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Old 09-12-2006, 10:12 AM   #1
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Loose electrical outlets


The home we just moved into has loose electrical outlets. If you plug something in, it will fall back out. Almost all outlets are like that with a few exceptions.

1. How come? I thought outlets were pretty standarized.
2. Easy enough for me to replace?

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Old 09-12-2006, 10:26 AM   #2
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Loose electrical outlets


I'm not an electrician, just a DIYer, but it sounds like you just need to replace the old worn receptacles.
Assuming that these are grounded circuits, you need to get the 3-hole receptacles. If the circuits are not grounded, you need to get 2-hole receptacles.
Turn off each circuit at the electrical panel, and connect the black (hot) wires to the brass screws on the receptacles, the white (neutral) wires to the silver screws, and the bare ground wires to the green ground screws on the receptacle and the boxes (if metal).
You should be able to connect them exactly like the old ones for everything to work properly.
Use an electrical tester voltage meter for safety checks before touching any wires.
Good Luck!
Mike

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Old 09-12-2006, 02:42 PM   #3
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Mike had some great tips. Another thing you may want to consider is purchasing an outlet tester. Its a small plug in tester with indicator lights that light up, and it will tell you if the outlet is wired correctly or what is incorrect.

In my house i found a few junction boxes where someone thought they knew what they were doing and the hot's and neutral's were crossed. Either the person was blind, Color blind, or just licked matching black to white, instead of keeping the colors together.

Bottom line is that if its an older house, who knows what was done, and the tester is an inexpensive, quick, easy way to make sure your wiring is done properly.

Last edited by stagger19; 09-12-2006 at 03:05 PM.
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Old 09-12-2006, 03:32 PM   #4
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Originally Posted by stagger19 View Post
Mike had some great tips. Another thing you may want to consider is purchasing an outlet tester. Its a small plug in tester with indicator lights that light up, and it will tell you if the outlet is wired correctly or what is incorrect.

In my house i found a few junction boxes where someone thought they knew what they were doing and the hot's and neutral's were crossed. Either the person was blind, Color blind, or just licked matching black to white, instead of keeping the colors together.

Bottom line is that if its an older house, who knows what was done, and the tester is an inexpensive, quick, easy way to make sure your wiring is done properly.

What happened as a result of the hot wires being tied to the neutral wires.
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Old 09-12-2006, 03:39 PM   #5
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Loose electrical outlets


1) This is evidently not uncommon, although I’m surprised to see it affect so much of the house (even assuming the house was wired with really cheap outlets, I will think it would only affect those used the most). I’ve even seen devices for sale, similar to spring scale, where you measure the force needed to pull of plug from a receptacle (not that I’ve ever seen anyone use them; just replace them if they cause a problem). In higher current applications I’ve even seen such a loose receptacle result in overheating of the plug.
2) Pay attention to whether you have any light switches that control half of a receptacle. If you do you’ll have to remove a metal tab to separate the top and bottom halves of the new receptacle, and pay attention to which wires go to the top or bottom outlet.
3) Even if the current outlets are three pronged, check to make sure that the ground is actually connected. For that matter, I’ve seen two pronged outlet in boxes to which a working ground had been run, and could easily be replaced with three pronged ones. Stagger19’s suggestion of picking up an outlet tester (they’re dirt cheap) as I have seen many reversed hots/neutrals. Even by supposedly professional electricians.
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Old 09-12-2006, 04:14 PM   #6
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Yeah, I too thought it was interesting that the whole house had worn outlets, but I guess the former owners were probably wigglers!
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Old 09-12-2006, 04:21 PM   #7
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Thanks for all the great replies.

It is quite surprising. Almost all outlets are loose. So this can happen just from "normal" wear and tear?

The house was built in 1986 and everything else is in excellent condition.
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Old 09-12-2006, 04:39 PM   #8
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WOW, 1986? that IS surprising. All I can think is that either the former owners wiggled the hell out of plugs to get them out of the outlets, or that the house was built with a bad batch of receptacles. Or both.
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Old 09-12-2006, 04:39 PM   #9
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Although it isn't too likely, it certainly is possible for a 20-year-old home to have many worn receptacles.
The plug-in receptacle tester is better than the voltage meter, as it tells you instantly if all is ok or what the wiring problem is.
Some good points added by all.
Just for a point-of-interest, you can install 2-prong outlets on a grounded circuit (but why? duh), but you should never install 3-prong outlets on an ungrounded circuit.
Mike
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Old 09-12-2006, 05:11 PM   #10
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Originally Posted by Mike Swearingen View Post
Just for a point-of-interest, you can install 2-prong outlets on a grounded circuit (but why? duh), but you should never install 3-prong outlets on an ungrounded circuit.
Mike
The one exception being installing a GFCI outlet and affixing the "Equipment Ground Not Present" sticker.


