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Built-In Night Light Is Brilliant

This innovative night light is built into the electrical outlet’s cover; you just push it onto the receptacle and secure it with screws.

Gentle night light automatically turns on when the room is dark.

[/media-credit] Gentle night light automatically turns on when the room is dark.

One of the great things about going to the International Builder’s Show is discovering super-smart, innovative products. At the 2015 show that we attended in Las Vegas, one of our absolute favorite products was the device shown here, the SnapRays Guide Light, made by Snap Power.

This product looks like a standard electrical outlet or switch cover, but it is much more. Hidden along one edge are three tiny LED bulbs that automatically turn on when the room grows dark, shedding a gentle swath of ambient light. It’s ideal for use in hallways, entryways, stair landings, bathrooms, children’s rooms, kitchen backsplashes, and any other interior location where an on-at-dark night light makes sense. Because the lights are in the cover itself, both outlets remain available for other electrical devices.

Designed to replace a standard electrical outlet or switch cover, you can install it in a minute or two—it doesn’t require any wiring or batteries. On the back side of the cover, two prongs simply clip onto the screw terminals on the sides of a conventional duplex electrical outlet. Both standard and decor designs are available.

Here’s how you install one:

Turn off the circuit breaker.

[/media-credit] Turn off the circuit breaker.

1Turn off the circuit breaker that controls the circuit and test that the power is off before removing the existing electrical cover. You can use a circuit tester, or just plug a working lamp or hair dryer into it to see if it has power.

Push the new receptacle cover onto the receptacle.

[/media-credit] Push the new receptacle cover onto the receptacle.

2Remove the existing cover plate and look into the box to see if the areas around the screw terminals are clear so that the new cover’s prongs can pass into the box and around the outlet. The device is packaged with instructions on how to deal with obstructions or other issues.

3Push the new cover onto the outlet so that it’s prongs go over the side terminals. Be sure the prongs slide inside the box and onto the outlet’s terminals. Secure the cover to the face of the outlet with the screw.

4Turn the circuit breaker back on. Remember—the night light is controlled by a light sensor, so it won’t go on unless the room is relatively dark.

Conclusion: We like the SnapRays Guide Light because it’s easy-to-install, permanent, practically invisible when not in use, and it leaves the entire outlet available for other devices.

HomeTips did not receive compensation for this product review, but received manufacturer samples for testing.


How to Wire an Outdoor Receptacle

In This Article:

Wiring a GFCI Receptacle

When wiring additions to your outdoor lighting or other outdoor electrical power needs, keep in mind that these products require ground-fault circuit interrupter (GFCI)–protected receptacles. GFCI receptacles look similar to a typical outlet except that they have a third prong hole and “test” and “reset” buttons.

Their purpose is to protect people from accidental electrocution because these outlets are often near water sources. Garages, decks, patios, and other outdoor settings are the perfect candidates for GFCI receptacles, and local building codes often require them in these areas (in addition requiring them in kitchens and bathrooms).

GFCI receptacle has a reset button.

GFCI receptacle has a reset button.

GFCIs monitor the amount of flow to a particular receptacle or circuit, detecting any leakage in current, and they are built to trip in 1/40th of a second in the event of a ground fault of 0.005 ampere. Even if your home was built before these code requirements were in effect, it is worth considering replacing standard outlets with GFCI receptacles in any of the above-mentioned areas.[GARD align=”left”]

Always remember to check that the power supply is turned off to the area you are working on. Use a circuit tester (also called a neon tester) to confirm that the circuit is dead. Not only will you be working with electricity, but you will also be working in an area that has access or exposure to water, and electricity and water do not mix!

Wiring a GFCI Receptacle

Wiring a GFCI receptacle is similar to wiring a standard receptacle except that the terminals are labeled “line” and “load.” See also How to Wire an Electrical Receptacle. Some things to keep in mind when working with a GFCI receptacle:

• A GFCI receptacle can be wired to protect a single location or to protect multiple locations by also interrupting power to all devices “downstream” of the outlet.

• To protect a single location, the incoming pair of black and white wires is attached to the “hot” and “white” (neutral) terminals on the “line” end.

