Outlet Receptacle Defective

Problem: Outlet won’t work, sparks, does not receive prongs on plug, or does not grip plugs.

Background: Most homeowners should not have any problem replacing a common-wall electrical receptacle (sometimes called a “duplex” receptacle) if safety precautions are taken and the new receptacle is the same as the one replaced. The receptacle may also be the 3-hole type in stalled where heavy appliances and tools are used, a protected outlet with a spring-loaded cover that springs back over the openings, or it may be a receptacle-switch combination. Older receptacles with 2 slots can be updated to 3-prong types if grounding can be provided; if not, call an electrician for advice.

What to do: The procedure of re placing a receptacle is similar to that of replacing a light switch. Make certain the power is off, then remove the cover plate. Pull the old receptacle out and note the position of the wires. Unscrew the terminals so the wires can be removed, then install in the same way on the new receptacle. Hook the wire loops so they are clockwise under the terminals on the new receptacle. Reinstall the receptacle in the electrical box, turn on the power and test to see if it is working.

Special advice: Newer polarized outlets have one wide slot and one narrow slot to accept the wide and narrow slots of polarized plugs. The National Electrical Code requires home wiring to be identifiable by color code. Neutral wires are white; live wires are colored, usually black.
Polarized outlets and plugs continue this identification, assuring that the live wire is connected to the incoming side of the switch in an appliance. The wide slot is connected to the neutral (white) wire in the sys tem. In polarized lamp and appliance leads and extension cords, the neutral (white) wire may be ribbed for identification. Non-polarized, 2- wire plugs can be used with a polarized outlet, though the polarization continuity will not be assured.

Helpful hint: Note that all grounding (3-wire) plugs are polarized since the position of the prongs is determined by the third prong. To double-check a new receptacle, you can buy an inexpensive circuit tester. It will indicate if ground, neutral, or hot wires are properly connected, and whether the hot and ground wires are reversed, or whether the hot and neutral wires are reversed. They are usually avail able where electrical parts are sold.