How To Replace An Old Outdoor Electrical Outlet

Posted on: 24 April 2017

As warm weather approaches, you are reminded of all of the yard work that you need to do to put your yard in order for the season.

Many of these tasks require a safe and reliable power source, and a long extension cord doesn't exactly meet the "safe" criteria.

You know that your outdoor electrical outlet needs to be replaced, either because of safety concerns such as sparking, or occasional incidents when you plug in an appliance and nothing happens.

Luckily, you don't need to be a home electrician to change your exterior outlet. However, you do need to respect the power of electricity and the dangers of carelessness or inattentiveness in electrical work.

What do you need to change an outdoor outlet?

A new GFCI outlet

While your current outlet is likely a GFCI (Ground Fault Circuit Interrupter) model, if it is a standard outlet, you absolutely must replace it with a GFCI outlet.

A GFCI outlet is used in potentially wet or damp locations, such as outdoors, to detect improper grounding and possible danger of electric shock or electrocution.

If dangerous conditions are present, the outlet shuts down until the situation is resolved. Power can not be restored until safe conditions are restored.

If you have a standard outlet, you will also need to replace the cover plate that protects and conceals it, because a GFCI outlet has both a reset and test button in the center, so the cover plate must be a completely open frame.

Philips head screwdriver

Removing the old outlet

You will need to turn off the circuit breaker that controls the flow of power to the outlet before you begin. This is extremely important. You must never perform work on a powered electrical component.

When you have shut off the breaker, you will begin by removing the upper and lower screws that hold the old GFCI outlet and cover plate in place.

If you are replacing a standard outlet, remove the center screw of the cover plate, then the two securing screws of the outlet. Pull the outlet out of the gang box attached to the wall.

Disconnect the three wires from the outlet by loosening the terminal screws, then remove the outlet.

Connecting the GFCI outlet

You will connect the three wires to the top "line" section of the GFCI outlet. Loop the black wire around the top brass terminal screw in a clockwise direction and tighten the screw securely.

Loop the white wire in the same manner around the top silver screw, and the green wire at the single green terminal on top of the outlet.

Push the outlet into the gang box on the wall, and place the open face plate so that the two mounting holes line up with the holes in the outlet, then insert the screws and tighten them to secure both the GFCI outlet and the face plate to the gang box.

Turn on the circuit breaker, push in the reset button on the outlet, and you're ready for your yard work.

For more information on safety measures and concerns, contact your home electrician.