This is the second part of a three part article that should be read in sequence. Along with parts 1 and 3, all three parts explain how to replace an existing grounded three-prong electrical outlet with a new outlet on a 125 volt household electrical circuit.
Choosing, minor troubleshooting of, and testing an outlet
After finding the circuit and resizing the circuit’s amperage with a new fuse, if needed, use an outlet that matches the circuit’s amps. Outlets are rated at 15, 20, or 15 and 20 amps. Stores shelve outlets in marked bins, but outlets often get put back in the wrong bin, so check the amperage rating stamped or raised on the middle front or bottom back-side of the outlet.
Even if the existing outlet has three slots including a ground, that doesn’t mean the outlet has a ground wire or that it’s grounded the right way. The neutral and hot wires often get attached to the wrong sides of the outlet, as well, which reverses the polarity and burns up the motors in many modern appliances like vacuum cleaners. Be careful and test the outlet.
Test the outlet with a receptacle tester for 3 wire 125 VAC circuits (also called an analog multimeter receptacle tester), a tool that sells for less than $5.00 at any home improvement store. The receptacle tester looks like a grounded plug on the end of an electrical cord, except the tester has three lights, two yellow lights and one red light, on the end where the electrical cord would be on a normal plug. There’s a menu with 6 graphic rows above the tester’s lights. The menu has circles darkened in white, and/or yellow, and/or red to indicate every possible right and wrong way an outlet can be wired. If the two yellow lights light up when the tester is plugged in, the wiring is right. If the outlet is wired wrong or there’s a problem with the circuit, like any open wire, the tester shows that, too.
If the tester shows that any wires are reversed, attach the wires the right way on the new outlet. Hire an electrician to finish the job if the tester shows an open ground, neutral, or hot wire unless it’s obvious that the open wire is in the existing outlet box or somewhere on the same circuit. Open wires sometimes result from a wire that’s been partially cut inside a wall or floor or something like that, or the entire house wiring could be open in the main service panel or some place before it.
After the existing outlet is tested, any problems with the outlet’s wiring or the circuit have been found and fixed, and the right outlet has been chosen, it’s time to install the outlet.
Reach Bill at: [email protected]