A Buyer’s Guide
Tired of running extension cords or power strips to plug in all of your appliances and electronics? It might be time to hire an electrician to install additional electric outlets. Aside from being unattractive, extension and power cords can present a fire hazard, particularly when used improperly. Overloaded outlets cause more than 5,000 house hires in the United States each year.
A professional electrician can also replace old outlets. You might want to replace old two-prong outlets with modern three-prone outlets. Or, if your outlets no longer hold plugs snugly, it’s time to replace them with new outlets.
Types of Electrical Outlets
There are two standard types of residential outlets: 15 amp and 20 amp. The number of amps you need depends on the number of amps in the circuit. Fifteen-amp outlets can be used on 20-amp circuits but not vice versa.
Most homes have a combination of both outlets, with the majority being 15 amp. The only reason to install a 20-amp outlet is if you plan to plug in a major appliance that requires extra power. Some appliances, including microwaves, require a 20-amp outlet.
Installation costs vary, ranging from just a couple hundred dollars to $1,500 or more, depending on the size of the door, the complexity of the the job and your geographic location. Be sure to find out if installation is included in the price you’re quoted before hiring anyone to do the job.
In addition to the number of amps, you’ll have to decide on the type of outlet. Options include:
- Standard duplex outlets, which are most common in U.S. homes.
- Ground fault circuit interrupter (GFCI) receptacles, which prevent dangerous ground faults. These are the outlets with the reset button. GFCI outlets are required in bathrooms, wet areas of the kitchen, basements and outside.
- Tamper-resistant outlets that prevent small objects from being inserted. These are required in new construction and renovations to protect children from electric shock.
- Weather-resistant outlets for patios and decks.
- Rotating outlets that can accommodate two larger plugs at once (i.e. a hairdryer and a night light).
Cost to Install or Replace an Outlet
The price to install or replace an electrical outlet depends on the experience of the electrician, the cost of materials, local labor rates and the difficulty of the job.
Wiring a new outlet on an existing circuit starts at about $80 to $100 but could cost as much as $300. If a new circuit is required, budget at least $300 to $500. Replacing an outlet starts at about $20 to $50 and ranges up to $100.
Choosing an Electrician
Any type of electrical work is dangerous, and it requires strict adherence to local building codes. Because of that, the task of installing electrical outlets is best left to a professional. Here are some tips for finding a good one:
- Make sure the electrician is licensed. Ask to see a copy of his or her current license, or ask for the licensing number and check with your state’s labor department or licensing board to make sure the license is active.
- Do some background research on any electrician you’re considering. Ask for references and check them all. Check the electrical company’s rating with the Better Business Bureau.
- Make sure the electrician obtains the necessary permits. Unlicensed electricians can’t secure permits, so consider the lack of permits a major red flag.
- Make sure the electrician carries at least $1 million worth of liability insurance to protect your home (and bank account) in the event of an accident.
- Always get a quote upfront so that you’re not surprised when the bill comes. And it’s always a good idea to seek multiple quotes to compare prices.