You don’t think about it when you move in, but over time you start to either hate or love the electrical setup in your house.
At some point, you’ll be sitting in your favorite chair and wish that your charging cord reached the outlet. Maybe you’re constantly struggling with overloaded outlets, wishing you had just one more place to plug in your phone.
Wouldn’t it be great if you knew how to install an outlet in your home whenever you pleased?
As it turns out, you can handle a lot of the electrical outlet work yourself with basic know-how.
This article will cover everything you need to know — how to install an indoor outlet and when to call in the professionals.
How to Install an Outlet
Electricity is dangerous, so no matter how careful you are, you always need to make sure the breakers are off before doing anything with wiring. If you’re unsure which breaker to flip, turn off the main breaker or contact your electrician for help.
Use a voltage tester to ensure power to the outlet is off. Use it on a hot outlet to make sure the tester works. Then, test the outlet you plan to replace to make sure there is no power running to it.
The most common outlet you’ll find is the standard 15 or 20 amp/125-volt three-prong outlet, the focus of this article. Make sure you buy outlets with the correct amperage for your house.
In most houses, these have a “duplex” configuration, with one outlet stacked over another. At some point, you may need to install a 250-volt appliance plug, but that is usually part of a more extensive remodel.
How to Replace an Existing Outlet
Replacing an existing outlet is a DIY chore for most homeowners.
Outlets last for 5-10 years, and you may need to swap it out if you notice it’s starting to wear. If you notice extensive damage or other troubling signs, you may want to call a professional. Check out Wright Electric’s Residential Electric Service Calls page for a solid overview of when and why you should call an electrician.
Even if your old outlets work fine, you may be interested in adding new technology. Newer outlets come equipped with USB chargers, night lights, and smart home features. Since they work exactly the same as standard outlets, upgrading your space is easy.
Knowing how to install an indoor outlet is an easy way to save money. Electricians charge anywhere from $60-$150 for the service, something you can do in about 10 minutes, often with only a flathead and Phillips screwdrivers.
Remove the Old Outlet
Turn the power off. If you have an old outlet that you’re replacing, you can plug in an old lamp to make sure it’s not receiving power.
Remove the outlet cover plate and unscrew the old outlet from the box. Pull the outlet out of the wall to expose the hot, white, and copper ground wires.
Clip the wires off the old outlet, making your cuts close to the outlet body to maintain as much wire length as possible. There should ideally be about 6-7 inches of wire running out of the wall.
Ready the Wires
On the back of your new outlet, you’ll find a “hot” label next to two terminal screws on the side. On the other side, you’ll see a “white” label next to two more terminal screws. There will be a green ground screw at the bottom.
There are actually two ways to attach the wires to the outlet — side terminals and back push connections. Professionals rely on the side terminals for safety reasons, so that’s how we’ll approach it.
Strip back the black and white wire sheaths to expose roughly 1/2″ of wire. Use needle-nose pliers or wire strippers to bend the exposed metal into a hook shape.
Wire and Attach the New Outlet
Wrap the exposed metal of the black wire around the “hot” terminal screw just below the head. Tighten the screw, locking the wire in place. Repeat the process with the white wire in the “white” terminal.
If you have multiple black and white wires coming from the box, the outlet falls in the middle of the circuit. You can either connect both black wires to the hot side and both white wires to the white side for a simple solution. Professionals prefer to pigtail the wires, making a single connection for each wire at the outlet.
For a pigtail, strip and cut the wires to a uniform length. Take the exposed metal ends of the black wires and twist them around each other, twisting clockwise. Take a spare length of black wire and fasten it to the tied-together wall wires with a wire nut and then run the other end of the spare wire to the outlet.
Repeat the process for your white and ground wires. This keeps the circuit intact and allows it to operate seamlessly even if there is a problem with the outlet you’re working on.
Give each wire a firm tug to test its hold. A loose connection can create resistance, potentially creating an electrical hazard, so you need to make sure they’re locked in.
Carefully place the wires back in the box and secure the receptacle with the mounting screws. Attach the cover plate and you’re all set!
Moving an Outlet
If you want to move an outlet to a more convenient location on a wall, remove the outlet and the junction box. Moving up or down a wall is easy enough but you’ll have to run through studs if you want to move the outlet several feet across a wall.
You will have to cut out the drywall for the new location. Use a stud finder to find the frame where you will attach the junction box and cut a hole just to the left or right of the stud.
When moving a junction box, make sure that you recess it no more than a 1/4″ from where the wall meets it.
If you need to extend the wire, you’ll need to splice the existing wire with a new run using wire nuts. Don’t leave a spliced wire sitting by itself in the wall. You’ll need to put the pigtailed section in its own separate junction box and put a cover plate over it to indicate where it is in the wall.
Wiring a New Outlet
Adding a brand new outlet is much more involved work that requires running wire from an existing outlet or, for even more difficulty, installing an entirely new circuit to the breaker.
With a whole new outlet, you’ll have to cut open drywall, drill through studs, and snake the line through the attic or crawlspace. Not only are there a lot of tools and time involved, but there’s also a lot of room for error. In most cases, you should talk to an electrician before installing a new outlet in your home.
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Now that you know how to install an outlet, you can begin making smart and easy upgrades to your rooms. Follow us for more great tips and DIY advice to start living better today!