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WestBentley 02-19-2007 08:08 AM

How hard is it to switch plugs?
How hard would it be to unhook and replace the plugs in the walls - not the whole box, but the part you see through the cover? Our plugs may have once been white but are definitely yellowed looking and I want to replace all the outlet covers and actually plastic plugs so they'll match the white trim in the rooms instead of looking dirty. I've got zero electrical experience, but my fiance knows enough to replace light fixtures without incident, so I'm guessing he could do this and probably show me how as well? Any website w/how-to's would be appreciated, I'm trying to be a Ms. Fixit rather than a Ms. Wait for the Man to Fixit!

CraigFL 02-19-2007 11:01 AM

Usually this is easy BUT.... there can be some problems, especially with older wiring where there can be no extra ground wire or return ground path. As long as you replace with a standard 3 prong outlet and you have white, black and ground wire, it will be very easy.

WestBentley 02-19-2007 11:03 AM

The house was only built in '88, so I'm pretty sure the wiring is standard. Glad to hear it might be easy. Aaron is the big picture guy, but I want the details to be right!

Square Eye 02-19-2007 12:29 PM

Use a tester to make sure the power is off (at the breaker panel) to every receptacle before you start each one!!

Black or red wires should always be attached under brass screws, or in stablocks on the brass side.

White wires should always be attached under the silvery screws or in the stablocks on the silvery side.

Ground, green or bare copper wires should always be under the green screws near the ends of the receptacle.

If the wires are currently attached in the stablocks in the back of the receptacle, you will need a small screwdriver to release them.
Place the small screwdriver in the slot near the wire and apply pressure while pulling the wire out.
Other wise they can break off from trying to rip them from the binds.

It's not hard, but it can get you burned, hurt, nearly blinded from flash, or killed.
Use a tester to make sure the power is off (at the breaker panel) to every receptacle before you start each one!!

WilliamC 02-19-2007 12:33 PM

Once you pull the outlet out you can see how it's wired. Usually it's white to the silver colored screws and black to the brass colored screws. The green screw ( or one off to the metal side) is ground. Just make sure you have the power shut off to the outlets before hand. If you don't know what you are doing the whole job should take about 2 minutes per outlet, and about 1.5 minutes if you do know what you are doing. It's that easy. The last house I had had several bad outlets so i went ahead and spent about $35 and replaced every outlet and most of the covers in the whole house. It took me about an hour to do the entire house ( i did this just as i was moving in and cut power from the Main).

Kerrylib 02-19-2007 02:32 PM

Good description Square Eye.

Replacing an outlet should be something most anyone can accomplish. Make SURE the power is off before you go poking around.

Browse through some of the wiring how to books. Many have good pictures of how the outlets are to be wired. Good to know before you start, just in case the first one you open up is wired backwards or you pull the wires off and don't get them wired back on immediately.

When you look at the plug face, notice the slots are different sized. The bigger one is the neutral (white wiere, silver screw), the smaller slot is hot (black or maybe red wire, brass screw) and the D shapped one is ground (green or bare wire, green screw).

One good suggestion I've seen (specifically for metal boxes) is to put about two wraps of black electrical tape around the outlet to cover the screws before pushing the outlet back into the box. Prevents shorts to the box if the outlet shifts any or isn't squared up inside the box.

Also, a good practice for safety reasons is to install the outlet with the ground pins up. If the plug is not seated fully, there will be a small gap where things could slip behind the plug and contact the prongs. If you had something like a metal framed picture on the wall above this plug that happened to fall down, it might slip in that space and short out the plug. With the ground prong at the top, this scenario would lead to the metal picture frame landing on the ground prong. Similarily if the outlets are horizontal, mount them so the wide (neutral) side is on top.

inspectorD 02-19-2007 06:15 PM

Good point Kerrylib
I have done a little welding with wires and outlets myself. That would be the Flash Square Eye talked about....

Any time I change outlets on a job, I have the electrician....they won't let me touch wires anymore.....install the outlet with the grounded D slot on the top.

My electrician once found a loose plug with a metal curtain drapery pull chain...the hard way, when he went to open the drapes.....

Seems the metal was resting on one of the hot legs and he was the ground.:eek:

Moral...don't go around pulling open other peoples drapes.;)

cjtursi1 03-10-2007 11:59 AM

All good tips and heres is another.The best connection is to bend a hook in the end of the wire and place it under the screw head.Stablock connections will not carry a larger load as it does not have as much surface area at the contact point.

glennjanie 03-10-2007 02:08 PM

The hook is the way I wire receptacles too but, if the stablock is approved by Underwriters Laboratory, you can bet the ranch its safe. If they rate it for 15 amps, then the stablock will carry 15 amps.
I have had considerable experience with Underwriters Laboratory and have complete confidence in their testing.

WestBentley 03-27-2007 09:31 AM

Follow up question to this - how do we know which type of plugs to buy? We were browsing the electrical section and there were about 3 types of plugs that appeared to be the same on the surface - 3 pronged holes, etc. But they were 'back wired' or some other names. What type of plug does a residential home typically use?

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