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Wiring Connections To an Electrical Outlet


electical outletReplacing an electrical outlet is a very straightforward job.  When you connect the wires to an outlet, there are different ways to do it.

You might notice that in the back of an outlet are holes where you can push the tip of the copper wire into. The metal connector inside the outlet holds the wire in place. To release the wire, you place something small into an orifice near the hole and it releases the wire. The problem is that these don’t always work as they are supposed to. If the wire has been repeatedly pushed in and out, the wire can have the tendency to pop out of place. That is never a good thing.

Personally, I prefer to wrap the wire around the terminal screw and then tighten the screw down upon the wire. That way I can see and feel the wire being held in place. Make sure when you wrap the wire around the terminal, that you wrap it clockwise around the screw. This is because as you tighten it if the wire moves it will move in the direction of the tightening motion. If you wrapped the wire counter-clockwise, the wire might tend to rotate away from the screw terminal and could possibly lose contact.

Use GFCI When Adding Exterior Electric Outlet


electric outletThere are times when you need to add an electrical outlet to the exterior wall. This is easiest when you have an outlet on the interior side of the wall and can branch off of it to supply power to the new outlet. You must use GFCI (ground fault circuit interrupter or GFI for short) protection.

Outdoor elements can cause problems for unprotected outlets (think rainwater), so not only must the outlet be GFI protected, but you also should have a weatherproof box cover. These allow you to use the outlet yet protect it from the weather.

If you are cutting through stucco, a grinder makes quick work of the job. Mark out the lines and slowly cut the perimeter. Use a junction box and caulk around the perimeter. The weatherproof box will have gaskets to further seal out the weather.

After installing the GFCI outlet, install a box cover that uses a plastic dome to protect the outlet. This is hinged and opens to allow you to use the outlet, then swings closed to seal out rain. The other type of cover uses small doors on each individual plug, but once these small doors are opened, it exposes the outlet to rain and could potentially allow rainwater to come into contact with the electricity.

Install Weatherproof Covers On Electrical Outlets


electrical outletsIf you have outdoor electrical outlets, they need to be in a weatherproof cover. This helps prevent the old snap, crackle, and pop. There are lots of covers and some are better than others. The older style has the two swinging doors that allow you to access the outlets. The problem here is that if the doors are open, then rain can also get access to the outlets. Not good. The newer style has a hood that lifts up from a hinge at the top of the cover. The nice thing about this is that you can use the outlets during a rain storm as the hood has holes that allow the cords to exit the cover. This is good for holiday lights.

Installing a cover is easy. Turn the power off to the outlet and, after testing to make sure the power is off, remove the cover. You will need to pull the outlet away from the box to slide the mating cover backing over and behind the outlet. When this is done you can screw everything back together and restore the power. Make sure you properly seat the foam gaskets around the pieces before you screw everything back to keep the weather out.

Electrical Outlets Can Dress Up A Room


switch coversThere really are some simple ways to make a room stand out from the others. By replacing some or all of your electrical outlets and switch covers, you can make a statement. Switch and outlet covers come in all flavors. The builder grade covers are white plastic, but you can go up from there.

You can buy outlet and switch covers made from all types of metals, stone, and wood grain to match surrounding woodwork. You’ve seen where in a kitchen, granite will not only cover the countertops but also go up the wall to meet the wall cabinets. You can buy (or order) granite cover plates to replace the white plastic ones that would stand out. You may need a box extender for this as the thickness of the granite will make it so the screws won't reach anymore.

In a living room, you can buy oil-rubbed bronze covers to match the reading lamp. They aren’t cheap but you probably won’t be doing the entire house in this style either.

Replacing the cover plates are easy. It’s always a good idea to turn off the power when working on outlets and switches, but this job only takes a standard screwdriver to remove the screws involved. Remove the old cover plate and tighten the screw until snug.

Light Switch Upgrade For Modern Look


light switchRemember the old skinny light switches that were usually almond color? They were great in the 1970's but now...not so much. It is easy to upgrade that to a more modern rocker-style light switch and while you are at it, upgrade the electrical outlets too. The rocker switches are wider and taller than the traditional switches. You can really go crazy with all the choices you have. Some switches are illuminated, and some don't move at all, instead they operate by sensing your touch.

