How To Replace An Electrical Outlet

Person giving thumbs up next to an electrical outlet

Difficulty: Intermediate

Total Time: 30 Minutes-2 Hours

Estimated Cost: $2-$20

Replacing electrical outlets is a relatively simple task that can be accomplished by most homeowners. In this blog post, we will provide step-by-step instructions on how to replace an electrical outlet.

So, if you require a new electrical outlet, read on for the information you need!

How To Replace An Electrical Outlet

Let’s start with the tools and materials needed before replacing an electrical outlet.


  • Voltage tester or multimeter
  •  Screwdriver
  •  Needle-nose pliers
  •  Wire strippers (if needed)
  •  Electrical tape (if needed)


  • 15 or 20-amp receptacle

How To Replace An Electrical Outlet In 11 Steps

1. Test The Electrical Outlet

Digital multimeter in hands of electrician measuring voltage in a socket for detecting faults and safety before starting work

There are a few different ways that you can test an electrical outlet to see if it’s working correctly. One way is to use a multimeter or a voltage meter, which are tools that measure electricity.

Another way to test an electrical outlet is to plug in a lamp or other small appliance and turn it on. If the appliance turns on, then the outlet is working properly. However, if the appliance doesn’t turn on, there may be something wrong with the outlet, and you’ll need to replace it.

2. Shut Off The Power At The Breaker Box

Finding the breaker box and shutting off the power is an important step in how to replace an electrical outlet. It will usually be located in a utility room, basement, or garage and will have a main switch on the outside. Once you’ve found it, open the electrical box door and locate the circuit breaker corresponding to the circuit, you’ll be working on. You can usually identify it by the label on the switch or by its position in the breaker box. 

Once you’ve found the right circuit breaker, flip it to the “Off” position. If there is more than one switch controlling power to that particular outlet, make sure all of them are turned off.

3. Test For Power

Test the outlet again to ensure there is no voltage using your voltmeter.

Here’s how to use a voltmeter as part of how to replace an electrical outlet. First, identify the two screws on either side of the outlet. One of these is the “hot” screw, which is connected to the black (or hot) wire. The other is the “neutral” screw, which is connected to the white (or neutral) wire. To test the outlet, you’ll need to touch both leads from the voltmeter to these screws at the same time.

Next, set your voltmeter to the “AC voltage” setting. This will ensure that you’re getting an accurate reading. Then, plug in the voltmeter and touch the leads to the screws on the outlet. You should see a reading of around 120 volts if everything is working properly. 

If you don’t see a reading at all, that means there is no power flowing to the outlet.

If there isn’t, continue your project. If there is, now’s the time to contact an electrician.

4. Remove The Outlet Faceplate

A standard outlet faceplate

Use your screwdriver to unscrew the mounting screws holding the faceplate, also called the cover plate, to the wall. It’s a good idea to have a plastic bag to put the screws and other parts in so they don’t get lost.

5. Extract The Outlet Receptacle

Gently remove the receptacle behind the faceplate, being careful not to touch any of the wires.

6. Examine Wiring Configuration

Electrician examining wiring configuration behind an outlet faceplate

There are three different ways that an outlet can be wired: 

Single Wire Configuration: In this configuration, only one wire will be attached to each screw terminal on the outlet. 

Split Wire Configuration: In this configuration, two wires will be attached to each screw terminal on the outlet. One of these wires will be “hot” (i.e., live), while the other will be “neutral.” 

Ground Wire Configuration: In this configuration, there will be three wires attached to each screw terminal on the outlet. One of these wires will be “hot,” one will be “neutral,” and one will be “ground.”

As far as the meanings of colors go:

The black wire is always hot, meaning that it carries electricity from the breaker box to the outlet. Hot wires should attach to brass-colored screw terminals.

The white wire is neutral, which means it returns electricity back to the breaker box. Neutral wires should attach to silver screw terminals.

The green or bare copper wire is ground, which helps protect against electrical shocks. Ground wires should attach to the green grounding screw on the receptacle.

Be careful! Some outlets can have multiple hot wires.

