How to install a USB outlet

Wouldn’t it be great if you could stop moving your phone’s charger power block from one outlet to another? Fortunately, installing an outlet with built-in USB ports is a fairly straightforward DIY endeavor that can make a difference. Once complete, you can charge your mobile devices to your heart’s content while freeing up space for available power outlets.

We have put together a guide on what exactly you will need to install a USB outlet yourself. However, before you begin, an important caveat: regulations governing electrical work in the home vary by country and state. Before following the steps below, verify that you are authorized to perform electrical maintenance in your area and that you have the necessary safety tools to do so.

Step 1: select a USB-equipped outlet

A couple of years ago, it would be difficult to find an outlet with built-in USB ports, but now there are several options available. Top models of brands like Legrand and Leviton are some of our top recommendations, but you can also choose a cheap, unbranded outlet. You’ll find a variety of configurations and colors available, and you can relax knowing that they have been built and tested to meet safety standards.

However, keep in mind that USB-equipped plugs are much deeper than normal designs due to the additional electronics that must be packaged. With this being the case, you will need about 3 inches deep in the wall to install your new outlet. Once you’ve scouted a location that’s ready for an upgrade, be sure to check the size of the junction box behind the outlet before making your purchase.

For our guide, we selected the Legrand TM826USBWCCV outlet, which supports two USB ports and two tamper-proof outlets. You should be able to pick up this model (and similar units) for around $ 25. You can check it out. here.

Depending on your existing outlet, you may also need to take a wall plate to go around the outlets. Our outlet’s wall plate has a horizontal bar between the sockets, which is where the new USB ports will be placed. So, to accompany the USB-equipped output, we select the Legrand screwless wall plate, which combines in color and finishes.

Legrand wall plate

Step 2: Enjoy an Output Voltage Tester

Along with a screwdriver, the other tool we highly recommend for this job (or any other that involves electrical plugs) is a voltage tester. Obviously, we will have to turn off the power at the electrical panel before changing the plugs, but to be absolutely If you are sure the outlet is not live, you should check with a voltage tester.

Inexpensive devices like this non-contact voltage tester from Klein Tools provide visual and audible warnings when voltage is detected in an outlet. It’s available for around $ 20 and there’s an upgrade NCVT-3 model equipped with flashlight which can be had for less than $ 25.

Once you have the voltage tester on hand, test it on an outlet that you know is live to make sure it works.

Klein tension tester

Step 3: turn off the electricity

Once you’ve decided on the outlet you want to replace, head over to your home’s electrical panel. Turn off the power to the room / outlet you are replacing, or to ensure that no electricity is flowing, turn off the electricity completely.

Electric panel

Step 4: Remove the existing wall plate and outlet

Use your voltage tester to check that the power has been cut, then carefully unscrew and remove the wall plate and outlet from the junction box behind.

Plug

Step 5: look at the existing wiring

Take a photo of the existing wiring (or draw a quick diagram) so you know how to rewire the new outlet when it is installed. In North American homes, expect to see neutral (white), live (black), and ground (bare copper) wires. Other continents have different codes, so be sure to check the existing connections. Better yet: label the cables before removing them.

outlet with exposed wiring

Step 6: Remove the cords from the old outlet

Take your screwdriver and loosen the retaining screws that hold the electrical wires in place. Note that they can be held in place with quick-release clamps instead of screws. If so, find a small screwdriver or similar implement (a SIM tool will even do the job) and press the recessed release button to release the cables.

Step 7: connect the USB equipped jack

Reverse the steps to connect your new outlet. Next, make sure the Neutral, Hot / Live and Ground wires are firmly connected to the correct terminals.

outlet with new usb connections

Step 8: Secure the outlet and wall plate

Hard work is over! Secure the new outlet to the junction box. You can use the same screw holes that were used to fix the old outlet in place.

Just installed USB output

Now fasten the wall plate over the outlet before standing back and admiring your artwork.

Step 9: Power up and test

Go back to your circuit breaker and turn on the power to the outlet in question. Next, use your voltage tester to make sure the outlet is working properly before connecting and testing your USB devices.

Full USB output

For a few minutes of work and a $ 30 investment, you’ll be rewarded with a convenient new charging point and a fresh, clean-looking replacement for those tired, old outlets in your home. Now if only there was a better way to bake wireless charging in your home.

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