Types of Receptacles – On the House

Types of Receptacles

By on August 9, 2016

What do a cool home, a chilled beverage, your favorite television show and clean clothing have in common? They are all made possible by some form of energy. For most Americans, this source of energy is electricity.

For many people, contact with electricity is limited to flicking a switch, inserting an electric plug into an outlet or changing a light bulb from time to time. Others, however, are more adventuresome and will attempt replacement of an old light fixture. Still, others will go where few have gone before by replacing old, outdated or unsafe receptacles. Yikes! Instead of DIY-ing it, calling an emergency electrician might be so much better.

Safety is the best reason to replace an old receptacle. An old receptacle can be an accident waiting to happen as wires become loose and the outlet becomes worn over time. In addition, before the early 1960s, it was standard operating procedure to install ungrounded (two slotted) receptacles. Today, code requires electrical outlets to be grounded to prevent shocks, fires, and damage to appliances and motors. Proper grounding reduces these hazards and can also minimize damage from lightening. Grounded receptacles have three slots.

Improved appearance is another benefit to outlet replacement – doing away with paint-splattered outlets and cracked covers. As is the case with a fresh coat of paint, new receptacles can give a room a neat, clean and uniform look.

Many different types of receptacles can be found in the average home. Each has its unique arrangement of slots that will accept a specific type of plug. The slot arrangement is also often a dead giveaway for the voltage supplied by the receptacle.

Most American homes contain receptacles that supply both normal and high voltage. Normal voltage ranges from 110 to 125 volts while high voltage ranges from 220 to 250 volts. Normal voltage powers lights and small appliances such as televisions, clocks, radios, etc. High voltage is used to power large appliances such as ovens, stoves, air conditioners, cloths dryers and water heaters.

Unlike normal voltage, high voltage receptacles are usually only replaced where there is a safety issue or to accommodate an appliance with different amperage – and almost never for appearance purposes. When it’s time to replace a 220-volt outlet you best tool is your telephone. We suggest that you use it to call a qualified electrician to perform the work.

Normal – 110 volt – receptacles are less intimidating and can be fast and easy to replace – provided you are mindful of which color wire connects to which terminal.

The first step in replacing a receptacle is to determine the amperage rating of the circuit at the main or service panel (subpanel). Purchase a replacement receptacle with the same amperage rating. For example, a 15 amp, 125-volt receptacle should be replaced by a like kind.

It is also the perfect time to replace a two-slotted ungrounded model with a three-slotted grounded model – provided that a metal grounded box exists. If no means of grounding exists, an efficient means of accomplishing this is by installing a ground fault circuit interrupter (GFCI). A GFCI will not prevent shock, it will, however, render shocks relatively harmless. Other means of grounding an ungrounded system should be performed by a qualified electrician.

Before attempting any electrical work, TURN OFF THE POWER by flipping the breaker or removing the fuse for the circuit. Use a circuit tester to make sure that both of the outlets in the receptacle are “dead” (without power). Sometimes each is wired to a separate circuit. Next, remove the cover plate and outlet mounting screw located immediately beneath the cover plate. Inspect the old outlet to determine if the metal link between the two outlets has been broken off. If it has, snap off the one on the new outlet.

Using a screwdriver, remove the wires from the terminal screws. If the existing curved end of the wire is brittle or damaged, snip it off and strip the wire about one half-inch back. Use a pair of needle-nose pliers to wrap the freshly stripped end of the wire 2/3 to ¾ around the terminal screw. The loop should be made clockwise to correspond with the direction of the screw when being tightened. Connect the black wires to the brass terminal and the white wires to the white terminal. If the existing outlet is grounded, connect the green or bare wire to the hex head screw. Tighten the terminal screws until they are snug and secure the receptacle to the box with the screws provided. Complete the job by installing a new cover plate.

Note: If your home contains aluminum wiring, make sure to purchase devices, which are UL-Listed for direct connection to aluminum with the CO/ALR or AL-CU markings.

Turn the power back on and use an electrical tester to check your handy work.


About onthehouse

You must be logged in to post a comment Login

Leave a Reply

Pin It on Pinterest