How to Wire a Receptacle

On Your Porch

Knowing how to wire a receptacle is something every homeowner should know. Most porches will have at least one receptacle and one overhead light (or wall lights).

If you have more than that, consider yourself lucky.



If you are building a porch, now would be an excellent time to use our Porch Electrical Systems Guide to plan for all of your porch's electrical requirements.

Most of us; however, just need to update or add additional electrical capabilities.

Knowing how to wire a receptacle can really come in handy. Remember, you cannot (and should not) just extend an existing circuit unless you know positively that you have available wattage. Electrical circuits, by code, can only have up to 80% of their maximum capability. Anything over that and you risk an overload.

I am not a certified electrician but I do have formal education in electrical wiring and have many years of experience. The following information is provided as general guidelines only for knowing how to wire a receptacle and is not to be construed as step-by-step procedures.

How to Wire a Receptacle


The first rule of knowing how to wire a receptacle is - TURN OFF THE POWER TO THE RECEPTACLE BEFORE ATTEMPTING ANY MODIFICATIONS.

This seems like an easy task and it is relatively simple if you know the rules behind the scenes. There's more to it than pulling one out and putting another one in. I'll sort through a few basics for you.

Review our Electrical Codes and Electrical Modifications Guides.

A word to the wise. Never, ever, do any electrical work you are not 110% sure you can do it correctly. Always consult with a certified electrician.

If you do not have GFCIs on your porch (or if your branch circuit supplying electricity to your porch is not GFCI protected) then that should be one of your first electrical modifications.



NOTE: Circuit breakers do not protect YOU! They are designed to protect the wiring. The only device you can install to protect you and your family from electrical shock is a GFCI (Ground Fault Circuit Interrupter).

GFCIs are required wherever the potential exists to come in contact with water (bathrooms, kitchens, basements, garages, and the exterior to include your porch).

You don't have to have an actual GFCI outlet on your porch; it may be farther back on the circuit inside your home or garage. This will protect you if wired correctly. Find the branch circuit that supplies your porch receptacle and check each receptacle to see if one of them is a GFCI. If you don't have one you can install it directly on the porch receptacle. It's a great insurance policy.

Exterior Receptacle GFCI Receptacle

The one on the left is a 15-amp exterior GFCI "protected" receptacle; the one on the right is a GFCI receptacle and light switch combination.

NOTE: Replacing a regular receptacle with a GFCI receptacle requires that you understand line (hot wire)and load (it's marked as such on the back of the receptacle.

There will be a yellow strip across the load terminals). You also have to be able to identify the "hot" wire to your existing receptacle.

And, you have to know whether your circuit is a 15 amp or 20 amp circuit. You must select the correct GFCI for the circuit.


The first rule of knowing how to wire a receptacle is -TURN OFF THE POWER TO THE RECEPTACLE BEFORE ATTEMPTING ANY MODIFICATIONS.

If there are only one set of wires attach the black wire to the brass terminal.

Attach the white wire to the silver terminal. Attach the bare copper wire to the green grounding screw.

(Want a way to remember what wire goes where? Black to brass- save your a--.) Learned that as a kid and have never forgotten it.

If you have two sets of wires, you need to identify which one is coming into the box (hot) and which is going out. Wire it the same way but also wire the outgoing (load) wires (black to brass/white to silver) to the load terminals (covered by yellow tape -remove the tape before wiring).

Connect the bare copper wires together with a wire nut and run a pig tail wire from them to the green grounding screw.

If you are hesitant or confused in any way - call a professional. Save money elsewhere; not on your family's safety.

If you need additional receptacles, more often than not you will have to add an additional circuit to your breaker box. As a friend of mine once said: "Do not attempt this alone or with someone."

Call a professional licensed electrical contractor to wire your branch circuit to the breaker box. Pulling wire is a good DIY job (as long as you know the codes) but wiring to the box should be left to the professionals.

Now you know the very basics of how to wire a receptacle. Again, don't attempt any electrical modifications unless you are 110% sure of what you are doing.

hanging a curb appealing front porch pendant light Now that you are aware of what it takes to replace a receptacle, you can easily replace your porch lights too!

Let us show you how to replace a standard flush mounted ceiling light with a curb appealing pendant porch light.



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