How to Replace a 120-Volt Electrical Wall Outlet
By: Julie Day
Choosing an Electrical Outlet
When replacing a wall outlet, it’s important to use the correct type of receptacle. To determine the receptacle you need, start by locating the circuit breaker that controls the outlet you plan to replace.
Circuit breakers that control the lights and outlets in your home will be marked as either 15-amp or 20-amp. A 15-amp circuit is wired with smaller 14-gauge wire, while a 20-amp circuit has heavier 12-gauge wire for handling larger electrical loads.
Armed with this knowledge, choose a receptacle following these rules:
- Grounded or Ungrounded Receptacle: If your house has grounded wiring (with a bare or green ground wire in the electrical box), use a three-prong grounded outlet. If your home doesn’t have grounded wiring, like many older homes, you should use a two-prong, ungrounded outlet. Attaching a grounded receptacle to ungrounded wiring is unsafe and misleading, as it implies that the circuit is grounded. To provide protection from shocks on ungrounded wiring, you can install a ground-fault circuit interrupter (GFCI) type receptacle.
When in doubt, take the old receptacle with you to the store for help buying the same kind of replacement receptacle.