• When protecting multiple-location wiring, the incoming wires are connected the same way as in a single-location setup except the outgoing pair of black and white wires attach to the “load” end.

• An alternative to using a GFCI receptacle is to install a GFCI-type circuit breaker in the service entrance panel or subpanel. However, it may not be convenient to re-set the breaker if the outlet is located far from the breaker box.

To make the job of installing a GFCI receptacle easier, consider purchasing a complete kit. These usually consist of a watertight box, the GFCI outlet, a gasket to seal the edges of the receptacle, and a “while-in-use” cover—a hinged plastic shield that flips up to admit a plug but covers the outlet when it is not in use, protecting it from moisture.

Get a Pre-Screened Local Electrical Wiring Pro

Replacing an Electrical Outlet

As always when working with electricity, shut off the power. Use a circuit tester to make sure that the power is really off. Unscrew the receptacle’s cover plate; be sure you get a replacement receptacle that’s the correct type for your wiring–though most receptacles are standard, aluminum wiring should only be connected to receptacles designated CO-ALR.

Replacing an Electrical Outlet

When installing the new receptacle, connect the black (hot) wire to the brass terminal screw, the white (neutral) wire to the silver screw, and the bare (ground) wire to the green ground screw.

Electrical Outlet Wiring

Unscrew the receptacle cover plate and unscrew the receptacle. Disconnect the wires from the terminals. Form a curl with a pair of needle-nose pliers so the wires hook clockwise around the screws, and then tighten the terminal screws. Screw the receptacle to the box and add the cover plate.

Featured Resource: Get a Pre-Screened Local Electrical Wiring Pro

Electrical Outlet Wired Backwards

“Reverse polarity” is the term used to describe a situation where electrical wires are connected to the wrong terminals of a receptacle. It can be hazardous if the “hot” side of your electrical system gets connected to certain types of lamps or equipment.

Simple circuit tester tells you whether or not a circuit is electrically charged.

Simple circuit tester tells you whether or not a circuit is electrically charged.

It’s a common condition because it’s an easy mistake to make when hooking up wires and because receptacles work fine even when the polarity is reversed. You generally don’t know the condition exists unless you look for it. If you suspect your home’s wiring is a bit haphazard, it’s a good idea to check for reverse polarity.

You can buy a simple circuit tester for less than $20. Just plug it into all duplex receptacles; test both the top and bottom.[GARD align=”left”]

If you discover reverse polarity:

1Shut off the circuit breaker that serves that receptacle (the tester’s lights will go out).

2Unscrew the cover plate from the receptacle, and use a voltage tester to be sure that none of the wires in the electrical box are still hot.

3Unscrew or release the wires from the receptacle and re-fasten them to the proper terminals–white to the silver (neutral terminal) and black to the brass (hot terminal). The bare or green wire should connect to the green screw.

4Put the cover plate back on, turn the circuit back on, and test the receptacle again. If the tester indicates reverse polarity but the wires are hooked up to the proper terminals, call an electrician.

Electrical Outlet Is Wired Backwards

Conventional duplex electrical receptacles are connected to three electrical wires: a black “hot” wire, a white neutral wire, and a green ground wire. These three wires must be connected to the proper terminals on the receptacle.conventional-electrical-outlet

Please note in this illustration of a conventional electrical outlet that the device has brass terminal screws on one side and silver terminal screws on the other side (many receptacles also have push-in terminals on the back). It also has a green grounding terminal at one end.

It is critical that only the green (or bare) electrical ground wire be connected to the green grounding terminal screw—it would cause a short circuit, a fire, or electrical shock to connect a black “hot” wire to the grounding screw.

Connecting the black or white wires to the wrong side terminals of a receptacle can also be a problem. “Reverse polarity” is the term used to describe this situation.  Though you generally don’t know the condition exists unless you look for this, it can damage certain types of electrical equipment. If you suspect your home’s wiring is a bit haphazard, it’s a good idea to check for reverse polarity.

Simple circuit tester tells you whether or not a circuit is electrically charged.

Simple circuit tester tells you whether or not a circuit is electrically charged and has proper polarity.

You can buy a simple circuit tester for less than $20 that will determine if a circuit is live and has the proper polarity. Just plug it into the top and bottom of every duplex receptacle.

