Author Topic: Replacing Electric Outlets- DIY or no?  (Read 25190 times)

CNM

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Replacing Electric Outlets- DIY or no?
« on: September 27, 2012, 01:58:52 PM »
I have many electrical outlets in my house that are really loose (meaning, when you plug something in, it will fall out or lose connection very easily).  My husband and I are somewhat handy but neither of us have experience with electrical repairs.  However, replacing an outlet doesn't seem particularly hard.  But then again, electricity seems sort of dangerous to mess with?  Is this something that we should get a professional to do or should we take a stab at doing it ourselves?

bo_knows

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Re: Replacing Electric Outlets- DIY or no?
« Reply #1 on: September 27, 2012, 02:12:06 PM »
Replacing outlets and switches are pretty easy as far as DIY goes.  I find that the hardest part is determining exactly which circuit breaker is attached to that outlet/switch! lol.

Check youtube for some instructions. I bet they're out there.

carolinakaren

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Re: Replacing Electric Outlets- DIY or no?
« Reply #2 on: September 27, 2012, 02:12:22 PM »
I always do that myself...so far I've done every outlet in all the houses I've owned.  One big difference though, I didn't have broken outlets!  I basically just turned the breaker off and unhooked the old outlet, then hooked up the new one exactly like the old one.  It could just be that the connections are loose, which would be easy to fix. Otherwise you might want to call a professional.  Be sure to turn the breaker off first always!

Russ

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Re: Replacing Electric Outlets- DIY or no?
« Reply #3 on: September 27, 2012, 02:14:55 PM »
Replacing outlets is one of the easiest electrical repairs you can do. It's totally safe as long as you shut off power (often just a flip of a circuit breaker) to whatever room you're working on. Here's a decent tutorial complete with nice pictures, and this site describes some common mistakes.

Nords

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Re: Replacing Electric Outlets- DIY or no?
« Reply #4 on: September 27, 2012, 03:22:02 PM »
We did a couple dozen of them, with the aforementioned caveats.

The hardest part of the job is focus-- having a procedure, checking that the receptacle is dead before you start pulling it out, and staying alert.  In my case it's recognizing when a receptacle has one socket that's switched and another socket that's always live.  Miss one of those and confusion ensues.

The most annoying part of the job was having a wire break off when you pulled the receptacle out of its box.  But it's better to have it break off in your hand than to have it break off inside the box and short to something flammable.

matt_g

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Re: Replacing Electric Outlets- DIY or no?
« Reply #5 on: September 27, 2012, 03:28:07 PM »
I don't know if you want to CUT the wires off according to those instructions.  Sometimes you won't have enough slack after cutting it.

If you have an older house, you should also make sure you don't have aluminum wiring, if you can go in the basement, and see a section of the actual wire it might be labeled. 

I might splurge and get an electrical tester to see if the wires are hot, and also to see if the outlet is wired correctly when you are done.

http://www.amazon.com/Greenlee-TK-30-Basic-Electrical-Kit/dp/B000FCIMFS/ref=sr_1_6?ie=UTF8&qid=1348780987&sr=8-6&keywords=greenlee+electricians+tool+set



Jamesqf

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Re: Replacing Electric Outlets- DIY or no?
« Reply #6 on: September 27, 2012, 03:33:10 PM »
I might splurge and get an electrical tester to see if the wires are hot, and also to see if the outlet is wired correctly when you are done.

I wouldn't call an electrical tester a splurge, exactly.  More like a basic necessity for any non-suicidal person monkeying around with electric wiring.

paddedhat

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Re: Replacing Electric Outlets- DIY or no?
« Reply #7 on: September 27, 2012, 06:23:59 PM »
The Greenlee non-contact tracer show in the Amazon listing is what is referred to by electricians as a "tick tracer". Bottom line is, when doing electrical work, it's absolutely priceless. You turn it on, test it quickly by jambing it into an outlet (the right "eye" of the face of the outlet is the hot) and listen for the buzzing. Now you can use it to test any outlet, or wire by touching the tip of the tool against it. Mine was getting old and worn out so I grabbed a new one this week.  $15 at the local Lowes. Electrical work can be safe and intuitive, but a tick tracer is a must have before you start. Good luck.

