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It’s fairly simple to fix an outlet with reversed polarity. On a properly-wired outlet, the black wire (the hot wire or non-grounded conductor) will be connected to the gold screw, and the white wire (the neutral wire or grounded conductor) will be connected to the silver screw. When you have a reversed polarity outlet, the black wire will normally be connected to the silver screw, and the white wire will be connected to the gold screw. The procedure below will work for an individual outlet with reversed polarity. If you have several outlets in the same room or at least near to each other that have revered polarity, then the procedure is a little more complicated, and I will not address it here.

 

Steps for fixing an outlet with reversed polarity

STEP 1

Plug in an outlet tester or lamp or something into the outlet so you can tell when the outlet is de-energized.

hot neutral reverse

STEP 2

Turn off breakers, one at a time, until the outlet tester or lamp shows that the outlet is dead.

STEP 3

Remove the cover from the outlet and remove the outlet from the wall.

removing outlet cover- reversed polarity
removing outlet cover
outlet without cover- reversed polarity

STEP 4

Use a voltage detector to ensure that there is no voltage on any of the wires connected to the outlet.

voltage detector
using a voltage detector

STEP 5

After ensuring that there is no power to any of the wires, disconnect the black wire and the white wire from the outlet.

disconnecting wires from the outlet- fixing reversed polarity
outlet with disconnected wires= fixing reverse polarity

STEP 6

Swap the wires by placing them on the opposite screws from which they came.

*One important note – When you place the wire onto the screw make sure that the end of the “loop” of wire is pointing in the direction that the screw will turn to be tightened (clockwise). By placing the wire onto the screw in this direction, the screw will pull the wire tighter as the screw is tightened. If the wire is put on the screw the wrong way, the screw can tend to push the wire out from under the screw as the screw is tightened.

correctly placing the wire- fixing reversed polarity

The red arrow shows the direction that the screw turns as it tightens. The blue line shows the direction that the wire should be inserted under the screw.

wrong way to install wires when repairing reversed polarity

Do not install the wire this direction under the screw.

STEP 7

Push the outlet back into the wall, and secure with the two screws.

STEP 8

Put the cover plate back onto the outlet.

STEP 9

Turn the breaker back on.

STEP 10

Use your tester to make sure that the outlet is now wired properly.

properly wired outlet

STEP 11

Good work! Pat yourself on the back. You now have successfully fixed an outlet with reverse polarity.

If you’re unsure what reversed polarity is, check out our blog post about it. → What is Reversed Polarity

© 2020 Mike Morgan

This article was written by Mike Morgan, the owner of Morgan Inspection Services. Morgan Inspection Services has been providing home, septic and well inspection services throughout the central Texas area since 2002. He can be reached at 325-998-4663 or at mike@morganinspectionservices.com. No article, or portion thereof, may be reproduced or copied without prior written consent of Mike Morgan.


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