Want to rotate outlet

Old 11-17-05, 02:52 PM
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Question Want to rotate outlet

Just moved into a new place. The electrical outlets are upside-down (with ground holes on top). Not a serious problem, but rather annoying with certain items plugging in.

I thought I'd look for some instructions online before proceeding on my own. The only idea I have so far is, turn off the breakers. Beyond that it's going to be best guess territory.
Old 11-17-05, 03:02 PM
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Piece of cake. Shut off the breaker, test the wires, pull the receptacle out of the box without disconnecting any wires, pull it out far enough to fully extend the wires, turn the receptacle upside down, manipulate the wires with your fingers so that they will fold up neatly when you push the receptacle back in, push the receptacle back in, and reattach. If the wires seem to get hopelessly tangled when you flip the receptacle, then disconnect them from the receptacle, untangle them, and put them back exactly where you took them off.

You might take advantage of this opportunity to move any backstab connections (wires poked into holes) to the adjacent screw (only if there is not already a wire on the adjacent screw). Backstab connections are not as reliable as the screw connections.
Old 11-17-05, 03:15 PM
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The receptacles are not upside down. There is no code that dictates which end is up.

To switch them around so that the other side is up is not very difficult.

You are correct that the breaker needs to be turned off. Even after turning off the breaker, you want to test that power is really off. You can do this with a plug in tester (which you should probably have anyway) or with a plug in light or radio. You may want to turn the main breaker off as a guarantee that there is no power.

Remove the cover plate and unscrew the two screws that hold the receptacle in place.

With the screws out, gently pull the receptacle away from the wall. Be careful doing this as there may be paint and or joint compound that will pull away with the receptacle. You want to be careful that you don;t damage the walls.

Before removing any wires, take detailed notes as to which wires are connected to which screws. The screws on one side will be gold colored, the screws on the other side will be silver. The ground screw will be green. It is especially important to take notes if one or more wires is red (instead of black white and bare) and/or if the receptacle is controlled by a switch.

You will probably have to remove the wires, rotate the receptacle and then reinstall the wires. You may get lucky and there will be just three wires to the receptacle (black white and bare). If this is so then you may be able to simply rotate the receptacle 180 degrees and reinstall it.

Make sure when you reinstall it that the wires go to the same screw that they originally went to. Wires need to be wrapped clockwise around the screw. Generally speaking, black wires go to the gold terminals, white wires to the silver terminals. However, this is not always true if a switch is involved.

When reinstalling the receptacles, do not tighten the screws all the way. If there are ears on the receptacle they should catch the wallboard and hold the receptacle in place. If you over tighten you will bend the metal and the cover plate won't attach flush.

When you go to remove the wires, if you find that the previous wires were pushed in to the back of the receptacle, you will want to change this. Those back stabs have a tendency to fail. In this case the wire is removed by inserting a small screwdriver into a slot near the hole where the wire is inserted. The screw driver pushes a release, enabling the wire to be pulled out. Do not re-use these back stabs, use the screw terminal instead.

Work one receptacle at a time. Turn power back on after each receptacle and test that receptacle. Test both halves of the receptacle and make sure that the switch works (if a switch was involved). Use a plug in type tester to make sure that the receptacle is wired properly. It will be much easier to correct a mistake just after making it rather than an hour later after you have finished rewiring the whole room, or the whole house or whatever.

If you have not yet done so, now would be a perfect time to deal with the other task that needs to be done when you move into a new house, apartment or condo. You need to completely map out the electrical system. You need to determine which circuit breaker controls each and every receptacle, light and appliance in the place. When you are done, you need a detailed reference so that you can quickly turn off the correct breaker.

This information could save your life someday. It is certainly necessary if you all of a sudden find a receptacle not working. So while you are turning on and off circuit breakers, take note of exactly what is on each breaker.
Old 11-17-05, 05:10 PM
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Having the receptacles with the ground on top is becoming much more common, and is even required in many commercial/industrial installations these days. If you look at larger receptacles (like ranges) they are almost always ground-on-top even when the rest of the house follows the older convention with the 15/20A receptacles.

Some installations use a ground-on-top receptacle to indicate that it is switched.

When a 3-wire device is plugged into a ground-on-top receptacle and something were to fall between a loose plug and the receptacle, it would contact the ground first. This is the same reasoning why sideways receptacles should always have the neutral on the top.
Old 11-18-05, 02:50 PM
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Originally Posted by MAC702
When a 3-wire device is plugged into a ground-on-top receptacle and something were to fall between a loose plug and the receptacle, it would contact the ground first. This is the same reasoning why sideways receptacles should always have the neutral on the top.

I've heard that one before... Has anyone ever actually seen it or heard of it actually happening?
Old 11-22-05, 10:48 PM
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I haven't seen it happen but I can see it happening if you know what I mean. My garage workbench has two outlets mounted in the wall behind the bench. This wall doubles as a place to store my tools. Many times as I have been hammering and pounding away a wrench has slipped off it's hook and fallen on the bench, or a saw or whatever. Sometimes you just don't place the tool back on the hook very well. Anyway, I installed my outlets ground up for this reason and in almost every metal and welding shop I have been in this is how they are installed too. Makes sense.


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