How To Replace A Defective Outdoor Electrical Outlet
The end of summer brings cooler temperatures that are perfect for outdoor electrical repair work. It's bad enough to hang holiday lights in the wind and cold of early winter, so don't wait to replace the old outlet that gave you trouble during the last holiday season.
What type of outlet do you need for outdoor use?
Any type of wet or damp area requires a GFCI (Ground Fault Circuit Interrupter) outlet. This type of outlet detects subtle changes in current caused by improper grounding and automatically shuts off power to the outlet. Water is a conductor of electricity, so wet conditions create dangers of electric shock or electrocution.
A GFCI outlet has a reset switch in the center between the two receptacles, but the reset switch will not restore power until the danger has passed and proper grounding is restored.
If your old GFCI outlet only shuts off when using a specific electrical appliance, then it is likely the appliance, not the outlet, that is defective. You may have a string of lights or a holiday decoration that has bare wire exposed, and when the bare wire touches a conductive material such as metal, it causes grounding to become compromised. Any defective appliance must be examined and repaired or discarded before further use.
However, if the old outlet has simply gotten worn, and the receptacle slots are loose, or the reset button has been used as as on/off switch (bad practice) and is worn out, you need to replace the outlet.
Removing the old GFCI outlet
You will first need to shut off the power to the outlet by turning off the circuit breaker that controls the flow of power to the outlet. Electricians perform this step instinctively, because they are aware of the power and danger of electricity. This is the most important step in the process, so don't forget to turn off the power. Your life may depend on it.
When the power is shut off, pull the open face plate that surrounds the outlet from the sub-plate that holds it in place. You will then remove the two screws that hold the outlet inside the metal or plastic gang box.
Pull the outlet away from the gang box and loosen the terminal screws that connect the wires to the sides of the outlet.
Installing the new GFCI outlet
Loosen the terminal screws on the sides of the new outlet, then remove the sub-plate from the old outlet, and place it around the edges of the new outlet. You will then begin to connect the wires to the top "load" section of the new outlet.
Connect the black wire to the top brass screw terminal by looping the wire behind the screw. Connect the white wire to the top silver terminal and the green nor copper wire to the single green grounding terminal in the same manner. Tighten all screws securely.
Push the new outlet into the gang box and tighten the two screws that hold it in place, then push the open face plate onto the sub-plate until it clicks into place.
Push in the reset button, turn on the circuit breaker, and your GFCI outlet is ready for the holidays. For more information, contact RDS Electric or a similar company.