Handyman Help: Upgrade a Wall Outlet with USB Functionality

USB cordThese days it seems like gadgets rule our lives– from iPads to external battery charges, USB outlets are in demand. With a little DIY handyman work, you can update wall outlets to include up to two USB slots. There are several ready-made options for USB outlets that can be plugged into a regular outlet. However, these devices stick out from the wall. If you want to avoid bulky walls, USB sockets can be inserted into the wall like a standard outlet. Note that this job may require some wall patching at the end.

To begin, find an outlet you want to replace (other than GFCI outlets with a button since USB outlets do not have GFCI functionality built-in). Turn off the power to the room in which the socket is located. Unscrew the current wall plate and remove it, then unscrew the electrical outlet from the junction box.

At this point, make a note of how the socket is currently connected, either by drawing a quick diagram or taking a picture on your phone. Carefully remove the power wires from the existing outlet. Some USB outlets only have one neutral wire terminal. In this case, outlets with a middle-of-run wired outlet will require you to combine two wires in one. Many USB outlet kits supply a knot and extra wire for this purpose.

Next, attach the wires to the new USB outlet and push the wires back. Screw the USB outlet into the junction box. Turn the power back on and if the polarity mismatch indicator is glowing, the wiring was not done properly. In this case, you’ll have to unscrew the outlet and fix the wires.

If there is no glow, turn the power back off and screw in the wall plate cover. Clean up the area and turn the power back on. If the wall requires some patching, use a caulking gun to seal any spaces. Allow it to dry and sand down any rough spots. Caulk and other tools required for this handyman job can be found at EquipSupply.com.