Last time, we briefly explained the path electricity takes through wires and electrical devices. Now we’ll do a simple operation: replace an outlet. (Maybe you want to replace the standard receptacle with a sleek new design, or you don’t like the color of the existing receptacle.)
First thing — shut off the power. Flip the breaker or remove the fuse to that particular circuit, and lock the box or tape a sign to it, so no one turns it back on while you’re working.
Double check you’ve shut off the circuit by plugging something in or using a circuit tester. The small slot should be the hot slot. Test both outlets.
Remove the screw holding the switchplate and set these aside. Remove the two screws holding the receptacle in place and gently pull it out. Examine how the wires connect, as you may want to replicate the setup.
If two cables enter the box, the outlet is in the middle of a run. If only one cable enters the box, it’s at the end of a run — or circuit. (We’re assuming a simple two-wire setup — that’s 2 plus ground, remember.)
Assuming everything is set up correctly, the job can be really simple. You simply unscrew the contact screws on the old receptacle, remove the wires, and replace them on the new receptacle in the same spots.
But it’s better to understand how the wiring should be set up, so you can be sure it’s connected properly, and handle different situations you may encounter. We’ll show you how to do that next time.