You Got to Be Kidding Me!

Tab A, Slot B

Posted in Home Improvement by Stacy McMahon on February 10, 2007

No, this isn’t about my Friday night, it’s about my Saturday afternoon! A couple weeks ago I got myself a decorative outlet cover for an outlet in the livingroom. Upon removing the old outlet cover, pieces of the actual outlets broke off and fell to the floor. Time for a new outlet! Let’s begin! Step one, of course, is to turn off the power 🙂

Old and busted–literally. My toofless outlet makes me think of West Virginia. Also note the push-in connectors on the back of the outlet (holes with cut ends of wire poking out) My home wiring manual says to use those …never. But with this cheap POS there wasn’t any choice; you can see it doesn’t have screw terminals (except, weirdly, for the ground wire.) Also, it’s hard to tell in the picture but there was a remnant of masking tape on the broken part of the plug, which means someone knew it was broken and “fixed” it that way. I would have to re-read the report to be sure, but I believe my home inspector did not catch that.

New hotness! This is a “professional grade” outlet for which I paid the princely sum of $1.50. It looks exactly like the manual says it should–two silver screws, two gold ones, and a green one for the ground wire.

Here’s a dark-ish picture of the wiring. The outlet may have been junk, but the wires were nicely folded back into the box, which continues behind the wall to your right. Something odd here–notice there are two leads each for the black (hot) and white (cold) wires, but only one for ground (the uninsulated wire) That means the ground circuit is wired in parallel, but the power circuit is wired in series. I wonder if that’s up to current code.

Besides a flathead screwdriver, this was the only tool I really needed (though not the only one I used) It’s a wire cutter/stripper with the various gauges or thickness of wire labeled on the blade. The manual says household wires are either 12 or 14-gauge. Mine is 14. After hammers and screwdrivers, I use this more than anything else in my toolbox.

Zooming in for the picture, I noticed all these nicks on the cutting blade. Weird, because I’ve only ever used it on copper wire.

Here’s the new outlet all wired up. It’s hard to see in the pic, but there’s a ridge in between the screw terminals on the side. It’s nice because you can brace the end of the wire against that while you bend it around the screw. Amazing what $0.50 extra (compared to the cheap outlet unit) gets you.

And voila! Proof that I can accomplish simple electrical repairs without injury to myself or others. Yes, the outlet is upside-down. The manual recommends doing it this way because if your plug pulls out a little bit (as some of them do) and something metal happens to fall there, it will only hit the ground blade, which is not energized. That made sense to me, and I believe I’ve seen them like that in some newer houses too.


One Response

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  1. Clint said, on February 10, 2007 at 5:59 pm

    How thorough! Very interesting tidbit about the plugs being upside-down. I’m sold on the idea. Safety first.

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