Russ

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Re: Replacing Electric Outlets- DIY or no?
« Reply #8 on: September 27, 2012, 08:20:59 PM »
I don't know if you want to CUT the wires off according to those instructions.  Sometimes you won't have enough slack after cutting it.

If you read the tutorial rather than just look at the pictures, you'll see it explicitly says not to cut the wires unless you have enough slack.

Bakari

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Re: Replacing Electric Outlets- DIY or no?
« Reply #9 on: September 27, 2012, 08:36:08 PM »
If you replace outlets in the kitchen, bathroom, garage, or anywhere moisture may be present, use a GFIC outlet (the kind with the tiny circuit breaker built in) (nothing different about installing it)

If you still have 2 prong outlets, replace them with 3 prong (grounded outlets) while your at it.
It is a lot more work, but you end up with a much safer and more functional outlet.

You have to climb under the house and route a single plain wire up to the outlet box and attach to the ground screw on the new outlet box, and then clamp the wire to the nearest cold water pipe on the other end (under the house)
The other two wires just attach to the new outlet exactly where the old one was.
The only hard part is lining up the wire with the existing hole.  It probably requires drilling a small hole exactly under the outlet, which requires very precise measurements.  It can be somewhat aggravating.  If possible, remove both the outlet and the box, so a helper can look down from in the house and help guide the person in the crawl space.  If on a 2nd floor, and/or wires are in the attic, the same can be done from the top, in which case join the ground wire with any existing ground wires up there (green or bare copper)



CNM

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Re: Replacing Electric Outlets- DIY or no?
« Reply #10 on: September 28, 2012, 11:20:20 AM »
Thank you for the replies, everyone.  I think we will give it a shot and certainly we'll get a tester.  Paying for all the supplies will be a mere fraction of what it would cost to get an electrician to do it.  Also, a family member who has experience in wiring (although is not a licensed electrician) offered to help/give advice. 

About the grounding issue, our house has no "under" or "over"- we're a single level house built on a slab with no attic or crawlspace.  I assume you mean where ever the circuit board is located, which in our case is in the garage.  But then, how would we thread the ground through the house?  Anyway, this question doesn't need to be answered, I'll look it up myself and see what's possible.

Thanks again for the vote of confidence!

paddedhat

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Re: Replacing Electric Outlets- DIY or no?
« Reply #11 on: September 28, 2012, 03:17:17 PM »
It's been a long time since it was legal, or acceptable, to use water pipe as a ground when upgrading existing wiring. When you see a "ground" wire leaving the panel, and ending up at a clamp on the cold water pipe, it's not a ground at all, it is a bonding jumper. It is there so that the water supply system and the electrical system share a common ground value. The reason that you should not rely on water system as a ground is that it is now common to repair, upgrade and extend existing water piping with non-metallic piping. For example. you take the time to fish a bare wire from every outlet down to the basement and then clamp them to a nearby copper water pipe. You now have a legitimate ground and a much safer system in place. Later, you develop a leak near the meter and the plumber cuts a small section of copper pipe out and replaces it with a section of PEX and two Shark-Bite couplers. It is the fastest easiest way to do the job, and at $100/ hr that's what you want. BUT..... you just lost your ground and your new "grounded" outlets are not anymore. BTW, this isn't a theoretical discussion it IS a code violation, and it can be a safety hazard. I recently ran into a case where a lightning strike did zero physical damage to a home, but destroyed every appliance and device in the house. Everything from TVs to garage door openers. The house had been grounded via the incoming city water pipe. The city replaced the line from the street to the house, using plastic. The home's electrical system was totally ungrounded, and the subsequent damage was extensive and expensive.

Bakari

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Re: Replacing Electric Outlets- DIY or no?
« Reply #12 on: September 28, 2012, 08:55:03 PM »
It's been a long time since it was legal, or acceptable, to use water pipe as a ground when upgrading existing wiring....

Very good to know!
So what is the alternative?

... I withdraw the question.
Did a little internet research: http://www.diyinahour.com/electrical-grounding-system.html
ground the outlet and/or cold water pipes themselves to a long grounding rod set into the literal ground.
That, or, if at least one grounded outlet already exists in the house, run ground wires back to the circuit breaker box - of course that's assuming the original ground didn't use cold water pipes.