You can buy new switches, outlets, and wall covers by the box and save some cash buying in bulk. Installing them is easy and requires only a screwdriver. Before you start, take an inventory of the number and kind of switches you will need. For example, the number of regular switches, dimmer switches, 2-way switches, standard outlets, GFCI outlets, etc. It's probably a good idea to get them in white rather than almond, as white looks cleaner is more modern.

Here is some information on how to replace a light switch. Replacing an outlet is virtually identical. Match up the wires to the switch or outlet terminals and connect them in the same positions...just make sure you turn off the power at the main panel.

No Power? Another GFCI Outlet Mystery Solved


circuit breakerA realtor called yesterday saying that she had no power in her garage and several other outlets. This is a pretty common call and so rather than head out to her home and start troubleshooting, I asked her to do a couple of things. Her husband is not afraid to get his hands dirty, and she said he had already replaced the GFCI outlet (ground fault circuit interrupter) and they still had no power.

I asked her to go to the main electrical panel and check to make sure that none of the breakers had tripped. She said she had already done that and the breakers were all on. I then asked her to walk around the house and check to see if any other GFCI outlets had tripped (GFCI outlets have a button that says "test" and another button that says "reset"). These outlets will trip off and stop the power flowing to the outlets downstream of it, if the outlet senses a ground fault. She hastily said she had, but I doubted it. Okay, so she did the easy stuff and still had a problem.

Upon arrival at the house, the first thing we checked was the main electrical panel. Sure enough, a circuit breaker had tripped off. We flipped it back on and her problem was solved. She was embarrassed.

Typically, when a breaker trips, it will end up sitting in between the "on" and "off" positions. It is pretty obvious when this happens. You first need to push the switch all the way to the "off" position and then flip it to "on".

No Power in My Bathroom: GFCI Outlet


las vegas handymanThis is one of the most common calls I get as a Las Vegas handyman, and it really is difficult to get people to believe that they can solve this problem by themselves. Typically, all you need is your index finger.

There are safety features in your home's electrical system. If you have electrical outlets near wet locations (bathrooms, kitchen, garage, exterior of the house), you should have Ground Fault Protection.

A Ground Fault Circuit Interrupter (GFCI) is a safety tool that protects against electrical shock caused by a faulty plug, cord or appliance. It senses small changes in electrical current and can shut off the power faster than you can blink your eyes. But all kidding aside, a GFCI could save you from a potentially deadly shock.

The GFCI receptacle has two buttons in the middle to periodically test that it is functioning properly. One button is labeled "test" and the other is labeled "reset." When you press the test button, the power to that receptacle should shut off immediately. To restore the power, depress the reset button. The power to additional receptacles may also shut off if they are downstream of the GFCI, that is, if they receive their power from that particular GFCI. In this case, those additional outlets should be labeled "GFCI protected outlet," but this is not always the case.

So, the fix here is to reset the GFCI outlet by depressing the "reset" button. Realize that the GFCI outlet in question may not even be located in the bathroom, but rather in the garage, the kitchen, on an exterior wall, etc...so look around until you find it.

You may have GFCI protection even though you don't see a GFCI outlet. In your home's main electrical panel, there may be a GFCI circuit breaker. This breaker has a test switch on it to ensure that the outlets in the circuit are operating properly. If this is the case at your home, the circuit breaker will trip to a middle position. Just turn it off and then turn it back on.

You will have to figure out why the GFCI outlet tripped. You may want to unplug whatever you have plugged in to the circuit and then eliminate possible sources.

Electrical Outlets


electrical outletsKids sure do love sticking things in electrical outlets. They usually only do it one time though , after they learn that it doesn't feel very good. Eager parents follow up the crying with a call to have someone come out and make sure nothing is damaged. Typically, the circuit breaker will stop the flow of electricity by shutting off power to a particular area of the house.

If you have never reset a breaker, its pretty easy. It involves going to the main electrical panel, which is typically on the exterior of the house, or in the garage. In some condominiums, it can even be found in a closet. Once you find it you will see that one of the breakers isn't aligned with all the rest. All the breakers will be in the "on" position except for the one that tripped. It won't be in the "off" position though. Instead, it will be tripped midway between "on" and "off". Before you turn the breaker on, make sure the child didn't jamb or break off anything inside the outlet. If that is the case, the breaker may not turn back on anyway, and it could spit out a spark or even smoke.

Once the coast is clear, simply push the breaker all the way to the "off" position and then push it to the "on" position. Power should be restored to the outlet.

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