Home>Discussions>ELECTRICAL & LIGHTING>Perhaps basic questions - but your advice will be a huge help!
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MBeach
Perhaps basic questions - but your advice will be a huge help!

I'm debating on whether or not to call in an electrician to handle the following changes I'd like to make in my living room and kitchen. I'm not feeling confident about making these changes for various reasons, but the largest being that I'm completely unfamiliar with electrical work and have a healthy respect for the intricacies and dangers involved in electrical work.

I'd like to do the following things, and would love any advice on difficulty level, etc. Right now my knowledge of how to do these things is limited to step-by-steps I find on the web and in magazines.
These are all simply replacements of existing hardware.

Swapping out 4 duplex outlets (two prong, not three prong)
Swapping out 1 three prong outlet
Swapping out 3 double switch (lights)

Although these don't need to be swapped out, the old components are just that - old, stained, and nasty, and don't match the rest of the room that's had a visual facelift.

The last thing is in the kitchen. We currently have our fridge plugged into a two prong outlet, not a three prong. I'm concerned that this may not be safe/up to code/etc. and would like to make sure this is set up correctly. Changing/upgrading this seems far more complex than replacing an outlet, and I'm worried I may not do it correctly.

Suggestions on this after hearing my thoughts? Shall I just hire an electrician to do all of this as one job, or is this something that I might as well tackle and use as a learning experience?

Thanks all.

A. Spruce
Re: Perhaps basic questions - but your advice will be a huge help!

Changing switches and outlets is generally a pretty straight forward endeavor, though something you've said has me a bit concerned.

You've got 2 prong (ungrounded ) and three prong (grounded ) outlets. It is quite likely that the three prong isn't actually grounded, if that is the case, then you either need to reinstall a two prong OR install a GFCI.

The switches aren't all that difficult either if you pay strict attention to the location of the wires on the switch. Your wording indicates that these are either 3-way (two switches on a circuit ) or 4-way switches (three switches on the circuit. ), which increases the difficulty should you not place the wires properly to the new switch. Standard 2-way switches are easy-peasy to swap.

canuk
Re: Perhaps basic questions - but your advice will be a huge help!
MBeach wrote:

I'm debating on whether or not to call in an electrician to handle the following changes I'd like to make in my living room and kitchen. I'm not feeling confident about making these changes for various reasons, but the largest being that I'm completely unfamiliar with electrical work and have a healthy respect for the intricacies and dangers involved in electrical work.
That's an important considerstion --- having the confidence and some basic knowledge when it comes to working with electricity. Afterall a miskake in proceedure can be disastrious not only for property damage but for personal saftey.
Personally I recommend first timers should work with someone knowledgeable to see first hand how things are done and to have someone there to check things over.

I'd like to do the following things, and would love any advice on difficulty level, etc. Right now my knowledge of how to do these things is limited to step-by-steps I find on the web and in magazines.
These are all simply replacements of existing hardware.

Swapping out 4 duplex outlets (two prong, not three prong)
You aren't allowed to swap out 2 prong receptacles with 3 prong unless the replacement is a GFCI labeled "no equipment ground " along with any receptacles that may be connected downstream from this. ----- or ---- the circuit is rewired with a ground conductor form the service panel to the receptacle.

Too many people wrongfully swap out old 2 prong receptacles connected to old ungrounded wiring with 3 slot receptacles mainly to accomodate modern 3 prong appliance cords. This is not allowed and dangerous thinking you are protected from a ground fault when you are not.

Swapping out 1 three prong outlet
With A.Spruce's comment below.

Swapping out 3 double switch (lights)
Again with Sprucey's comments below

Although these don't need to be swapped out, the old components are just that - old, stained, and nasty, and don't match the rest of the room that's had a visual facelift.

The last thing is in the kitchen. We currently have our fridge plugged into a two prong outlet, not a three prong. I'm concerned that this may not be safe/up to code/etc. and would like to make sure this is set up correctly. Changing/upgrading this seems far more complex than replacing an outlet, and I'm worried I may not do it correctly.
Typically fridges have a 3 prong appliance cord -- so , how is it plugged into a 2 prong outlet ? --- the ground prong ( ground ) cut off the cord ? --- a cheater 3-2 plug being used ?

Ideally, yes, that receptacle should be a 3 prong with the appropriate grounded wiring. This would require running a new cable from the service panel to the location of the receptacle.

Suggestions on this after hearing my thoughts? Shall I just hire an electrician to do all of this as one job, or is this something that I might as well tackle and use as a learning experience?

Thanks all.

A. Spruce wrote:

Changing switches and outlets is generally a pretty straight forward endeavor,
Agreed , however that's dependant on a person's knowledge and skills. I've see many simple replacement of receptacles and switches lead to all sorts of problems like lights not working ( or intermittantly ) or other receptacles not working or breakers tripping.

though something you've said has me a bit concerned.

You've got 2 prong (ungrounded ) and three prong (grounded ) outlets. It is quite likely that the three prong isn't actually grounded,
I'm thinking the same thing -- or perhaps that particular receptacle *may* have a grounded cable run from the panel ( probably the least likely but possible )

if that is the case, then you either need to reinstall a two prong OR install a GFCI.
--- or ---- run a grounded conductor or re-pull a grounded cable to the panel.

The switches aren't all that difficult either if you pay strict attention to the location of the wires on the switch. Your wording indicates that these are either 3-way (two switches on a circuit ) or 4-way switches (three switches on the circuit. ), which increases the difficulty should you not place the wires properly to the new switch. Standard 2-way switches are easy-peasy to swap.

The number one thing when working with electricity is to ensure the breaker is turned off or fuse removed for that circuit being worked on. Even after doing so test the wires to ensure the electricity is indeed off.

MBeach
Re: Perhaps basic questions - but your advice will be a huge help!

Thank you both.

For the two prong outlets, I had planned to simply swap out the actual hardware with a newer, different color version. My intent is not to go from 2 to 3 prong on any of those with the exception of the one in the kitchen.

With that said, not being at home, I can't tell you if there is a 3 prong that is not properly grounded on the circuit. If so, then I'd have to swap that out, something I'm not comfortable with.

For the fridge we are currently using what I believe is a "cheater", it's a 3 prong to 2 prong "converter?" that simply plugs into the wall.

Going back the words "comfortable" and "confidence", I think you've both given me the "confidence" to make the decision that I'll hire an electrician for this, and watch them as they go through the process.

Thanks again for the help!

canuk
Re: Perhaps basic questions - but your advice will be a huge help!

Sorry I misunderstood your intentions with the 2 prong receptacles. Around these parts home centers don't stock 2 slot receptacles so I assumed you were replacing the 2's with 3's.

Good thing you will be doing the fridge receptacle properly --- the *cheater* is dangerious.

Sounds like a good idea to have an electrician come in --- watch and learn.:)

A. Spruce
Re: Perhaps basic questions - but your advice will be a huge help!

Sometimes it's best to let the pros do it for you.

MBeach
Re: Perhaps basic questions - but your advice will be a huge help!

Thank you! :)

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