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How To Change an Electrical Outlet

Electrical outlets, or receptacles, wear out over time and require replacement. Older outlets may not even have a ground prongĀ  receptacle. These should be changed out for safety. Knowing when an electrical outlet has worn out and needs replacement is easy. If you have to wiggle the electrical cord plug in the outlet in order to get your appliance to work, chances are the outlet has worn out or is defective. If the plug on your electrical cord will not stay plugged in, the outlet is worn, as well.


  1. You need to disconnect the electrical power to the outlet. If your electrical panel is labeled, flip the appropriate circuit breaker to the off position and place a piece of tape labeled “Leave off” over the circuit breaker switch. If you have an old style electrical panel with fuses, simply unscrew the appropriate fuse and remove it. If you do not know which circuit breaker applies to your outlet, it is better to turn off all the power at the panel to be safe.
  2. Test for electricity at the outlet before attempting to remove it. Use an electrical tester, either a multi-meter (volt-ohm meter) or an outlet tester to verify that the electricity is, indeed, off.


Replacing a worn electrical outlet is easy

  1. Remove the outlet cover plate.
  2. Using a fine slotted screwdriver, unscrew the small screws that hold the outlet to the receptacle box in the wall.
  3. Carefully pull the outlet free of the box.
  4. Note the location of all the wires in the box, especially those that connect to the outlet.
  5. If the wires insert into the back of the outlet, simply insert the tip of a fine blade screwdriver or a small pointed object into the hole in the back of the outlet and push inward. This will free the wire.
  6. If the wires wrap around a terminal screw, loosen the screw and pull the wire free.


  1. Installation is the reverse of removal. If you have an outlet that is different from the original, simply connect the black wire to the gold terminal screw and the white wire to the silver terminal screw.
  2. Be sure to connect the bare copper ground wire to the green ground screw on the outlet.
  3. Reinstall the outlet in the junction box with the two screws.
  4. Reinstall the cover plate.
  5. Restore the electricity, removing the tape you used to safely lock out the circuit breaker or fuse.
  6. Check the outlet for electricity with your tester or multi-meter.


Check your local electrical codes or the National Electrical Code for proper requirements for the electrical outlet you are going to replace.

Some locations like bathrooms are now required to have ground fault interrupter style electrical outlets. These are the ones with their own little test buttons in the center of the outlet.

Make sure that all the connections in the outlet box are tight. Replace any wire nuts that seem loose, fall off, or that you can pull free.

Make certain that all the terminal screws on the new outlet are securely tightened.

Wrap a piece of electrical tape around both sides, over the terminal screws, and the back of the electrical outlet before you reinstall it. This will help prevent damage and fires from arcing.

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