How to Wire a Plug Outlet


Electricity is vital to modern homes, but it can be dangerous. Working on electrical fixtures requires caution and a basic knowledge of electricity. Modern house wiring has three elements: a black "hot" wire, which carries the current from the main entry panel, a white "neutral" wire, which returns it to the source, and a bare copper ground wire, which diverts current to the ground in case of a short circuit. Electricity must return to its source or the ground. If you interrupt that path by touching both hot and neutral wires, you will complete the circuit and you will get shocked.

Things You'll Need

  • Circuit tester
  • Plug
  • Screwdriver
  • Turn off power at the main circuit breaker panel (or fuse box in some older homes). This is the point at which power enters the house from the main utility line. A panel has a breaker, or switch, for every circuit in the house and the installing electrician should have labeled breakers to indicate what circuits they control. If there are no labels or you are not sure which circuits are controlled by which breaker, throw the main breaker switch to shuts off all power to the house.

  • Test the wires where the plug will be installed; use a tester, which has two wires with metal prongs at the end, with the wires connected to a light. Touch the black and white wires with the prongs; if the light turns on, the circuit still is live; if not, the power is off. Look for three wires at the outlet box, which should be fastened to a wall stud or similar point. Wires should be capped with plastic wire nuts, which screw onto the wires.

  • Identify the connection points on the plug; there should be five screws, two brass on one side of the plug, two silver on the other side and one green. Loosen one brass and one silver screw and the green screw. Use needle-nose pliers to bend a hook in the ends of each of the wires, which should have insulation stripped 1/2 to 3/4 of an inch to expose bare copper. Work one wire at a time and leave the caps on the other wires.

  • Put the black wire under the brass screw with the hook point on the right side and tighten the screw. Repeat the process with the white wire on the silver screw, then put the bare copper ground wire on the green screw. Set the outlet in the metal or plastic box in the wall and fasten it with screws at the top and bottom, which fit into holes in the box. Test the outlet by restoring the breaker and plugging in the circuit tester. If the plug works, put on the cover plate, which will fasten either with a single screw in the center or screws at the top and bottom, depending on the plug style.

Tips & Warnings

  • Never work on a live circuit. If you cannot be sure the circuit is off, or if there is any indication of current after the breaker is tripped, call an electrician.

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