working with electricity. However, you should not be afraid to seek help. The truth is that replacing an old receptacle that has failed is not that difficult, and it is something that you can easily do on your own. Furthermore, you shouldn’t ignore electrical issues or put them off until a later time. If you notice a light bulb flickering at a specific socket, and you have moved the light bulb to other sockets, and it does not show a problem, this is a clear indication that the receptacle will most likely need replacing. Wall sockets have a shelf life and need to be replaced approximately every 15 years.

Additionally, you should consider the wiring in your house. Copper wiring runs throughout most residential buildings. However, for a brief period between the late 1960s and early 1970s, there was a severe copper shortage. Builders used aluminum wiring, which proved to be a significant fire hazard in some areas. If you have aluminum wiring in your home, it is best to leave it to a licensed electrician to take care of it. Brennan Electric can inspect the wiring of your home and let you know definitively what you are dealing with. You should never attempt to deal with aluminum wiring on your own if you don’t have any experience. Additionally, you should never swap out a faulty socket rated for aluminum with a socket rated for copper.

The problem with aluminum wiring occurs at the connection points because the metals heat up at different rates, expanding and contracting at different rates. This causes the connection to wiggle loose and spark. Experts recommend that you have your home rewired with copper, which can be expensive. However, you can save money by installing Alumicons in every switch and receptacle instead of rewiring. Alumicons are small connector devices, similar to junction boxes. They provide a safe connection between aluminum and copper wiring. The installation of Alumicons requires special tools, so you should turn to a licensed electrician to complete this task.

How to Change an Electrical Socket

Determine that you are able to work safely with the wiring in your home. If the wiring has copper connections and you have the necessary tools, you can begin the process of replacing a faulty electrical socket on your own without assistance. To do so in a safe manner, follow these steps:

1. Turn Off Electricity

To begin, go to your breaker panel and shut down the circuit that you will be working with. Even if you’re not sure which circuit it is, you can find out by turning off all breakers one at a time. This allows you to see which breaker turns off the lights in the room where you’ll be working. Of course, you could take the extreme measure of shutting down the entire house’s electricity supply by turning off the main breaker. This will ensure that you do not have any circuits that are double wired in your home.

2. Ensure the Power Is Off by Testing the Receptacle

Make use of a voltage tester to confirm that the power has been turned off. Keep in mind that in faulty electrical sockets, even if the tester indicates that there is no live hot wire, there may still be one. Always exercise caution when working with electricity.

3. Remove the Face Plate

With a screwdriver, remove the faceplate from the wall and the screws that hold the receptacle in place. Then, set the faceplate aside. Gently pry the receptacle out of the wall and inspect the wires. In newer homes, the live wire is usually black and attached to the brass screws on either side of the socket. The neutral wire is white and connects to the silver screws on the other side. It is possible that the ground wire will be green or bare copper in color. Most of the time, it is connected on the side by its own screw that is just above the neutral wire. Before beginning to work with these wires, carefully test them with the voltage tester to ensure that they are indeed dead before proceeding.

4. Remove Wires From Receptacle

Remove all of the visible screws with a screwdriver and gently slide the wires curled around the screws off the receptacle base. Try not to cut off too much wiring, as you are limited to working with what wire currently exists in the receptacle box. Cutting off too much might leave you with a short wire to attach to the new receptacle. If the wire appears nicked or damaged, or if it appears to have been twisted too many times, you may need to remove the damaged ends by snipping them off with a wire cutter. Then, strip the cover of the existing wire to create a new connection before continuing.

5. Determine the Correct Size of the Receptacle Required

There are two sizes of receptacles used in residential homes, 12 gauge and 14 gauge 120 V circuits. To get the correct size receptacle, take the old receptacle to a hardware store. The hardware professional can advise you on what size receptacle you need.

6. Install the New Receptacle

Replace the wires on the new receptacle in the same manner as they were on the old one. Attach the white wires to the silver screws. Then, attach the black wires to the brass screws. Finally, attach the ground wire, which can be either bare copper or green, to the ground screw that is above the silver screws. To attach the wires, you can use pliers. You will need to make a small hook at the end of each wire and loop it over the screws to secure them. You should avoid attempting to twist the wire around the screws. Use electrical tape to cover any exposed wires.

7. Replace the Receptacle and the Wall Plate

Carefully push the wires back into the receptacle box, and fasten the receptacle into place with the mounting screws. Then, attach the new wall plate to the wall with screws.

8. Turn the Power On

Flip the circuit breaker to the “on” position on your breaker panel to restore power. To ensure that the receptacle is receiving power, use the voltage tester to check its connection. Pay close attention to any crackling or burning sounds. Then, plug in any device such as a lamp or charging cable to test it. If the device receives power, it should turn on.

Our technicians can help you solve any electrical problem. Brennan Electric has been serving the residents of the Puget Sound area for over 30 years. In addition to electrical services, we also offer generator installation, home inspection, troubleshooting, fuse panel replacements, and more. Call Brennan Electric today to schedule your home electrical inspection.

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