About the grounding issue, our house has no "under" or "over"- we're a single level house built on a slab with no attic or crawlspace.  I assume you mean where ever the circuit board is located, which in our case is in the garage.  But then, how would we thread the ground through the house?

Golly, that sucks, I have no idea!  So, if you ever want to add or change or repair any electric wiring, phone or cable wires, water pipes, sewer pipes, or HVAC, you have to tear down your drywall?
« Last Edit: September 28, 2012, 09:16:46 PM by Bakari »

Sparky

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Re: Replacing Electric Outlets- DIY or no?
« Reply #13 on: October 05, 2012, 08:57:54 PM »
Okay, Electrician here.... though I haven't done a house in 10 years and my code is a rusty for this stuff.

Replacing outlets is really easy to do. All the advice is fine here minus the water pipe thing. If you can't find the circuit, just turn off the main breaker ! And still test it again. Stranger things have killed many people. Is this a house or Condo/Apartment/Townhouse? Sometimes things get fed from random panels.

I'm not sure about the American Code, but in Canada, IIRC the only point your allowed to use a copper pipe as a ground is the point where it comes out of the ground, concrete etc, and that's before it hits a valve. But in most newer installations and in some localities (they can have additional rules), we do a separate ground independent of anything else (ground rods or plates). Odds are you won't have this issue anyway or you have a really old house....

JJ

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Re: Replacing Electric Outlets- DIY or no?
« Reply #14 on: October 05, 2012, 10:06:22 PM »
Don't get carried away doing this in the nanny state of Oz. It is illegal and if your house burns down due to an electrical fault you aren't insured (assuming, of course, they figure out it wasn't done by a licensed electrician). I'm jealous of you folks across the ocean. The two highly regulated trades are power and plumbing and these guys charge like wounded bulls.

watzzupsport

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Re: Replacing Electric Outlets- DIY or no?
« Reply #15 on: October 06, 2012, 08:36:11 PM »
Yes it is  illegal here in oz to even do plumbing work, if you want to o any renovations the councils are a petty law unto themselves.

 I totally get the idea how great it is to build a new back deck or shed out the back but council fees and regulations are draconian and require licences to preform the work.

Russell

JJ

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Re: Replacing Electric Outlets- DIY or no?
« Reply #16 on: October 08, 2012, 06:19:55 PM »
The reason for plumbing being regulated it to prevent grey and black water back washing into the drinking water supply.  There are special valves and ways of hooking toilets up etc to prevent this, so I'm fine for that to be signed off by an expert.  Most of it is just hack work though - digging holes in concrete, refilling holes in concrete, joining broken bits of pipe together.  I have a few electrical jobs to be done in the next few weeks so we'll pull the cable through, punch holes in the wall etc where the switches need to go and just get the qualified guy to attach the wires.  That way we will only pay for the high value stuff which stops our house catching fire or zapping us.

CNM

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Re: Replacing Electric Outlets- DIY or no?
« Reply #17 on: October 10, 2012, 10:25:22 AM »
Quote

Golly, that sucks, I have no idea!  So, if you ever want to add or change or repair any electric wiring, phone or cable wires, water pipes, sewer pipes, or HVAC, you have to tear down your drywall?

I also don't know what would happen as we've never had to do any of that before!  My house style is the most common one by far in Santa Fe, NM, where I live, so I assume that there must be a way.

Debbie M

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Re: Replacing Electric Outlets- DIY or no?
« Reply #18 on: October 15, 2012, 12:46:46 PM »
I believe that if you have a slab foundation, wires travel through both the walls and the attic.  At least I've heard of people dropping wires down through walls from the attic.

JJ

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Re: Replacing Electric Outlets- DIY or no?
« Reply #19 on: October 15, 2012, 04:07:40 PM »
Quote

Golly, that sucks, I have no idea!  So, if you ever want to add or change or repair any electric wiring, phone or cable wires, water pipes, sewer pipes, or HVAC, you have to tear down your drywall?

