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Wire This Old House - Part 1

The family and I just recently converted from being renters to owners… and you know what that means? Time to modify! Of course, our budget isn’t as endless as our imagination, so there’s always a compromise. I wanted to start small since I haven’t done much in-home electrical work. Thankfully, there are plenty of YouTube and blog sites out there to help guide me. The first thing I did was a fairly simple one: add USB plugs to the outlets! That’s right. No more ugly wall-worts or worrying about not having too little amperage for the device. I started by hopping over to Amazon.com and ordering a five-pack of these Topgreener USB Outlets. True to the extensive reviews, they were a snap to install.

Nicely packaged with both a screw-in and snap-on wall plate.Nicely packaged with both a screw-in and snap-on wall plate.

First things first, before removing the old outlet cover, shut off the appropriate circuit breaker to stop power from flowing to the outlet. You can safely test it using a multimeter (or anything plugged in that’s really obvious and doesn’t have a battery if you’re not feeling fancy). Next, remove the existing wall plate and outlet. Make a careful note of what wires you see. In most homes, you’ll find a white “hot” wire that carries the power, a black neutral wire that completes the circuit, and an unsheathed or green ground wire.

The gangbox holding all of the wiring can be tight to work in. Take your time.The gangbox holding all of the wiring can be tight to work in. Take your time.

Those screw connectors can be a real pain.Those screw connectors can be a real pain.

Keep in mind that you might have several of each white, black, and neutral wires tied in at that outlet; your household wiring may vary. Just make sure that everything that was tied into the old outlet gets tied into the new outlet. The Topgreener outlets have a nice feature where you can just slide a straight stripped wire end directly into the outlet back, but it’s only got two holes. If you need more, just hook an end around the appropriate screw on the outlet.

...aaaaaand here is the new outlet all wired up.…aaaaaand here is the new outlet all wired up.

At this point, the depending on how many wires you had inside of that gang box, the hardest thing will be cramming everything back in. Take your time and try not to be too rough. You don’t want to accidentally take a chunk out of your drywall or disconnect anything. After the wall plate is installed (or before, if you’re careful), flip the breaker back on and test your outlet. Also, check anything else that might be on that circuit (lights, other outlets) to ensure that all of your connections are complete. Many times various other things may be bridged off of that circuit and even though your outlet may be working, you might have inadvertently disconnected something else.

All done! Yes, it’s upside down. No, this wasn’t intentional. No, it doesn’t matter.All done! Yes, it’s upside down. No, this wasn’t intentional. No, it doesn’t matter.

As you can see, this is a really simple upgrade and keeps down the number of wall-warts. Depending on how many outlets/USB devices you normally need to be plugged in, this can effectively double the available power outlets… and who doesn’t like more power?

<grunts in nerd><grunts in nerd>

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