Rewiring electrical outlets in your home can be a dangerous endeavor if proper precautions are not taken. As a novice, the prospect of working with live wires and electricity may seem daunting. However, with the right tools, knowledge, and safety measures, the process can be done safely. This comprehensive guide will walk you through all the steps needed to rewire outlets and add new circuits without risking electrocution or shock.
Understanding Electrical Basics
- Electricity always follows the path of least resistance to ground
- Current flows from hot to neutral and can electrocute if it passes through your body
- Turn off power at breaker before working on outlets to avoid shock
- Use a non-contact voltage tester to double check power is off
- Wear rubber-soled shoes and insulating gloves as an extra precaution
Gathering the Right Supplies
- Wire strippers - for stripping insulation from wires
- Needle-nose pliers - for bending and maneuvering wires
- Voltage tester - to confirm power is off before working
- Insulated screwdrivers - safer than metal tools if power is live
- Electrical tape - for insulating wires and connections
- Wire nuts - for joining copper wires together
- Electrical boxes and covers - for housing wires and outlets
Adding a New Outlet to an Existing Circuit
Turn Off Power and Confirm It's Off
Always turn off power at the main circuit breaker before working on outlets. Test that power is off by plugging in a lamp and flipping the switch. Also use a non-contact voltage tester to double check wires are not live.
Access the Electrical Box
Remove the existing outlet cover plate. Unscrew the outlet from the electrical box it's housed in. You will access the box through the mouth opening.
Feed New Wire to the Box
Run a length of 12/2 NM cable from your main electrical panel or another outlet on the same circuit to the new outlet box. Leave several extra inches of wire.
Connect the Wires
Use wire nuts to connect the black (hot), white (neutral), and ground wires of the new cable to the matching wires in the box. Connect the ground to the green screw on the outlet.
Mount the Outlet
Place the outlet in the box and screw it in securely. Attach the cover plate. Turn power back on and test that the new outlet is working.
Replacing an Old Outlet with No Ground
Many older homes lack a ground wire which helps prevent shocks. Upgrading to a grounded outlet is safer.
Test for Power and Turn it Off
Make sure the circuit is dead using a voltage tester before removing the old outlet. Turn off power at the breaker.
Attach a Ground Wire
Run a length of copper ground wire from the outlet box to a grounded metal box, pipe, or rod in the ground. Securely attach it.
Connect New Grounded Outlet
Disconnect the old outlet wires and remove it. Connect the hot, neutral, and new ground wires to the new grounded outlet.
Install New Outlet
Place the grounded outlet in the electrical box and screw it in. Attach the cover plate and turn power back on to test it.
Installing GFCI Outlets
GFCI (ground fault circuit interrupter) outlets have built-in protection from electrocution. They are ideal for kitchens, bathrooms, laundry rooms, and outdoor areas.
Choose GFCI Outlet Location
Pick an outlet near a water source to replace with a GFCI. Turn off the circuit power at the breaker.
Connect the Wires
Disconnect the old outlet and attach the wires to the LINE terminals on the GFCI. Pigtail a short ground wire to the ground screw if there's no ground.
Complete the Installation
Place the GFCI outlet in the box and screw it in securely. Attach the cover plate and turn the power back on. Test with the "Test" button.
Add GFCI Protection Downstream
To protect other outlets on the same circuit, connect their wires to the LOAD terminals on the GFCI. This will provide shock protection without needing to replace each one.
By educating yourself on electrical safety, having the proper tools, and taking precautions, you can tackle rewiring and outlet replacements with confidence. Always exercise extreme care when working with electrical wiring to avoid lethal shocks. Take things slowly, double check your work, and you'll find most homeowners are capable of basic outlet installations and upgrades. Stay safe!