Replace standard electrical outlets with tamper-resistant outlets for a safer home. They're inexpensive and easy to install.
By the DIY experts of The Family Handyman Magazine
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Install a tamper-resistant outlet
Standard and tamper-resistant outlets
The interior cover on a tamper-resistant outlet opens only when two plug prongs push on it simultaneously.
Test for safety
Turn off the power at the main electrical service panel and remove the outlet. Hold the non-contact voltage detector against each wire in the box to make sure the power is off before removing the old outlet.
The price of tamper-resistant outlets has dropped to about a buck apiece, now that they’re required by electrical code and manufacturers have ramped up production. Replace the outlets in the rooms your kids use the most and get rid of those pesky plastic outlet plugs, which are inconvenient to use, easily lost and a choking hazard. The new tamper-resistant outlets look just like regular outlets but have an interior cover that will open only when the two prongs of a plug are inserted simultaneously. This prevents children from sticking something into one of the slots and getting burned or electrocuted.
According to a 10-year report released by the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, approximately 2,400 children receive emergency room treatment every year for injuries caused by inserting objects into electrical outlets.
Replacing the outlet
Wire the new outlet
CONNECT the new wires to the new outlet: white (neutral) wire to a silver-colored terminal screw; black (hot) wire to a gold-colored terminal screw; bare wire to the green grounding screw. Make sure the cable sheath remains secured inside the box.
Replacing an outlet is simple. Start by turning off the circuit breaker or removing the fuse that controls the outlet at the main service panel. Then, after checking to make sure there’s no power to the outlet, carefully unscrew the outlet and replace it with a tamper-resistant version.
‘Unwiring’ a stab-in receptacle or switch
Release the Clamp
Jam a stripped copper wire, a finishing nail or a paper clip into the opening next to the clamped wire. Leave it in place while you pull the old wire out. Repeat for each stabbed-in wire.
Reconnect to Screw Terminals
Bend a loop in the existing wires and wrap the loop clockwise around the screw terminal. Close the loop with a needle-nose pliers and tighten the screw.
Many receptacles and switches are equipped with spring clamps that trap and hold the copper wire in place. These ‘stab-in’ clamps are great for saving time during installation, but the connections aren’t nearly as reliable as connections made at the screw terminals.
When replacing a stab-in receptacle or switch, most electricians simply cut the wire, strip and bend a loop, and connect it to the screws. But if your wires are too short to risk cutting off even more, here’s how to remove the existing wires from the spring clamps.
CAUTION: Before pulling out the receptacle to do any electrical work, turn off the power and double-check with a voltage sniffer.
Required Tools for this Project
Have the necessary tools for this DIY project lined up before you start—you’ll save time and frustration.
Drill/driver - cordless
Non-contact voltage tester
Required Materials for this Project
Avoid last-minute shopping trips by having all your materials ready ahead of time. Here’s a list.