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How to Install a USB Outlet | This Old House: Live

Ask This Old House Master Electrician Heath Eastman upgrades a standard receptacle to one that has USB inputs as part of This Old House: Live—an initiative providing daily programming and opportunities to connect with our experts during these challenging times.

Steps for Upgrading to a USB Outlet:

Please note: All electrical projects present a shock hazard. If you’re not comfortable doing the work, please hire a licensed professional.

1. Start by shutting the power off at the main breaker.

2. Use the voltage tester to ensure that power has actually been cut off to the receptacle.

3. Remove the cover plate of the old receptacle using the flathead screwdriver.

4. Unscrew the receptacle from the electrical box.

5. Disconnect the wires from the old receptacle using the Phillips screwdriver.

6. Connect the wires to the new receptacle, ensuring that the ground wire connects to the ground screw, the white wires to the neutral terminal, and the black wires connect to the hot terminal.

7. Secure the new receptacle to the electrical box.

8. Attach the cover plate over the receptacle.

9. Turn the power back on.

Please note: In some jurisdictions, replacing a receptacle also requires that the corresponding source in the electrical panel needs to be upgraded to have arc-fault protection. Check with a licensed electrician to see if that code applies to your area and make sure it gets updated.

10. Test the receptacle to ensure it works. A USB voltage tester can test the USB plugs.


All electrical projects present a shock hazard, so Heath suggests only tackling a project like this if you feel comfortable doing it. If not, hire a licensed professional.

In his kitchen, Heath installed a Leviton 3.6A USB Dual Type A In-Wall Charger with 15 Amp Tamper-Resistant Outlets in black. Normally, in a kitchen, receptacles need to be GFCIs or at least have GFCI protection. In this case, Heath already has a GFCI receptacle upstream in his wiring, so his new receptacle is still protected, but if yours is not or the receptacle being replaced is a GFCI, be sure the new receptacle is a GFCI as well.

The voltage tester Heath uses is an Ideal E-Z Check Outlet Tester. He also mentioned that they now make USB voltage testers, which can be found at any home center.

The other tools Heath used for this job, including the Phillips and flathead screwdrivers and the wire strippers can all be found at home centers.


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