As an electrician, I am often asked to install or replace power points for friends, relatives, and customers. I thought I would give my readers some clever tips on how to install a new wall outlet with USP charging ports to any room in the house.
The process is the same for all countries including America, England, and Australia. You just have to be aware of different color cables and voltages.
In this post, we will cover new installations, as well as a simple replacement of any existing AC wall outlets with a new USB wall outlet. If you want to install a number of extra AC wall outlets we will explain the steps involved as well.
Note: Electricity is dangerous so installations and repairs must only be carried out by a licensed electrician. These tips, tricks, and instructions are for information purposes only.
Identifying the correct location.
Location, location, location. It is everything to have the correct location for a new wall power outlet. It is no good to have a wall outlet behind a lounge that you can’t get to.
With many handheld devices like phones and tablets requiring a daily charge it now makes sense to have USB ports inbuilt into 110/240v powerpoints.
If you are building a house you can never have too many USB wall outlets. I aim to have at least 4 per room or 1 per wall. Sometimes 2 per wall if the budget allows. It is cheaper to add the power points in when building a house rather than down the track. It is also a lot easier.
So if your house is already built and you want to add in some more power points what is the best way?
Well, I would start by looking where you currently have some wall outlets and see if it is convenient to have one on behind it. This way all you need to do is take off the old powerpoint, drill a hole through the wall, push through some 2.5mm two core and earth cable (also known as 12-2 Romex 20A) and wire up the new GPO.
How to install a power outlet to an internal house wall.
Internal house walls are the hardest to install a new power wall outlet. This is because there is no room to push a cable through. The house framework has cross beams that may block the cable access. Double brick or solid internal concrete walls can also be a real challenge.
There are two ways that I have found that work quite well but they take some thought and equipment.
The first way that I like to do is the long drill method. Start by welding a wood drill bit to a 2m piece of round bar. In the example shown below is a 3/4 drill bit welded onto a piece of stainless steel tube.
It was made for a job at a factory where we had to drill through a metal beam so that’s why it is a metal drill bit and not a wood drill bit. It does the job just fine and I have kept it for the odd occasion that it may come in handy again.
If your 3 core cable is circular you can get away with a smaller sized hole but if you are using 3 core side by side cable then the hole will be larger.
Measure up where you would like to install the power wall outlet and drill into the top frame using a battery drill and a 1-inch hole saw or drill bit.
Next, attach the 2m drill shaft and poke it through the hole. Once you feel the next wooden beam you can start to drill through it. Be sure to have you drill centered in the middle and pointed straight down. The last thing we need is to drill through the wall.
Once you have drilled through you can make up a pull wire from some thin road and a fishing sinker. Drop this through from the top and through the middle support brace beam. This can be tricky so it is best to have someone shine a torch from a hole cut out where the power point will be installed.
Once the small pull cable is through you can attach the power cable to in and get the person below to pull it through while you feed it from the top. This is my preferred method as it is less destructive. It is a great way to pull through any type of cable even ceiling fan switch controller cables can be installed using this method.
Smash and Grab method
This way of installing a cable to an internal wall is more destructive. So let the homeowner make the call in writing if they are letting you put holes in their plasterboard wall.
Start from drilling a 1-inch hole in the house framework beam and drop through the 14 gauge (2.5mm) 2 core+earth cables. Use a drill or wall saw to cut a small hole into the plasterboard where the wooden middle brace is.
You can now drill a hole into the wooden brace beam to feed the rest of the cable through to the bottom.
The only problem with this method is the exposed hole in the wall. You will need to patch this up with some powder filler and a small piece of plasterboard.
Installing AC wall outlet with USB charging ports
Replacing an existing AC wall outlet with one that has USB charging ports is a very easy procedure. Start by purchasing your power outlet from your local hardware store, electrical supplier or this best selling Leviton 15amp Receptacle from Amazon.
Isolate the power in the meter board to your existing power points. Test with a multimeter that the power is isolated and then remove the front cover and screws.