Taking a picture of the configuration can help you remember what color wires go where. This is also when you can check for any damage to the wires. If there is, you’ll want to contact an electrician.

7. Determine The Outlet Receptacle Amperage

You can usually find this in one of two places.

The first step is to check your breaker box. The breaker box may have a label that tells you the amperage of each circuit. Find the circuit that corresponds to the outlet you’re replacing and note the amperage. This is the maximum amount of power that the outlet can handle.

If there’s no label on the breaker box, or you’re unsure which circuit corresponds to the outlet, you can check the outlet itself. There may be a small metal plate with either 15 or 20 stamped on it. This indicates the maximum amperage that the outlet can handle. 

8. Disconnect Wires From The Old Outlet Receptacle

Detach each wire from its terminal screw. Once you have removed the receptacle, detach each wire from its terminal screw.

When all of the wires are detached, cap each one with a wire nut and twist it clockwise until it’s tight. This will prevent any accidental contact between live wires and will keep your work area safe while you’re completing the rest of your project.

9. Reconnect Wires To The New Outlet Receptacle

Begin by connecting the black (hot) wire to one of the brass screws. Then do the same with the white (neutral) wire and one of the silver screws. Finally, connect the green (ground) wire to the green screw on the back of the outlet. If there are any other wires present, consult your picture from earlier and attach them accordingly.

10. Install The New Outlet Receptacle

Once all of your wires are properly attached, tuck them back into their respective holes and screw the outlet back into place. Finally, replace the faceplate and turn your circuit breaker back on.

11. Restore Power And Test The Outlet

Electrician turning a circuit breaker back on

Turn the circuit breaker back on and plug a lamp or small appliance into the outlet and see if it works. If it does, well done! If not, you’ll want to contact an electrician.

How To Know It’s Time To Replace An Outlet Receptacle

There are a few signs that can tell you it’s time to follow the steps for how to replace an electrical outlet.

One of the most common reasons to replace an outlet receptacle is because it’s simply worn out. Over time, the constant plugging and unplugging of appliances and devices can cause the outlet to loosen, making it difficult to keep a tight connection. If you find yourself having to wiggle a plug around to get it to stay connected, it’s probably time to replace the outlet.

Another sign that an outlet is worn out is if the faceplate is loose or coming off. This is usually caused by constant use over time wearing down the screws and connections, causing the faceplate to become loose.

If you have an outlet that doesn’t work properly, it’s definitely time for a replacement. Outlets can stop working for a number of reasons, but most commonly, it’s because they’re simply old and outdated. If you have an outlet that frequently pops circuit breakers or blows fuses, replace it.

15-amp vs 20-amp Receptacles

15-amp receptacles are the most common type of outlet found in homes. They are typically used for lights, small appliances, and other devices that require less power. 15-amp outlets can be used with 20-amp circuits.

20-amp receptacles are less common than 15-amp receptacles, but they are often used for larger appliances such as air conditioners and clothes dryers. 20-amp outlets can be used with both 15- and 20-amp circuits, but it isn’t advised. You can overload the wires if you plug in an appliance that draws too much power.

GFCI Outlets And Other Variations

The process of how to replace an electrical outlet can vary slightly depending on the outlet. Just make sure each wire is reconnected to its proper spot.

The most common type of outlet is the duplex receptacle, also called a split receptacle, which provides two slots for plugs. These outlets are usually installed in homes and office buildings. 

Another common type of outlet is the ground-fault circuit interrupter (GFCI) outlet. These outlets are required in homes and are designed to protect against electrical shocks. They should be installed in any area where there is potential for moisture, such as kitchens and bathrooms. 

Finally, there are specialized outlets designed for specific appliances, usually larger ones such as air conditioners and clothes dryers. These outlets must be installed or replaced by a qualified electrician. 

Contact Blue Sky Electric For Your Home Electric Needs

Now you know how to replace an electrical outlet!

Whether it’s a breaker panel replacement, generator installation, or another home electrical project, Blue Sky Electric is here to help! Please fill out our contact form today, and let’s talk about your next project.