How to Repair an Electrical Socket
Over time, the electrical sockets in your home will grow old, wear out, and need to be replaced. It’s usually pretty easy to tell when this is the case:
- Plugs sit loosely in the holes, falling out with even the slightest touch or refusing to stay in at all
- The plug is making a strange humming noise
- The plug feels warm
- Plugging anything in to that socket makes a breaker trip
If you’re dealing with any of these issues, a plug replacement is probably in order. However, while this is a pretty simple electrical service, it’s still something you can’t afford to attempt on your own. Having a professional take care of this task for you is strongly advised because not only does it make the repair safer, but it also ensures that it’ll be done the first time and you won’t be accidentally missing a potentially more serious problem that a trained professional may be able to catch.
Here is a brief description of how to replace a light socket.
Shut Off Power
The first step is to shut off the power to a particular socket. Plug a lamp or other device into it and turn it on, then find your circuit breaker either in your garage, in a closet, or outside your home and flip the switch you believe controls that particular plug. When the light or device turns off, you’ll know you have found the right one.
Remove the Socket
Next, use a screwdriver to remove the socket cover from the wall and pull it off, exposing the socket’s mounting hardware. Use a screwdriver to remove the screws holding it in place and pull the socket away from the wall, exposing the wires running to it. Do not touch these wires!
At this point, it’s a good idea to test the socket one more time to make sure no power is flowing through it. Using a voltmeter set to 120v AC power, place the red probe on the screw that’s attached to the black, red, or blue hot wire and touch the black probe to the screw that’s connected to the white neutral wire. DO NOT touch either of these probes to the unshielded or green ground wire, if your socket has one. Your voltmeter should read zero volts. If it doesn’t, shut off the correct power switch at your circuit breaker.
Remove the Socket
Now that you’re positive no electricity is flowing through that particular circuit, use a screwdriver to loosen the screws that are holding the wires to the leads on your socket. This should allow the wires to pop out or unhook from the socket. Inspect the condition of the wires—if they look old, dark, or oxidized, trim them back and use wire strippers to remove the shielding around a new length of wire.
Install the New Socket
Your new socket should clearly label which screws are for the hot and neutral wires. Attach the exposed copper wire from the black/red/blue hot wire to the hot lead on your circuit and tighten it down with the screw. Do the same for your white neutral wire. Then tuck the wires safely along the side of the circuit so they cannot short on any screws connected to your walls or any part of the inside of your wall. Then screw the new socket into the wall.
Check Your New Socket
Plug a lamp or other device into your wall socket and flip the switch on your circuit breaker panel back on. If everything was done correctly, the light should turn on. At this point you can re-install the face plate and your socket is ready to go!
As you can see, this is a simple process, but also presents a fair amount of risk and even some specialized skills. It’s strongly advised you leave these jobs to a skilled Fayetteville or Raleigh electrician who has the training and tools to ensure that not only is the job done correctly, but make sure that you’re not dealing with an even bigger problem that could still be dangerous to your home.