How to Install a New Electrical Outlet

Suggestions about placement and where to find power for the outlet.

The need for an additional electrical outlet is a common household problem. It is often compensated for by running multiple extension cords or power strips. Other times, the remedy becomes one of those 4 or 6 outlet plug ins that turn two outlets into several. Since electrical outlets are only rated to carry up to a given number of amps, either of these solutions can be a recipe for a house fire. Even if you plan to put the additional outlet on an existing circuit, it will be safer than simply putting too much on a single outlet. It is better if you can run a new circuit or find one with less of an existing load.

No matter what direction that you choose for installing the new electrical outlet, you have to locate a source of power for it to use. The easiest route is to find a nearby outlet and tap into it. This will give you an easy power source and possibly a simple wiring job if you do not need the new outlet too far away. If the current outlets in the room are already overtaxed, you will need to locate a better choice from which to pull power.

If you are near the electric breaker panel, the best choice is simply to open the panel and run a new line and add a breaker. Make sure that you turn off the main breakers to the panel before removing the cover. Buy a breaker to match the others in the panel. Using 10 or 12 guage with three wires, attach the black wire to the new breaker, the white wire to the ground strip along the side or bottom of the panel, and the bare ground to the ground strip.

After attaching the breaker in the box, run the wire (through conduit if required by local code) to where you want the outlet. Install an outlet box and wire up the new outlet. Replace the cover on the breaker panel. Attach the cover over the outlet, and it should be ready after you turn the main breakers and the new breakers on.

You can follow the same procedure for a long wire run from the panel to a new outlet, but it can be a lot of trouble if you have to go under the house or through the attic. You will also have to thread the wire down the wall and into the new outlet box. Most of the time for this type of run, find an outlet in an adjoining room and run a short wire through the wall to the new box to install the outlet.

To install the outlet box, buy an “old construction” box. This is the kind with the ears that you can manipulate with a screw to hook it behind drywall to anchor it. Once you have cut the hole for the box, it takes about a minute to install the box if the wire is there ready to pull inside of it.

The outlet itself is relatively easy to install. Using the three wires, strip about 1/2 inch of insulation from the white and black wires. Push the ends of these wire into the holes on the outlet and tighten the screws. Attach the bare ground to the screw on the side of the outlet. Screw the outlet to the box with all wires behind it. Screw the cover to the outlet, and the job is finished.

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