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10 Things You Didn't Know About Outlets

  1. The tab located between the two screw terminals of an electrical outlet can be used to separate the top receptacle from the bottom receptacle, creating a "switched outlet" where a wall switch controls which receptacle is powered.
  2. Speed wiring is a common method of installing an outlet, but it is not recommended as it only works with 14 gauge solid core wire and does not use the screw terminals for stability.
  3. The screw terminals are not associated with holding the wire in place when using speed wiring, it is held in place by the tab in the hole.
  4. Speed wiring is a one-time use feature, once the wire is removed it should not be used again for speed wiring, as it may result in loose connection due to deformation of tab that holds the wire in place.
  5. Alternative methods such as back wiring, where a straight strand of conductor wire is used, is a recommended way to wire an outlet.
  6. Speed wiring is a feature that is called different things by different brands
  7. To confirm if the wire is 14 gauge, use the nickel and dime trick by comparing the thickness of a dime to the wire. If it matches, the wire is 14 gauge, if it matches with a nickel, the wire is 12 gauge.
  8. Leave the screw terminal tighten even if you are not using speed wiring because it will help to prevent any loose connections.
  9. Speed wiring can be removed by inserting a screwdriver in the slot and remove the wire.
  10. Use speed wiring only once because it can deform the tab in the hole, that is holding the wire, resulting in a loose connection.

To change a light switch, follow these steps:

  1. Use CircuitIQ app to quickly identify breaker powering lights in room you would like to work in.
  2. Turn off the power to the light switch at the main circuit breaker box. Mark the breaker switch with tape to ensure no one else turns it back on while you’re working. Confirm that you’ve turned off power to the correct light switch by flipping the wall switch on and off.

  3. Remove the old wall plate by unscrewing it. Use a utility knife to score around it and loosen it if it has been painted over.

  4. Before continuing any further, check again to make sure that the power is off to the switch by using a circuit tester. Make sure the old wires are in good condition and that you understand their configuration. If you’re unsure how the wires are marked, call an electrician.

  5. Disconnect the old switch by removing the screws. Carefully remove the switch and attached wires. There are three types of wires that run to most switches: black wires that go to black or brass screws, copper or green ground wires attached to green or copper screws and neutral white wires. Unscrew all wires. If the wires are attached using push-in connectors, use a screwdriver to release them.

  6. Attach the new wires to the new switch in the same configuration as you removed them. Make sure the new wall plate fits and that the switch is oriented so that it's downward in the off position. Replace any wire connectors if needed.

  7. Screw the new switch back into the switch box. Before replacing the wall plate, flip the breaker box switch back on to make sure everything works. If it does, turn the breaker box switch off again and attach the plate. Turn the breaker box back on a final time and you’re ready to use your new switch.