Imagine powering your electrical devices any other way than plugging them into an outlet. Harvey Hubbell must have had the same concern on his mind when he invented the first power plug in 1904.
Electricity is powerful and dangerous, and we need a safe way to make use of its potential. You have to get the power out of the wires and into the device somehow. Hence, the electrical plug.
The electrical plug is a key component to bringing electricity safely into the hands of the user, and learning how to wire an electrical plug yourself will be a handy skill to have around the house.
Different Kinds of Electrical Plugs
There are many different types of electrical plugs used in America for a variety of uses, with different numbers of blades, and each type handles a different amount of voltage and amperage. The most common in America:
- 240 volt, four-blade: two hot wires, one neutral, one ground
- 240 volt, three-blade: two hot wires, and one ground
- 120 volt (15 amp), three-blade: one hot wire, one neutral, one ground
- 120 volt (20 amp), three-blade: one hot wire, one neutral, one ground
How to Wire an Electrical Plug: What You Need
For brevity, we will talk about how to wire the most common type of plug used in American households: the 120v 15amp plug.
These components and the tools will be needed:
Correct Electrical Cable
This cable will have three wires inside of it: one black, one white, and one green. These will be plastic coated for safety.
This cable will have either 14 gauge or 12 gauge sized wires. 14 gauge can only handle 15 amp service, whereas 12 gauge can handle 15 amp or 20 amp service.
Correct Electrical Plug
A 15 amp plug that has been manufactured for assembly in place (not already wired into a cable). These typically come in two parts with a base containing the screws to clamp down the wires, and a cover that fits over the completed plug.
You need wire strippers to remove the plastic sheath. Make sure this tool has slots for 14 gauge and 12 gauge wires.
Wire cutters. The most typical are called lineman’s pliers, but any cross cut pliers will work.
Electrical Plug Wiring Guide: Step by Step
Identify the screw in the plug for the hot (black) wire. It will be gold.
Identify the screw in the plug for the neutral (white) wire. It will be silver.
Identify the screw for the ground (green) wire. It will be green.
Peel back the outer sheathing on the cable to get at the three smaller wires inside.
Strip the plastic off the smaller wires to a length where you can wrap the wire around the screws without any of the plastic sheathing getting under the screws. Tighten the screws onto the bare parts of the wires.
Put on the cover and screw it down tightly.
Side note: notice the holes in the blades of the plug? Click here to find out why electrical plugs have holes.
A Useful Skill
Learning how to wire an electrical plug will enable you to fix that broken lamp or TV cable plug your new puppy chewed through.
This skill is especially useful when dealing with plugs that have cables directly wired into a device where you cannot simply buy a new cable to fix it. With this guide in hand you can take care of these problems yourself.
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