How to Safely Replace Your Own Electrical Outlets Without Hiring an Electrician

How to Safely Replace Your Own Electrical Outlets Without Hiring an Electrician


Replacing old or damaged electrical outlets in your home can seem like an intimidating task if you've never done it before. However, with the right safety precautions and materials, it's totally possible for the average homeowner to replace outlets on their own without hiring an electrician.

In this comprehensive guide, I'll walk through all the steps I take to safely replace electrical outlets in my home. I'll cover:

By the end, you'll have the confidence to tackle this project yourself and save the high cost of an electrician service call. Let's get started!

Safety First: Dangers of Working with Electrical Wiring

Before replacing an outlet, it's absolutely crucial that you understand the risks of working with household electrical wiring. Electricity can seriously injure or even kill you if proper precautions aren't taken.

Here are some key safety tips:

As long as you take the proper precautions, replacing an outlet can be done safely. Just be very careful, take it slow, and don't take risks.

Gather the Right Outlet Replacement Supplies

Before getting started, you'll want to gather up the following supplies:

You may also need a drywall saw to cut the edges of the drywall behind the existing outlet to access the side wiring. Having the right tools for the job will make the replacement process much smoother.

Locating the Right Circuit Breaker to Turn Off Power

The most crucial step in any electrical work is cutting power to the outlet by turning off the correct circuit breaker. Here are the steps I follow to safely locate the right breaker:

  1. Go to your main circuit breaker panel, usually located in the basement, garage, or laundry room.

  2. Identify the main breaker and make sure it's switched to the ON position. It's typically larger than the others. This ensures power to the panel.

  3. Find the circuit finder tool. Plug one end into the outlet you're replacing and the other into the panel outlets.

  4. Turn on the outlet. The finder will light up and beep when placed near the correct breaker in the panel, indicating a complete circuit.

  5. Switch this breaker to the OFF position. It may be labeled for the room where the outlet is located.

  6. Double check the outlet is no longer live using the voltage tester. No light or sound means the power is safely off.

With the correct breaker turned off, you can now start the outlet replacement process knowing the wires will be dead.

Removing the Old Outlet from the Wall

After power is confirmed off, it's time to remove the existing outlet from the wall. Follow these steps:

  1. Unscrew and remove the outlet cover plate using a screwdriver. Place screws somewhere safe.
  2. Take out the two mounting screws holding the outlet in its electrical box.
  3. Gently pull the outlet forward until you see the wires connected in the back. Do not tug or quickly yank it.

  4. Photograph the outlet wires for reference. Include side views. This will help when reconnecting them later.

  5. Disconnect wires one at a time:

    • Unscrew the top and bottom terminals, holding the wire in place.

    • Twist the wire nut counterclockwise to loosen it and slide it off the wires.

    • Tape the ends of the exposed live wires as you disconnect them for safety.

  6. If necessary, use a drywall saw to cut the edges of the drywall around the electrical box to free the outlet.

  7. Pull the outlet all the way out and set it aside. Take care not to damage the wires. The opening is now ready for the new outlet.

Installing the New Outlet and Connecting Wires

After removing the old outlet, it's time to install the replacement. Follow best practices when connecting the wires:

  1. Hold the new outlet in front of the open electrical box and look for the seam in the sides or top. This helps orient it correctly.

  2. Match up each exposed wire with its corresponding terminal on the new outlet. Follow your photos. Typically black = hot, white = neutral, green/bare = ground.

  3. When ready, gently push the outlet back into the box while keeping wires aligned. Don't force it.

  4. Re-tighten the mounting screws into the offset outlets holes to hold it in place flush to the wall.

  5. Connect the wires to the new outlet one at a time:

    • Wrap the bare copper ground wire around the green grounding screw and tighten it clockwise.

    • Place the white neutral wire under the silver screw and tighten it clockwise.

    • Place the black hot wire under the brass screw and tighten it clockwise.

    • No copper should be exposed. Double check connections are tight.

  6. Finally, carefully tuck all the wires back into the electrical box so that the outlet sits flush.

Follow these steps carefully and refer to the wiring diagram on the new outlet for guidance. Taking it slow and steady will ensure proper electrical connections.

Turn Power Back On and Test the New Outlet

After successfully installing the new outlet, it's time to turn the power back on:

  1. Turn the correct circuit breaker back to the ON position.

  2. Go to the outlet and plug in a lamp or device to test that it works. Make sure it turns on properly.

  3. If the outlet doesn't work, turn the breaker OFF again and double check all connections.

  4. With a functioning outlet, put the cover plate back on using the original screws.

  5. Flip the switch a few times to verify proper operation. Also check outlets downstream on the same circuit.

  6. Caution - If you see sparks, smell burning, overheating, or lights flickering, turn the breaker back OFF immediately. Consult an electrician if anything seems unsafe or faulty before continuing.

As long as the outlet is operating normally, you've successfully replaced it safely without the high cost of an electrician! Just be sure to take your time and exercise extreme caution when dealing with electrical wiring. With the right planning and preparation, DIY electrical work can save money and provide satisfaction.