Although this is a pretty simple home improvement project, many people leave it to the professionals, because it’s an electrical project. As long as you take the necessary precautions, you can safely and easily replace an old, worn-out electrical outlet on your own, DIY-style!
As with any electrical home project, you always start by shutting off the power to the circuit you’re working on. I prefer to just shut of the main breaker to ensure that I get the right circuit, but it you just want to shut off the one circuit be sure to use a circuit tester to confirm that it’s off.
Once the power’s been turned off to your outlet, remove the cover plate (usually just one screw) and the outlet, itself (two straight slot screws).
Now, use the old outlet as a model and move the wires from the old outlet to the new outlet. I like to do this one wire at a time to ensure that I put the right wire in the right place. You have upper and lower wire locations on both sides of the outlet. You need to be sure to install the wires on the new outlet in the exact same side and location as on the old outlet.
Please note: If your home has aluminum wiring (prominent in the 1970s), you MUST get outlets rated for aluminum wiring. Aluminum wiring often causes house fires, if not installed properly or on non-approved outlets. The outlet will state right on the packaging that it’s approved for aluminum wiring and will cost about twice as much as a standard outlet. In addition to aluminum wiring approved outlets, you must be sure to wrap the exposed part of the wire at least 3/4, preferably all the way around the screw terminal and never use the “plug-in” slots on the back of an outlet to install aluminum wiring.
With the wires installed on the new outlet screw terminals, push the wiring and outlet back into the outlet box and re-secure with the two screws. Finally, reinstall your cover plate and you have a brand new outlet!
This can be a very inexpensive way to update all your outlets to the Decora-style installed in many newer homes. Electricians often charge a premium price for this upgrade. When it’s as easy as outlined here, why not do-it-yourself?
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