If you have an older outlet that has receptacles that are so loose and worn that a plug falls out after you insert it, or if you hear an occasional crackling noise when you plug in an electrical appliance, you must replace the outlet as soon as possible.
Although the problem may be just a wire that has come loose over time, you could be placing yourself, your family, and your home at risk of electric shock or a house fire.
Simple electrical repair work is not dangerous if you are vigilant in following the basic safety rules of working with electricity.
What do you need to replace an outlet?
All you really need is an outlet and both a flat-head and a Philips-head screwdriver. You may choose to replace the face plate that fits over your old outlet while you're changing the outlet, especially if the face plate looks old and dingy or if the surrounding decor has changed.
Preparing to remove the old outlet
Before you begin any type of electrical repairs, you must cut off the power to the component that you want to repair or replace. This is extremely important because you face the risk of electric shock or death if you work on a powered component.
You can accomplish this by turning off the circuit breaker that controls the flow of power from the breaker box to the outlet. There should be a list on the inside of the breaker-box door that details the area of the home that each breaker controls.
If the list is incomplete, or if you don't trust its veracity, simply plug a working appliance into the outlet and switch off each individual breaker until the appliance shuts off. You will then be sure that you have cut the power to the outlet.
Removing the old outlet
Begin by removing the center screw of the face plate and pulling it away from the outlet. Next, you will loosen the two screws that secure the outlet to the box inside the wall. When the screws are loosened fully, pull the outlet from the wall and let it hang by the wires.
You will then disconnect the wires by loosening the terminal screws that secure them to the sides of the outlet. If two sets of three wires are present, this indicates that the outlet is in the middle of a circuit line. If this is the case, keep the sets of wires separated after disconnecting them.
Installing the new outlet
If only one set of three wires was attached to the old outlet, you will loop the black wire under the top brass terminal screw on the side of the outlet and then tighten the screw to secure the wire.
Connect the white wire to the top silver terminal in the same manner and then connect the green or copper wire to the green terminal screw at the top of the outlet.
If a second set of wires were present, connect the black wire to the bottom brass terminal, the white wire to the bottom silver terminal, and the green or copper wire to the single green terminal with the first wire (they can share the grounding terminal).
Push the outlet into the box inside the wall, secure it with the two included screws, and replace the face plate. Turn on the breaker, and then the job will be complete.
Replace any other loose or noisy outlets in the home in the same manner. The only snap, crackle, and pop you hear in your home should come from your breakfast cereal, not your electrical components.