If you discover reverse polarity:

1Shut off the circuit breaker that serves that receptacle (the tester’s lights will go out).

2Unscrew the cover plate from the receptacle, and unscrew the receptacle mounting screws so you can pull the receptacle straight out of the box. Use a voltage tester to be sure that none of the wires in the electrical box are still hot.

3Unscrew or release the black and white wires from the sides of the receptacle. If they are inserted in small round holes in the back of the receptacle, insert a very small, flat screwdriver into the slot next to them to release them. Then re-fasten them to the opposite terminals—white to the silver (neutral terminal) and black to the brass (hot terminal). Be sure the bare or green wire wire is connected to the green grounding screw.[GARD align=”right”]

4Push the wires back into the box and re-mount the receptacle to the box. Put the cover plate back on, turn the circuit back on, and test the receptacle again. If the tester indicates reverse polarity but the wires are hooked up to the proper terminals, call an electrician.

Types of Electrical Receptacles

This article discusses conventional 120-volt and 240-volt receptacles. For additional information, also see Electrical Receptacle Buying Guide.

120-Volt Receptacles

120-Volt Outlets

These receptacles, which come in several different colors, are easily identified: they have two identical outlets, each with three plug-in slots.

Each outlet has an arched slot at the bottom that grounds the appliance; above that are two narrow slots— the wider one is neutral and the narrower one is hot. Check the amperage and voltage requirements of the appliance you intend to plug in to the outlet against the amperage and voltage of the outlet, which are clearly shown on the front of the outlet itself.[GARD align=”left”]

Some duplex receptacles allow for back wiring instead of side wiring because it is a simpler process; however, back wiring is not as secure a connection as side wiring and may not even be allowed by local codes, so check before replacing or installing a new outlet. The best option is to purchase a duplex outlet that has both types of connectors.

120/240-Volt Electrical Receptacles

120/240-Volt Outlets

Providing both 120 and 240 volts, these receptacles have four plug-in slots—two that are hot, one that is neutral, and one that is grounding.

Before making your purchase, inspect the plug and determine the amperage requirements of the appliance you intend to use on that outlet to make sure it is compatible with the receptacle’s slot pattern. You can find styles that mount directly onto a surface or that are recessed into a wall.

 240-Volt Receptacles

240-Volt Outlets

This type of receptacle is not for use with standard appliances but rather is reserved for such items as power tools, which often require a dedicated circuit because of their energy requirements.

Unlike standard three-prong outlets, which have a neutral and a hot slot in addition to the arch-shaped grounding slot, a 240-volt receptacle has two hot slots in addition to the grounding slot.

The unique design of the outlet allows you to easily match it up to the plug of the power tool, not only ensuring that amperage requirements are met but also offering the additional safety feature of preventing you from accidentally plugging any other appliance into it.

240-volt receptacles come in styles that can be mounted directly onto a surface or recessed into a wall. For added safety, you might consider an industrial model, which has a feature that locks the plug in the slot. This is particularly useful for large or very heavy power tools.

GFCI Receptacles

GFCI Electrical Outlet

A special type of receptacle called a GFCI (or GFI), short for ground-fault circuit interrupter, is required in kitchens, bathrooms, and other exposed, damp areas of a home to protect from the serious shock that can occur where electricity and water meet.

Identified by the reset and test buttons located on its face, a 120-volt GFCI receptacle takes the place of a standard duplex receptacle and monitors electric current. It is like a super-sensitive circuit breaker. Whenever the amounts of incoming and outgoing current are not equal, such as during a ground fault or current leakage, the GFCI will sense the problem and shut down itself or, in some cases, other receptacles on the same circuit.

So it one or several of the receptacles in the kitchen, bathroom, or outdoor areas ceases to work, look for the GFCI receptacle that serves that circuit.[GARD align=”right”]

Just push the reset button to reset the receptacle–this will turn on any others connected to it.

Push the test button periodically to ensure that the device is working.

Replacing an ordinary electrical outlet with a GFCI receptacle is just as easy as wiring an ordinary receptacle. For instructions on how to do this, see How to Wire an Electrical Receptacle. Be sure to follow the instructions that come with the device.

 

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