9 Steps for Replacing an Electrical Outlet

Electrical Outlet Installation in Kirkland, WA

Whether you are replacing a damaged outlet in your home or wanting an updated look, installing a new outlet is something that almost any Seattle homeowner can do with a few DIY skills and tips. If you are uncomfortable working with electricity and wiring, though, you can always call the experts at Black Lion Heating & Air Conditioning, and we will gladly schedule an appointment with one of our technicians.

Issues That Should Be Left to a Professional

Before we delve into the tips and steps for changing an electrical outlet, you should be aware of the situations that are better left to an experienced technician. Problems with electrical outlets can indicate more serious issues that can cause electrical fires and injuries. The following covers the most common signs that your electrical system needs to be evaluated by a technician from Black Lion Heating & Air Conditioning. If you notice one or more of these issues, turn off the electricity at the circuit breaker, and call us right away. If you see signs of a fire or smell something burning, call 911, and get your family safely out of the house.

  • Smoke or fire coming from an electrical outlet
  • Outlets that feel warm to the touch
  • Black marks or discoloration on the outlet, plate, or wall
  • Pungent aroma at or around the outlet
  • Frequently tripped circuit breaker

1. Choose the Right Type of Outlet

Not all outlets in your home are the same. The most common types of outlets in homes in and around Seattle include 15-amp (120-volt) outlets. Usually found in older homes, these outlets have two elongated holes, and there may be a third semi-circular hole just below each plug for grounding. There are also 20-amp (250-volt) outlets specially designed for appliances and other types of large equipment that need more power. Another outlet offers 20 amps but 125 volts. These outlets are used for large appliances that do not need the additional power of 250 volts.

If you have children, you may want to get childproof outlets. These are designed to prevent injuries through unique anti-tampering safety mechanisms. They’re also ideal for households with curious pets. GFCI outlets are designed with safety in mind as well. These outlets are typically installed near water sources, such as in your bathroom and kitchen, to cut off power to the outlet if water comes in contact with it. AFCI outlets are another option for kitchens, bedrooms, and laundry rooms. They offer an additional layer of safety by automatically shutting off power to the outlet at the breaker should the electricity be arcing. Finally, you have the option of installing USB and smart outlets. As Seattle home design becomes more oriented toward technology, USB and smart outlets are providing a much-needed convenience for recharging our devices.

2. Gather Tools and Materials

You can replace most of the outlets in your home with some basic hand tools. Before starting to work on your outlet, make sure that you have:

  • Needle-nose pliers
  • Pair of wire strippers that can also cut wire
  • 4-in-1 screwdriver
  • Utility knife
  • Voltage tester
  • Electrical cable
  • Wire connectors
  • Replacement receptacle
  • Cover plate

3. Shut Off the Power at the Breaker Box

Anytime that you are working with the electrical system of your Seattle home, safety comes first. Turn off the power to the outlet that you are replacing. Verify that the power is off by plugging in a lamp or other small device. Once you are sure that the power is off to the outlet, you can start working on replacing it.

4. Remove the Cover Plate

Carefully remove the cover plate by loosening the screws. If the plate has been painted over or has caulking around it, use the tip of the utility knife to cut around the plate. Don’t push the utility knife inside the plate. Gently pull the plate from the receptacle.

5. Loosen the Receptacle From the Electrical Box

Once the cover plate is removed from your outlet, you will see the receptacle mounted on an electrical box; the box may be plastic or metal. One screw at the top and a second screw at the bottom of the receptacle hold it in place. Remove these screws, and carefully pull the receptacle from the electrical box.

6. Remove the Wires From the Old Receptacle

Take a few minutes to note where each of the wires is connected to the old receptacle. You will need to attach them to the new one in the same pattern. Loosen the screws from the receptacle, and remove the wires.

7. Secure the Grounding Wire

The most important part of installing a new outlet in your home is to make sure that it is properly grounded. Look for either a green or bare copper wire. This is the grounding wire, and it needs to be attached to the electrical box and the new receptacle. First, check to make sure that the grounding wire is still attached to the box by looking for a screw in the center of the box. The green or bare copper wire should be snug under the screw. Next, look for a green screw on your new receptacle, and tighten the ground wire under this screw.

8. Attach the Wires

Once the grounding wire is secure to the box and new receptacle, you can attach the remaining wires to your receptacle. There is some color coding to help. Your new receptacle should have brass screws on one side and a silver screw on the other side. Black wires from the electrical box go under the brass screws, and the white wire from the electrical box goes under the silver screw.

9. Mount the Receptacle and Cover Plate

Once you have all the wires secured to your new receptacle, secure it to the electrical box with the two screws that came with the receptacle. You can then put the cover plate on with the screws that came in the packaging. Check your install job by turning on the power to the outlet. Look for any signs of sparks, strange odors, or smoke. If everything looks good, you can test the outlet with a lamp or device.

Installing Additional Outlets

Are you tired of looking at all the extensions cords in your home? Do you worry about the risk of fires because you have too many power strips and extension cords to run your electronics? The good news is that you can easily add new outlets to almost any room. Putting in an additional outlet requires finding a power source, cutting an opening in the wall, and installing a new electrical box. If you would like to add outlets to a room in your home, call Black Lion Heating & Air Conditioning to schedule an appointment with one of our technicians.

Professional Electrical Services for Your Home

If you need help replacing an outlet or updating the electrical system in your Seattle home, Black Lion Heating & Air Conditioning is available to help. We offer a full range of electrical, heating, and cooling services. Our team can also help improve the indoor air quality of your home. Give us a call today to set up an appointment.