Consumer GuidesElectrical, Telephone & Data

Outlets and Switches


Electrical outlets can be installed or moved by a do-it-yourselfer, but if you’re not sure what you are doing, it is usually best left to an expert.

With outlets, it’s helpful to know what type to use in different situations. Do you need a GFI (also called GFCI, short for ground fault circuit interrupter) outlet or will a regular 120-volt receptacle do? (Exterior, kitchen and bathroom outlets should be protected by a GFI to guard against electrocution.) Does the outlet need to be grounded? If you can’t answer those questions, an expert is necessary.


If you’re replacing switches, you may want to consider upgrading them. In recent years, there has been something of a design renaissance in light switches that offer a variety of features: full-range dimming; a delayed fade from on to off; dimmers that remember a range of different settings; switches that automatically turn on lights when a person enters the room, central lighting controls that operate lights anywhere in the house; even hand-held infrared remotes.


Thermostats have a temperature sensor and activating switch to control heating and cooling equipment and keep temperatures at a set range. The newer thermostats are programmable, electronic devices that couple sensors with circuitry to do the job. Most are like minicomputers that can automatically align heating and cooling to changing daily needs, reducing energy costs.

If you haven’t already done so, maybe it’s time to consider switching from a manual to an electronic, programmable model. Electronic thermostats have become affordable and can repay their costs through energy savings. Every degree of heat you reduce will cut about three percent from your heating bill.

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