Everyone loves their television, and it seems that with how convenient they have made putting them everywhere we want them, well...everywhere! The problem is that if you live in a home that was built more than about five years ago you have to either set your flat screen television on a piece of furniture or hang it on the wall with the power cord running down to the baseboard outlet. You can always call an electrician to come and install an outlet behind the area where you will be hanging your television, but take it from an electrician, unless you have one in the family it is going to cost a minimum of 100 bucks.
My name is Ryan and I am a journeyman electrician. Electricians are like magicians, they don't like to reveal their secrets, but I believe that if there is a small job that can be done safely by a novice then I am obligated to make sure that it is done right. Remember that it is always the best practice to hire a professional to do most electrical work, but the following demonstration will guide you step by step through one of the easiest installations that can be done.
I am going to show you how to install an electrical outlet in the wall behind your new television set. This is also good for any application where you have an electrical device that you want hung up high but don't want the cord hanging down the wall.
Step 1: Tool List
Before we begin it is important to list the tools that will be required for the job. These tools include: a tape-measure, a flat-head screwdriver, a sheet rock saw, a level, a pencil, and a pair of 14 gauge wire strippers.
Step 2: Parts List
The parts required for this little project are rather specific. I did my best to photograph them so you could see some of the distinction, but I will list each part so that there is no confusion. First you need to find a "single gang" retro fit plastic cut in box. Any salesman at Home Depot in the electrical department should know these parts by name. Make sure it is a cut in box because it will have flanges that allow it to be put directly into the wall with no nails. Second you need approx. 6' of 14/2 romex wire. Most of the outlets in your bedrooms and living rooms are wired on 15 amp circuits. It is uncommon to see anything larger used for these area, but the circuit breaker for the room that you want to install this outlet in is larger than your romex wire must be sized accordingly. Third you need a 15 amp receptical and cover plate. Make sure that the color and style match the rest of the devices in the room. Last you may need some wire nuts, but probably not.
Here is the best part. You remember me saying that hiring an electrician would cost you about $100.00? Even if you bought the most expensive parts money can buy you're only looking at about $10.00 in parts!
Step 3: Find the Ideal Spot
You want to install your outlet above an existing outlet. Depending on how large your television is you only want the outlet to be behind it, where it is behind it shouldn't matter. You must find a spot on the wall that is directly above a base-board outlet. Then, using a lamp plugged into the outlet and turned on. Find the breaker for this particular plug and a TURN IT OFF! An skilled electrician knows how to work safely, and having the circuit off is the best way not to get shocked.
Step 4: There's No Turning Back Now
The existing outlet is going to be nailed to a stud, so make sure that when you decide the height of your new outlet you put it about an inch or so away from the stud that the existing box is attached to. Your retro-fit box doesn't need a stud to attach to. With your level placed vertically draw a line about 2" long. Then, place the box on the wall with the open end facing the wall and the side should be on the line that you have drawn. Finish drawing your cut-out by using the box for an outline. (Special Note) The retro-fit box has flanges on the top and bottom of the open end that keep it from falling into the wall when fastened. Make sure you don't include those when you trace your box outline. Then using the sheet rock saw cut out the outline.
Step 5: This Is the Tough Part
Now you are ready to pull your new wire to your new plug. This is the trickiest part of the entire project. Using your flat-head screwdriver take off the cover plate of the existing outlet and take out the receptical. Every plastic electrical box has two pre-fabricated holes in the top and the bottom. If the hole isn't occupied with a wire then you will have to use the screwdriver to pry it open from the inside of the box. Once you have made a hole take the end of the new wire and fold it over at about the first inch. Use the pliers at the end of your wire strippers to crimp it down tight. This will make it easier to push up the inside of the wall. Push this end into the hole and keeping it as straight as possible shove the wire up as far as you can into the wall cavity above the existing outlet. The new hole you made should be large enough to stick your hand into and catch the end of the wire when it gets close.
Step 6: Almost There
Now take your retro-fit box and slide one of the pre-fabricated holes over the end of the wire and push the entire box into the wall, open end facing you. The wire should be sticking out of the front of the box about 10". To secure the retro-fit box into place tighten the screws that are located in opposite corners of the front of the box. This will cause flanges on the screws to open out and begin compressing on the backside of the sheet rock. The flanges on the front and the flanges on the screws act as a type of vice that secures the box in place. Using your wire strippers, strip away the outer sheeth of the romex wire exposing the three individual wires inside. Strip about 3/8ths of an inch of insulation from the ends of the white and black conductor exposing the copper wire.
Step 7: The Finished Product
The final part of the project is installing the hooking up the new receptical and the old one to the new wire. Using the existing receptical as the small holes in the back of the receptical to attach your white and black wires. There is a small blade inside these holes that will allow the wire to go in, but won't let it come out. Make sure that the black wire is on side with the brass screws and the white is on the silver side. The bare copper wire is the ground, and using your wire strippers make a little hook on the end of this wire and wrap it around the green screw located on the bottom of the receptical. Push the excess wire and the receptical into the box and use the screws given to attach it to the front of the box. There will be holes that line up with the attached screws.
When attaching the wire to the existing outlet strip the ends of the black and white conductors as before, but using your wire-strippers make little hooks on the ends to fit around the screws on the side of the receptical. This is if you already have two wires attached to the existing outlet, because, as you will see, there are only enough holes in the back for two wires on each side. The bare copper needs to wire nut to the existing bare copper wires in the box. Push the wires back into the box being extra careful to make sure that the bare copper wire is not touching any of the metal parts of the receptical except the green screw that secures it to the outlet.
Once you have the covers on turn the breaker back on. If it doesn't trip then you did it right, but if it does do not keep on trying to turn it back on. Take off the cover plates and take out the outlets to see if the ground wire is touching one of the screws that it shouldn't be. That is a common mistake made be even the best electricians. Now you have power coming from a hidden outlet behind your new t.v.!