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Replacing Outlets

If you have an outlet that fails to power appliances that work in other receptacles, first determine if you have a short circuit. If the circuitry seems fine and something as simple as a loose wire isn't responsible, you may need to replace the outlet itself.

Receptacles can be either the non-grounding variety (one that will accommodate two-pronged plugs only) or the grounding type (will accept three prongs). Grounding outlets are more convenient and are a good replacement for the older, non-grounding type, if your home's wiring will allow it.

The way to know if installing a grounding outlet is kosher is to disable the power, remove the cover plate and test the outlet to make sure the power is off. Unscrew the anchor screws holding the receptacle in the outlet box and gently pull it forward. If you see a wire that is either green or naked, the outlet box is grounded and will accept a grounding outlet. If not, you must replace the non-grounding receptacle with an identical one. If you want to change the outlet from non-grounding to grounding, it is time to call an electrician, who can make the alteration for you, usually fairly inexpensively.