How to Wire a 120V Outlet


Standard two-prong electrical outlets are wired to a 120-volt circuit in a home's electrical system. This type of outlet, also referred to as a receptacle, is used to power most common home lighting and appliances. Whether you are adding a new outlet to a circuit or simply replacing a damaged or failed receptacle, wiring the new fixture is an easy procedure to complete.

Things You'll Need

  • Circuit tester
  • Standard screwdriver
  • Wire strippers or utility knife
  • Pliers (optional)
  • Turn off the electrical power supply to the outlet's circuit at the main electrical panel. Use a circuit tester to verify there is no electrical current to the circuit wires at the outlet location.

  • Extract the circuit wires from the wall box and separate them. If there are two wires, the outlet is on an independent circuit. If the box contains four wires, two white and two black, then the outlet is part of a series circuit that continues on to link to other outlets or switches on the circuit. In addition, each wiring cable in the box will contain a bare copper ground wire.

  • Strip 1/2 inch of plastic insulation from each of the circuit wires using wire strippers or a utility knife.

  • Wire the outlet fixture. Use needlenose pliers to form a small loop in the ends of the circuit wires. Attach the black wire to either side of the outlet fixture and secure the wire by tightening the screw using a screwdriver. For series circuit installations, connect one black wire to each of the two terminal screws on the same side of the fixture.

  • Repeat Step 4 to connect the white wire or wires to the terminal screws on the opposite side of the outlet.

  • Secure the bare copper ground wire to the green-colored screw at the base of the outlet and secure using a screwdriver.

  • Push the outlet fixture into the wall box and secure the fixture to the box using the two screw bolts provided through the tabs at the top and bottom of the fixture.

  • Secure the outlet cover plate in place with the screw provided to complete the outlet installation.

Tips & Warnings

  • If the outlet is being installed into a series circuit servicing other outlets, remove the small brass snap tab from the side of the outlet between the terminal screws using pliers to insure continuity of the circuit.

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