A Boring Old Post About Replacing Outlets…

This post is boring…  Seriously, replacing outlets is not exciting, but if you’ve ever wanted to save some cash by doing it yourself and not hiring an electrician then read on!

 

I don’t know why, but looking at cream/almond outlets in a room offends the eye.  It dates a room like nobody’s business and it’s so easy to replace them with nice, clean white outlets.

 

You can also make your house more energy-efficient by putting outlet insulation on the inside of the covers.  If you’ve ever taken off a cover on an outlet inside the house but on an exterior wall and put your hand over the outlet in the winter, you’ve felt the draft.  I recently got an energy audit on my house and the auditor said that installing outlet insulation is a cheap way to keep out cold air.

 

So here’s how to do it:

 

1.  Gather a few tools: a Phillips screwdriver, a normal sized flat head screwdriver, and (importantly) a little flat head screwdriver.  Go to your favorite hardware store and buy new outlets, outlet covers, and insulation for outlets (see pic below).  If possible, dismantle the outlet (see steps 3 and 4) so that you can bring it to the store to get the same exact style.

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Outlet insulation

2.  Turn off the electricity to the outlet you’re working on.  What I do is plug in a hair dryer so that I can hear when the electricity is for sure turned off when I flip the breaker.  You can also use a lamp to do the same thing (that’s what I did this time).

 

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Before flipping the breaker

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After flipping the breaker

3.  Unscrew the cover to the outlet.

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4.  Unscrew the two screws holding in the outlet.

 

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5.  Pull out the outlet.

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6.  Dismantle the wires going into the outlet.  They are typically found in little holes on the sides of the outlet or they are wrapped around a big screw on the side of the outlet.  If they are located in holes, then there is normally a small slit next to the hole that you need to stick a very small flat head screwdriver into to “release” the wire from the hole.  This is tricky because you need to push the screwdriver in as you are pulling the wire out.  If you have trouble with this, get someone to push the screwdriver or pull on the wire.  If the wire is wrapped around a screw, just take a flat head screw driver and loosen the screw and the wire should just pop right off.

 

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7.  Loosen the screw at the bottom of the outlet to release the neutral wire (the copper colored wire).

 

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8.  As you dismantle the wires be sure to bend them to where they go into the outlet.  As you can see from the below picture, I bent the wires to the same sides of where they were in the old outlet so that I know where they go in the new outlet.

 

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In this picture, I’m working with four wires and I bend them in the same way that they were found in the old outlet:

 

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9.  The old outlet should now be completely free of all the wires.  Take the new outlet and either shove the wires in the holes the same way they were in the old one, or, if the wires were folded around the screw, then take the wires (they should be bent into hooks) and hook them onto the screws in the same way as the old one.

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In my case, the wires were too big to go into the holes of the outlets I bought, so I had to bend the wires into hooks to hook onto the screw on the sides of the outlet.

 

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You can bend the wires by wrapping the wire around a screwdriver.  It’s a pain in the rear because the wires are thick, but I think it’s the easiest way to do it.

Then I hooked the wires onto the loosened screws on the side of the outlet then tightened the screws to that they had a good grip on the wires.  Be sure to also hook up the neutral wire on the bottom of the outlet.

 

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10. Shove the entire receptacle back into the hole and, using the screws that came with the new outlet, screw in the outlet on the top and bottom to fit into the outlet box (the plastic box around the outlet).  Now, this is important… sometimes the new screws that came with the new outlet are not long enough so in that case, use the old screws.  You won’t see them anyway.  Make sure that the outlet is sticking out from the wall a little, otherwise when you put the cover on, the outlet will either stick out too much or be too recessed.  You can adjust this by either loosening or tightening the screws on the top and bottom of the outlet.  You can also straighten from side to side by adjusting the same screws.

 

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11.   If the receptacle is on an outside wall (i.e. on a wall inside your house but the other side of the wall is outside) then take the insulation and push that onto the receptacle.

 

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9.  Screw the outlet cover on then test your outlet.  It should work!!!

 

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Notes:  When you pick out the new outlets, be sure to get outlets with big holes to push the wires into since just shoving the wires in the holes instead of around the screws is the easiest way to do it.  Sometimes outlet holes are too small for your wires so that you have to use the screw method, but bending those thick wires to fit around the screws are a pain in the rear, so be sure to really look hard for outlets with big holes.