Jun 21, 2023

Home Maintenance

The Inside Scoop on Electrical Outlets

Ready to amp up your outlet knowledge? We've got the plug on everything from safety measures to replacement tips.

Electrical outlets are an essential part of our everyday lives, providing power to various devices and appliances — curling irons, televisions, phone chargers, you name it!

In Canada, our standard electrical outlets are designed to meet specific safety standards and accommodate the electrical needs of households. You might not have given much thought to your household outlets… until you’re faced with the challenge of replacing one!

Let’s explore the main types, safety features, proper usage, and a step-by-step guide on replacing an electrical outlet (or having a Rümi expert do it for you)!

Types of outlets

The two main types of electrical outlets you’ll commonly see in your home are the “Type A” and “Type B” outlets. Type A outlets have two flat parallel pins, while Type B outlets have two flat parallel pins and a grounding pin below (the grounding pin is what makes your electrical outlet look like a little shocked face, 😦). Type B outlets are more common, and considered safer because of the inclusion of the grounding pin, which helps with reducing the risk of electrical shock.

In newer homes, the majority of your outlets will be GFCI, which stands for Ground-Fault Circuit Interrupters. They look like regular three-pronged outlets, but they are actually mini circuit breakers that can shut off current to an outlet in as fast as 1/40 of a second. You can tell the difference by the “reset” and “test” buttons between the prong sets. These buttons allow you to test that the outlet is outputting electricity, and also reset the outlet in the event that it is overloaded or shut off. They’re most often seen in areas where plugs could get wet – like in the kitchen.

Safety first

Canadians (and Rümi) love safety! So it’s no surprise that our electrical outlets are standardized and designed to prioritize just that. Most modern outlets incorporate built-in shutters to prevent accidental insertion of foreign objects, grounding connections to reduce electrical shock hazards, and circuit breakers to prevent a surge or overloading.

While it is great to have all of those built-in features, it is still crucial to practice proper safety measures when using electrical outlets in your home! Here are a few to keep top of mind:

1. Regularly inspect outlets

Check for any signs of damage, such as cracked covers or loose connections. If you notice any issues, replace or repair the outlet as soon as possible.

2. Outdoor electrical outlets

Outdoor outlets must be weatherproof and have GFCI protection. These outlets are designed to withstand moisture and prevent electric shocks. The same goes for outlets in your bathroom and kitchen, or any other areas of your home that may experience prolonged moisture exposure.

3. Avoid overloading outlets

Do not plug in too many devices into a single outlet or use extension cords excessively. Do your best to distribute the load evenly among multiple outlets, or use power strips with built-in surge protection.

4. Protect your devices

A lightning strike to a nearby power line may trigger a surge to enter your home, or something as simple as turning on the vacuum cleaner can trigger a surge as well. Every home in Alberta has expensive electronic equipment inside like water heaters, refrigerators, entertainment equipment, etc. All of these items are vulnerable to power surges, whether they are on or off — but you can protect them with surge protectors and the correct outlets.

5. Childproof outlets

If you have little ones, use childproof outlet covers or tamper-resistant outlets in your home to prevent accidents and electrical hazards.

How many is too many?

The Canadian Electrical Code recommends a minimum of one electrical outlet per room. However, it is common practice to have multiple outlets in larger rooms or areas where more electrical devices are expected to be used — so basically every room in your home! While there is no strict rule, most builders operate on the standard of spacing outlets every six to eight feet, which is generally recommended for convenience and prevention of overloading a singular outlet.

Out with the old, in with the new

If you find an outlet in your home that is non-operational, or you’d like to replace or move an outlet to a new location, our Rümi pros would be happy to help! We can come to install new GFCI outlets or any type of electrical outlet (even the fancy ones with USB ports). We can also move an existing outlet to accommodate renovations or new furniture. But, if you’re in the spirit for a DIY, here’s how to replace an electrical outlet safely:

1. Turn off the power first

Head to your main panel and locate the circuit breaker that controls the outlet you're trying to replace. Turn it to the off position in order to cut off the electricity supply.  

2. Remove the outlet cover

Unscrew the cover plate and set it aside. Take out the screws holding the outlet to the electrical box.

3. Disconnect the wires

Carefully disconnect the wires from the old outlet, noting their positions and colours for the installation of the new outlet. The wires are typically attached using screws or push-in connections.

4. Connect the new outlet

Connect the wires to the corresponding terminals on the new outlet. Ensure a secure connection by tightening the screws.

5. Secure the outlet

Attach the new outlet to the electrical box using the screws provided. Make sure it sits flush with the wall.

6. Test the outlet

Once you are certain the wires and the outlet is secure, turn the power back on from the circuit breaker and use a voltage tester to verify that the outlet is receiving power.

When to call in a pro

You can ensure the safe and efficient use of electrical outlets in your own home. By practicing proper safety measures and knowing how to replace an outlet, you can safely handle everyday outlet issues.

If you run into any issues along the way, leave the breaker off and be sure to call a Rümi service expert. We’ll help you get the job done in a safe and timely manner!

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