Tips For Staying Safe When Changing An Electrical Outlet In Your House

If you have an electrical outlet that needs replacing, you may decide to do it yourself to save both time and money. However, before you start removing the old one, make sure you take steps to stay safe while working with electricity.

Make Sure the Electricity Is Truly Off

While you probably already know to turn off the breaker before sticking your tools inside the outlet, you must take an extra step to ensure there is no electrical current going through the wires. Even if you have thrown the switch, you cannot guarantee that there isn't a short or broken wire inside your breaker box that could cause the current to jump through the switch and feed your home's electrical wires.

To be safe, use a multimeter on the outlet after turning the power off at the breaker box. This meter has probes that you touch to the wires to read the amount of current going through them.

If your multimeter reads anything other than zero, do not proceed with replacing the outlet. Double-check to make sure you turned off the breaker, then check the wires again. If the meter still shows current going through the wires, you most likely have a short somewhere in the box. Call an electrician as soon as possible to have them inspect the box and find the cause of the short.

Use Insulated Tools

Once you have made sure there is no electrical current running through your wires, it is time to start removing the old outlet. However, before you do so, make sure you have the right tool for the job. 

For most outlets, all you will need is either a flat- or Phillips-head screwdriver. When selecting your tool, make sure you choose one that has an insulated handle or a layer of rubber around the base of the post.

Insulation for your tools is important for two reasons. Because you should always play it safe and assume that there is electricity running through the wires, having a layer of insulation on your metal screwdriver acts as a buffer between you and any power surges that may come through. Even a small surge of electricity can knock you senseless, so having this extra protection can help disperse the current.

Second, the insulation also helps prevent static electricity from affecting your new outlet and the wires with which you will be working. Because the rubber helps to ground both you and the tool, any static created by you will have less of a chance of shorting out the outlet or wires.

Always Double-Check Your Wire Connections

Once you have finally attached the new outlet to your home's wires, always double-check the connections before you turn the power back on. If you switch the red live wire with the black ground wire or white negative wire, you could create a short within your walls that may spark and cause an electrical fire.

Look carefully at the markings on the outlet, as well as the diagram on its package if it came in one. Also, double-check the colors of your home's wires.

If you cannot determine which is positive, negative, or ground because your system uses different colors or you have an older home that has all black wires, it is best to leave the job to an electrician who can test the wires individually before making the connections.   

Using the tips above can help you stay safe while changing an outlet in your home. However, if you run into any issues or do not feel completely confident while working around electricity, contact an electrician to do the job for you.