In some homes, wall switches can control individual outlets where lamps and other light sources can be plugged in. They are really handy, but if you ever need to replace this outlet, there are some important things to keep in mind. This is not the same as replacing any other outlet.
Attention : this is a project for a self-confident master. There is no shame in having someone do the actual wiring for you if you don’t have the skill or knowledge to do so. If you read the beginning of this article and immediately visualized, how do this, based on past experience connecting wires and sockets, you are probably fine. If you opened this article without knowing exactly how we were going to pull off this trick, it’s time to call that experienced friend or electrician. Also note that doing so may be against the law, code or regulation if you do so without permission, or may void your insurance or warranty. Check your local regulations before proceeding.
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What you need
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Before you delve into replacing an outlet, you’ll need a few tools to get the job done.
Absolutely essential tools are a flathead screwdriver, a Phillips screwdriver and pliers. Some additional but very handy tools include a few pliers (for twisting the wire if necessary), a wire stripper (in case you need to cut the wire or strip the strands), and a voltage tester to make sure no wiring is stuck. . I still don’t live.
You also need a new outlet. You don’t need to be super fancy here and any basic outlet will help you — just make sure it’s UL certified by looking at this logo on the outlet when you’re about to buy it. This one from Leviton is a great option and is also tamper-proof, making it perfect for families with kids.
Step one: turn off the power at the switch
Before you start taking things apart and breaking wires, you need to turn off the power to the outlet by turning off the appropriate switch on the switch box.
Most of the time you will only need to turn off one switch, but sometimes homes have unique wiring setups where some outlets are connected to two switches (like my house). This is actually not all that uncommon, as outlet junction boxes sometimes serve as junction boxes for other passing circuits.
Your circuit breaker should have a diagram of which circuit breakers control which areas of your home, but to be sure you’ve turned off the correct circuit breaker, a good trick to use is to plug in your stereo and play music so you can hear. from the switch box. Turn off the switch and if the music stops, then you hit the right one. Again, there may be a second breaker that you will need to reverse, so it’s a good idea to check the wiring inside the junction box before you start fiddling with it, as explained below.
Step Two: Remove the Existing Outlet
Start by taking a flat head screwdriver and remove the small screw between the two sockets.
From there, you can remove the bezel.
Then, before you start removing the actual outlet, take a voltage tester and stick it into the junction box to see if there are any live wires. If this is the case, then you need to turn off another switch to turn off power to that outlet completely.
Then take a Phillips screwdriver and remove the two screws that secure the socket to the junction box.
Once removed, take your fingers and pull the socket out of the junction box to expose more wires.
See how the outlet is connected. You will notice that there are two black wires connected to one outlet and two white wires to the other, as well as a bare copper wire connected to a green screw. The black wires are the power (or «hot») wires, the white wires are the neutral (or «return») wires, and the bare copper is the ground wire. Electricity flows through the hot wire, enters the outlet and then into whatever is connected to it, and then returns through the neutral wire. However, the extra black and white wires are there to continue connecting to other parts of the house, so the socket also acts as a connection of sorts.
Before unplugging the wires from the outlet, make sure you know which wire was connected to which screw. Either remember this in your head, or mark the wires with duct tape. Then take a Phillips screwdriver and unscrew the terminal screws for all the wires, including the ground wire, and remove them from the socket.
You can then set the old outlet aside and you’re left with five wires: two black wires, two white wires, and one ground wire. If the outlet you are replacing is at the end of the circuit, it won’t have an extra pair of black and white wires as it doesn’t need to continue the circuit, so you’ll only have one black wire, one white wire, and one ground wire in this case.
Step Three: Disconnect the bridge connector at the new outlet
Take a new socket and find the connector that connects the top brass screw to the bottom brass screw.
You will need to break this piece so that the two screws are independent of each other. If not, then the light switch will simply turn off the entire outlet, as well as the entire circuit following that outlet. Removing this part means that only one of the outlets will be powered by the light switch, leaving the other outlet always on for other devices.
The exception is when the socket controlled by the light switch is connected only to this switch and there are no other wires. In this case, only one black wire, one white wire and a ground wire are connected to the outlet.
To disconnect the jumper bar, simply take a pair of needle nose pliers, grab the connector piece and bend it back and forth while gently pulling it out. Eventually it will weaken and break. That’s all there is to it!
Step Four: Install the New Outlet
Get an outlet and start by connecting the ground wire to the green screw. You can do this by winding the wire around the screw itself and tightening it. You will do this for all wires. Sometimes there are small holes on the back panel where you can insert the end of the wire and tighten the screw, but this is not always the case. The latter method is easier, but not as strong as the first. However, this should hold up just fine.
After connecting the ground, proceed to connect the two white wires to the silver screws. It doesn’t really matter which white wire goes to which silver screw, as both will be connected together anyway.
However, it is important which black wires connect to which brass screws, so you should label them in the previous steps. This will make sure that if the top socket was a socket, then it will not change on the new socket. It’s not that hard if you mix them up, as it will just switch to the bottom outlet, which is switched — you can always switch them back.
Next, you need to insert the wires and socket back into the junction box. Don’t be afraid to pull on the wires and bend them all the way back into the box, and forcefully push the outlet into the junction box.
Once the socket is installed, use the two supplied screws to secure the socket to the junction box.
Then place the bezel over the outlet and secure it with a small flat head screw.
Turn the power back on and check that the socket is working properly by turning on the lamp and making sure the light switch turns the lamp on and off. If not, try a different outlet, as you have most likely switched around the black wires. Either way, one outlet will be controlled by the light switch and the other outlet will always be on no matter what.