When should I replace electric receptacle outlets?

Thursday, June 21, 2018

There is no standard age for receptacle replacement, although they can be expect to last about 50 years. Here are six signs that mean it’s time to change one out:

  •  Will no longer hold the prongs of a cord securely - Metal strips in the receptacle hold the prongs of an appliance cord under tension and securely in place. After repeatedly inserting and removing the cord, the receptacle loses its “grab” and will not make a good connection. If the cord is effortless to remove or it slides a little downward after insertion, as in the photo below, it’s time to replace the receptacle. Locations where this is mostly likely to occur first are kitchen counter receptacles and the receptacle you use regularly to plug in the vacuum cleaner.
  • Corroded - Corrosion usually makes itself known by difficulty inserting a cord, along with bits of rust grit dropping out when you remove it. Severe corrosion will make impossible to plug in the cord at all.
  • Damaged - If any part of the face of the receptacle is broken off or bent, replace it.
  • Paint contamination - Painting right over the receptacle is a no-no, and will cause a poor electrical connection.
  • Two-slot receptacle - The 1962 edition of the National Electrical Code (NEC) was when the requirement began for all 120V receptacles to be 3-slot grounded, with the round, third hole used for a ground connection. This means that all 2-slot receptacles are over 50 years old, which is ancient for a household mechanical device. They do not have to automatically be replaced due to age, but should be examined carefully for signs of deterioration. Any 2-slot receptacles with a “cheater plug” installed, like in the photo below, so that an appliance requiring a ground connection can be plugged into it should be replaced with a grounded 3-slot receptacle or GFCI-receptacle with a marking sticker that states “NO EQUIPMENT GROUND”.
  • Evidence of a short - Any dark black marking at the receptacle and cover plate indicate that there was a short circuit and it should be replaced.

    The building code now requires that receptacles be tamper-resistant and, even if there is no building inspector looking over your shoulder, it’s still a good idea for the safety of young children in the house. Also, receptacles in wet areas like the kitchen, bathrooms, garage, and exterior should be upgraded to GFCI (Ground Fault Circuit Interrupter) for shock protection when replacing old receptacles in those areas. 

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  To learn more about electrical wiring, devices, and receptacles, see these other blog posts:

 • What is the difference between what trips a GFCI (ground fault) receptacle and a circuit breaker?

What is the code requirement for GFCI protection for receptacles near a wet bar sink? 

What is the requirement for a service receptacle outlet for heating, air conditioning, and refrigeration (HACR) equipment? 

Why is an opening in the wall around the side of an electrical receptacle outlet a safety defect?  

When was GFCI-protection for kitchen dishwasher receptacle outlet first required? 

What is allowable voltage range at a wall receptacle outlet in a house?

When should I replace electric receptacle outlets? 

Does an electric receptacle outlet in a storage shed require GFCI protection? 

What are "self-contained" electrical receptacle outlets and switches?

What is the difference between an electrical receptacle, an outlet, and a plug?

Does a washing machine receptacle outlet require GFCI protection?

What is the building code requirement for receptacle outlets at stairs and stair landings?

Can I remove a 240-volt range receptacle and hard-wire the range? 

What is a "backstab" receptacle outlet? 

Why are some electric receptacle outlets upside down (ground slot up) in a house?   

What is the height requirement for an electric receptacle outlet? 

Where are GFCI receptacle outlets required?

When were GFCI receptacle outlets first required?

 Does a home inspector remove receptacle outlet cover plates?

What is the minimum height for an exterior receptacle outlet? 

When was the current receptacle/outlet spacing of 12-feet first required? 

When was the three-slot (grounding) outlet/receptacle first required? 

Why does painting an electric receptacle (outlet) make it unsafe?

Why are electrical outlets and plugs polarized? 

How many electrical receptacles (outlets) are required in a hallway?  

What problems does having too many electric receptacle outlets on a single circuit cause? 

Is a house required to have outdoor electric receptacle outlets?

How I can tell if a receptacle outlet is tamper resistant?

Why is there a GFCI breaker in the electric panel for the bathroom shower light and exhaust fan?

What is a false ground, bootleg ground, or cheated ground receptacle? 

How can adding wood paneling or a wainscot create an electrical safety hazard?

How far apart should kitchen counter receptacles be spaced?  

How far above a kitchen countertop do electrical outlets have to be?

What is reversed polarity at an outlet/receptacle? Why is it dangerous? 

How high above the floor do electric outlets/receptacles in a garage have to be?

How far apart should electric receptacles be spaced in a bathroom? 

Is an ungrounded electric receptacle outlet dangerous?

My bathroom electric receptacle/outlet is dead and there are no tripped breakers in the electric panel. What's wrong?  

Is there an adapter that can be placed on a two-slot receptacle to make it safe? 

How do the new tamper-resistant electric outlets work?

Why is there no bathroom electric receptacle in this old house?

How can I tell if the electric receptacle outlets are grounded? 

How far apart should the electrical receptacles be placed?

What are the most common problems/defects found with electric receptacle outlets during a home inspection?

   Visit our ELECTRICAL page for other related blog posts on this subject, or go to the INDEX for a complete listing of all our articles.

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