The source of the problem still bugs me. What fraction of the outlets on a normal house are actually used regularly? Espically if you don't count items are plugged in, and left plugged in? Very werid.
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Old 09-12-2006, 05:38 PM   #11
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Loose electrical outlets


It could have been a bad lot of receptacles.
I must say, many devices from the 80's were cheap crap.
Even today's "cheap" receptacles are MUCH better than thier 80's equivalent.
I use regular grade receptacles quite often and find them very good, even long term. The are made much better than they used to and they have a powerful grip.
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Old 09-14-2006, 01:30 PM   #12
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Loose electrical outlets


Exactly the same problem as OP has. Our house is 17 years old and almost ALL of the outlets are loosing. geeze... cannot believe my eyes.

I'll replace all the receptacles. But the question is, which brand is better?

Lowes has this onsale:
Aspire™ 15-Amp Receptacle for only $2.85
but the similar part Aspire™ 15-Amp Receptacle GFCI costs $13.61.
what gives?

Any suggestions on the brand??

Thanks in advance!
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Old 09-14-2006, 04:57 PM   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by yan54188 View Post
Lowes has this onsale:
Aspire™ 15-Amp Receptacle for only $2.85
but the similar part Aspire™ 15-Amp Receptacle GFCI costs $13.61.
what gives?
What gives? One is a GFI and one is a regular receptacle. BIG difference.

I happen to really like Cooper devices. Leviton is fine but I prefer Cooper.
Some like to use spec-grade receptacles which are 2-3 time the cost of standard residential devices since they are very heavy duty. In a home I really do not see the need. Newer devices are made very well and do last a very long time.
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Old 09-14-2006, 07:37 PM   #14
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Loose electrical outlets


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Originally Posted by travishume View Post
The home we just moved into has loose electrical outlets. If you plug something in, it will fall back out. Almost all outlets are like that with a few exceptions.

1. How come? I thought outlets were pretty standarized.
2. Easy enough for me to replace?
This is the problem that brought about the AFCI (arc fault circuit interupter). These types of receptacles are code in bedrooms. Don't know why "bedroom" receptacles are considered to be the only unsafe ones in the house that need AFCI's
Speedy Petey...could you fill me in?
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Old 09-14-2006, 09:12 PM   #15
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Loose electrical outlets


So far there are no AFCI devices or receptacles, only breakers, which is fine as the NEC states the branch circuit must be protected, not simply the outlets.

Here is a good read:

The definition of arc-fault circuit interrupter given in 210.12(A) explains its function. The basic objective is to de-energize the branch circuit when an arc fault is detected.
Arc-fault circuit interrupters are evaluated in UL 1699, Standard for Arc-Fault Circuit-Interrupters, using testing methods that create or simulate arcing conditions to determine the product's ability to detect and interrupt arcing faults. These devices are also tested to verify that arc detection is not unduly inhibited by the presence of loads and circuit characteristics that may mask the hazardous arcing condition. In addition, these devices are evaluated to determine resistance to unwanted tripping due to the presence of arcing that occurs in control and utilization equipment under normal operating conditions or to a loading condition that closely mimics an arcing fault, such as a solid-state electronic ballast or a dimmed load.
UL 1699 is the standard covering arc-fault devices that have a maximum rating of 20 amperes intended for use in 120-volt ac, 60-Hz circuits. These devices may also have the capability to perform other functions such as overcurrent protection, ground-fault circuit interruption, and surge suppression. UL 1699 currently recognizes five types of arc-fault circuit interrupters: branch/feeder AFCI, combination AFCI, cord AFCI, outlet AFCI, and portable AFCI.
Placement of the device in the circuit and a review of the UL guide information must be considered when complying with 210.12. The NEC is clear that the objective is to provide protection of the entire branch circuit. (See Article 100 for the definition of branch circuit.) For instance, a cord AFCI cannot be used to comply with the requirement of 210.12 to protect the entire branch circuit.
The type of AFCI required to comply with 210.12(B) is the subject of a revision in the 2005 Code. To expand the level of AFCI protection for cord sets that are plugged into receptacles supplied by AFCI-protected branch circuits, the use of combination-type AFCI devices is now required. However, mandatory use of only combination-type AFCI devices to comply with 210.12(B) becomes effective January 1, 2008. Until that effective date, the use of either a combination-type or a branch/feeder-type AFCI device meets the requirement of 210.12(B). In addition to the revised type of AFCI protection required, the location of where the AFCI device is to be located in the circuit now provides a new option. Because the protection requirement is for the entire branch circuit, location of the device at the point the branch circuit originates (service or feeder panelboard or similar distribution equipment) has been and continues to be the main requirement. However, the new exception permits the AFCI device to be located in close vicinity to the point of origin as long as the branch-circuit conductors that are not AFCI protected do not exceed 6 ft in length and the portion of the circuit between the point of origin and the AFCI location is installed in a metal raceway or a metallic-sheathed cable.
Section 210.12(B) requires that AFCI protection be provided for all 15- and 20-ampere 120-volt branch circuits that supply outlets (including receptacle, lighting, and other outlets; see definition of outlet in Article 100) in dwelling unit bedrooms regardless of whether the circuit supplies only outlets in the bedroom(s) or supplies outlets in the bedroom and other areas of the dwelling. Because circuits are often shared between a bedroom and other areas such as closets and hallways, providing AFCI protection on the complete circuit would comply with 210.12. There is no prohibition against using AFCI protection on other circuits or in locations other than bedrooms.

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