In 2008 the National Electrical Code began requiring tamper resistant outlets in new construction. If you have a home built before then you probably don’t have them and you may be wondering what exactly that is and why you need it.
The standard electrical outlet hasn’t changed much since the addition of the ground terminal in the 1960s, but there has always been an ongoing safety concern with a standard outlet when it comes to children.
According to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission approximately 2,400 children are injured every year due to inserting things into electrical outlets. The vast majority of these injuries occur in children under 6 years old.
Parents have used those annoying outlet covers that are difficult for even the grown ups to remove, are easily misplaced, and in the case a child does get them off they also pose a choking hazard. The tamper resistant outlet provides a better solution.
What is a Tamper Resistant Outlet?
A tamper resistant outlet has an internal cover that will open only when both prongs of a plug are inserted at the same time. This feature prevents little Johnny from sticking a fork in one side and ending up in the emergency room. The covers are integral so you can barley notice them and they provide excellent protection. You can barely see them in the picture below.
Regular outlets cost around $0.55 each and tamper resistant outlets run around $1.10 at the time of this article, which is a considerable price decrease in the last few years so upgrading makes a lot of sense.
If your home was built before 2008, installing tamper resistant outlets in rooms that children frequent is a no brainer. For under $10 you can easily upgrade any room to make it safer for your little ones and get rid of those annoying outlet covers to boot.
How to Install Them
Tamper resistant outlets are wired exactly the same as a regular outlet so if your existing outlet is working fine then just take a picture and wire it up the same way. If you’ve never installed an electrical outlet, I’ll walk you through it step-by-step.
Most tamper resistant outlets in a typical home are either 15 amp or 20 amp. It’s crucial that the amperage of an outlet doesn’t exceed the amperage of the circuit it uses. You’ll know which outlet to get by checking the breaker that the outlet is on. If the breaker is a 20 amp breaker then you’ll want a 20 amp outlet, but you can also use a 15 amp outlet. On a 15 amp breaker you can only use a 15 amp outlet.
Step 1 Turn off the Power
Turn off the power at the breaker and using a voltage tester make sure there is no power running to the outlet you plan to work on. If your house still has fuses instead of breakers then unscrew the corresponding fuse.
Step 2 Wire the Outlet
Remove the screws at the top and bottom of the outlet that keep it in the box. Then unscrew the terminals to loosen the wires for the hot (black), neutral (white), and ground (green) if you have it. On homes built before the 1960s you may not have a ground wire. If you have ungrounded outlets and are concerned about them check out my previous post How To: Fix Ungrounded Outlets.
Install the black wire onto the same terminal it was before which should be the brass screw, install the white wire on the silver screw and the green ground onto the green screw usually located at the bottom of the outlet. Tighten the screws down so the wires are securely attached and press the outlet back into the box reattaching the screws securing it in place.
Step 3 Test & Cover
Reattach the outlet cover, and turn the breaker back on. Test to make sure you have power to the outlet by inserting the voltage tester again. If there isn’t power then go turn the breaker off and inspect to make sure the wires all maintained their connections to the outlet and test it again.
This is one of the cheapest and simplest ways to upgrade your home for children. If you’ve got little kids around the house or plan on having kids soon, tamper resistant outlets should make it to the top of your to do list this year.
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I love old houses, working with my hands, and teaching others the excitment of doing it yourself! Everything is teachable if you only give it the chance.