I also don't know what would happen as we've never had to do any of that before!  My house style is the most common one by far in Santa Fe, NM, where I live, so I assume that there must be a way.
You feed the cable through the wall using one of these: http://www.cablemagic.com.au/yellow-tongue.html.  You basically cut a small hole for the switch/socket and push the cable up through the wall using this - it is stiff enough to allow you to push the cable through and bendy enough to go around corners.  If you are feeding cable through a stud wall and have a noggin between the switch/socket and the roof cavity then you may be out of luck (not sure how the pros do it).  So no, you shouldn't have to pull the wall off for cables at any rate.

Matte

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Re: Replacing Electric Outlets- DIY or no?
« Reply #20 on: October 25, 2012, 10:11:49 PM »
I know here in Canada switches and fixtures are ok to do DIY with no permit or inspection.  Ask your city hall if you need a permit.  I ran some wire through drywall once, cut a hole with a drywall saw about 4 inches wide, run the wire, then get some 1x4 and screw it behind the drywall every few feet, then put your cutout piece back in its oliginal hole, fiberglass tape, fil, sand, paint.  It's not as badas youd think

CNM

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Re: Replacing Electric Outlets- DIY or no?
« Reply #21 on: January 09, 2013, 02:53:55 PM »
I thought I'd post a quick update.  I replaced a large number of outlets in my house and it was super easy.  My brother-in-law lent me some time saving equipment (a thing you stick in the plug that will tell you what circuit it's on and a hot-wire tester thingy) and the whole thing was easy as pie.  Glad I DIYed!

Greywynd

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Re: Replacing Electric Outlets- DIY or no?
« Reply #22 on: January 10, 2013, 09:24:26 PM »
Nice! Being able to borrow the tools is a big plus!

In the past when I've been trying to figure out what circuit an outlet is on, I'll plug a vacuum cleaner into the outlet, then go try individual breakers. Usually the vacuum is loud enough you can hear it at the panel, and know when it turns off. 

Alenzia

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Re: Replacing Electric Outlets- DIY or no?
« Reply #23 on: June 30, 2018, 08:33:57 PM »
How long would you say it takes? We're considering replacing all the outlets/switches in our rental before selling the house, mostly because they look grimy and old. I'm sure the first one will take much longer than once we get a hang of it, but it'd be nice to have a general idea.

nick663

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Re: Replacing Electric Outlets- DIY or no?
« Reply #24 on: June 30, 2018, 09:37:41 PM »
How long would you say it takes? We're considering replacing all the outlets/switches in our rental before selling the house, mostly because they look grimy and old. I'm sure the first one will take much longer than once we get a hang of it, but it'd be nice to have a general idea.
Once you identify which breaker the outlet is on, the actual procedure to replace the outlet takes about 5 minutes.  1 screw on the cover plate, 2 on holding the receptacle to the box, and then the screws that hold the wires to the receptacle.  Reverse for installation.

Even quicker if you use a screw gun.

CNM

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Re: Replacing Electric Outlets- DIY or no?
« Reply #25 on: July 02, 2018, 10:38:32 AM »
@Alenzia  I'd say it took about 5-10 minutes per switch.  Those tools I mentioned before (hot wire tester, etc)  made it easier and faster.

phred

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Re: Replacing Electric Outlets- DIY or no?
« Reply #26 on: July 02, 2018, 11:53:21 AM »
this is an easy peasy DIY if you don't rush
If by yourself, plug a radio into the outlet and flick the breakers until radio off.  If you want to be super safe test both halves of the outlet because they could be split to two different circuits
Assuming you have copper wire the black wire should be on the brass screw, the white on the silver screw.  If the outlet is the old ungrounded type, you SHOULD NOT replace with a grounded type outlet
Adding a separate ground can be really problematic.  Fastening to copper plumbing may not be a good idea if you have any plastic pipe in the plumbing line
If you have aluminum wire you need to get specially marked outlets for aluminum
Advisable to use the screw heads rather than push the wires into holes in the back
Wire breaks off? add an "extension" with a wirenut.


robartsd

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Re: Replacing Electric Outlets- DIY or no?
« Reply #27 on: July 02, 2018, 02:48:33 PM »
My understanding is that if you have a box without a ground wire, you can install a GFCI outlet.