We can now use an insulated screwdriver to loosen off the 3 screws from the Active, Neutral and Earth connection points and pull out the wires. When working with electricity even though I have isolated the power I still take precautions just in case some crazy person turns on the power.
If your wall outlet has been used as a loop you may have 6 cables attached. Each pair will be the same type eg: Two active, Two Neutral, and Two ground wires.
Just attach each cable of the same color together and terminate them into the new wall outlet with USB ports.
Next, grab your brand new USB power outlet and attach the 3 wires to the correct termination points on the back of the wall outlet. Often they will be color-coded. Red for active, Back for Neutral and Green for the Earth wire for countries such as Australia.
You may have other wire colors like Black (Hot active) White (Neutral) and a bare copper cable for the earth in places like America. I have also seen Brown (active) Blue (neutral) and yellow for earth.
Make sure to pull on each wire cable gently once you have terminated them into the correct location. This is to check that they are secure. You can now screw in the new AC wall outlet with USB charging ports into the wall. Some new power receptacles will have a box in the wall to keep it all neat and tidy. Others will just have frame mounts or drywall brackets.
You can now place the top cover over the receptacle and press it into place. If you find there is an exposed hole showing you will have to relocate the USB power point more to one side.
You can now turn on the power and test the powerpoint that everything is working well. It is up to you which way you would like your wall outlets to face. Sometimes it works better vertical and others prefer horizontal.
The video below shows the full installation procedure of a double power outlet with two USB ports.
Considering maximum demand
Often when there are too many household appliances on one circuit the amp draw will exceed the circuit capacity and the breaker will trip or the fuse will blow in old houses.
This is to protect the cable from carrying too many amps and burning up. Many people tend to install extra power points and will load up one circuit too much.
This will start to cause intermittent tripping in high load times. Just think about the following items all on one circuit.
- Washing Machine
- Wall air conditioner
- Bar heater
- Kettle, Microwave, Toaster.
- Table lamps
- TV, Xbox, and home theater
If all of these items are on at the same time you will definitely trip the circuit breaker. The only way to balance the loads is to move some appliances to another circuit or install a new earth leakage circuit breaker.
Most modern houses will have 2 or 3 power circuits in the switchboard. In my house, I have 4 due to the extra load on wall split system air conditioners.
Different Types of Wall outlets around the World.
Depending on where you live in the world will determine the wall outlet plug configuration. This is why when we travel we often need an outlet adapter to be able to use our appliances.
If you are not sure the voltages of where you live you can check out this handy list of the world voltages and frequencies.
In Australia the wall outlets look like this:
Australia uses a 3 wire system at 230V. The plug configuration type is a category (I)
In the UK the power wall outlets look like this:
The United Kingdom uses a 3 wire method for their wall outlets at 230v 50Hz AC. The plug type is G.
In America the wall outlets often look like this:
The United States of America uses a 3 wire system of 120V at 60HZ. The Plug type category is A/B
It is important to make sure to buy the correct one when you are replacing a faulty outlet. Even if you are just adding in new AC wall outlets with USB ports it is important to get the correct voltage.
Remember to always use a licensed electrician when working with electricity in your home.
How to Install an external outside weatherproof wall outlet.
Installing an external 110/240v weatherproof powerpoint is a simple process as most modern houses have a gap between the bricks and the framework.
This gap is usually enough to push through a power cable or rod. If there is a lot of wall insulation then I like to use a 3m flat piece of wood that is 1/4 inch thick and 1 inch wide. Sometimes conduit can also work well. If it is too thick you can flatten it out with a hammer.
The power cable is attached to the wood or conduit. It is then pushed from the roof down the wall to where you have drilled a hole for the new weatherproof power outlet. Having a second pair of hands often helps to fish out the cable with some long nose pliers or a stiff piece of hooked wire.
Once the cable is exposed you can go ahead and mount the wall outlet to the wall and terminate the connections.
It is important to use a weatherproof wall outlet on all external installations. This is even if they are undercover. I have had quite a few emergency call-out jobs that have involved non-weather proof wall outlets and a garden hose.
If you have any questions, please let me know using the comments below and I will be sure to get back to you.