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I need to know if I can replace the plug cover not the plate, to change the color without having to remove the entire box?

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  • Plug Cover - AC Outlet Plug ? Interior exterior, Plug Cover or Receptacle Cover Plate ? – Ken Apr 23 '17 at 20:13
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There are cover plates which cover the receptacle and not just the surrounding space. I don't know if there are problems with them or not. They do cost more than a standard cover plate. There are different shapes of receptacles and one might have to get a cover which fits the type of receptacle one has.

In any case one never has to "change the entire box". The box is not visible when a cover plate is in place. The box is fastened to framing in the wall. What one might have to change is the receptacle inside the box. The receptacle is screwed to the box and has the wires attached to it.

The usual procedure for changing the color exposed to the room is to change the receptacle and its cover plate together. This may be what you meant by changing the entire box. If so, one shuts off the breaker to that circuit, removes the cover plate, unscrews the two screws holding the receptacle in the box, pulls out the receptacle, detaches the wires from the receptacle (usually by loosening screws) and the receptacle is free. Installing the new receptacle is just the reverse. This is a simple and straightforward procedure for an experienced DIYer, but for someone who has never done it it has pitfalls.

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  • Example youtube.com/watch?v=vfZAE1VQPEY But breaking off the connecting tab is not done unless the two receptacles are powered by different lines. Normally both receptacles of the standard duplex receptacle are powered by the same line so this tab is left in place. – Jim Stewart Apr 23 '17 at 14:56
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Receptacles and trim plates are two separate components, so if you want to change the color completely you have to change both. Changing the receptacle is not difficult, but it does require turning off the power -- it's one of the most basic electrical tasks you can do.

Here's a couple pictures to give you an idea of the parts involved:

receptacle diagram with trim plate and wiring receptacle hanging out of wall

When you do this, you also get the option of going to a different style (eg "decora") or installing outlets with USB power, if you want that.

Code compliance

As of the NEC 2011 (which applies to basically everywhere in Canada/USA), there are additional requirements to comply with code if you replace outlets, which essentially boil down to:

  • You have to maintain grounding if the previous outlet was grounded
  • You have to install a GFCI and/or AFCI (arc-fault) protection if required under current code
  • You have to install tamper-resistant and/or weather-resistant receptacles when required by current code

These are explicitly not grandfathered in.

Full NEC excerpt:

NEC 406.4 General Installation Requirements

Receptacle outlets shall be located in branch circuits in accordance with Part III of Article 210. General installation requirements shall be in accordance with 406.4(A) through (F).

(D) Replacements.

Replacement of receptacles shall comply with 406.4(D)(1) through (D)(6), as applicable. Arc-fault circuit-interrupter type and ground-fault circuit-interrupter type receptacles shall be installed in a readily accessible location.

(1)Grounding-Type Receptacles.

Where a grounding means exists in the receptacle enclosure or an equipment grounding conductor is installed in accordance with 250.130(C), grounding-type receptacles shall be used and shall be connected to the equipment grounding conductor in accordance with 406.4(C) or 250.130(C).

(2)Non–Grounding-Type Receptacles.

Where attachment to an equipment grounding conductor does not exist in the receptacle enclosure, the installation shall comply with (D)(2)(a), (D)(2)(b), or (D)(2)(c).

  • (a) A non–grounding-type receptacle(s) shall be permitted to be replaced with another non–grounding-type receptacle(s). A non–grounding-type receptacle(s) shall be permitted to be replaced with a ground-fault circuit interrupter-type of receptacle(s). These receptacles shall be marked “No Equipment Ground.”
  • (b) An equipment grounding conductor shall not be connected from the ground-fault circuit-interrupter-type receptacle to any outlet supplied from the ground-fault circuit-interrupter receptacle.
  • (c) A non–grounding-type receptacle(s) shall be permitted to be replaced with a grounding-type receptacle(s) where supplied through a ground-fault circuit interrupter. Grounding-type receptacles supplied through the ground-fault circuit interrupter shall be marked “GFCI Protected” and “No Equipment Ground.” An equipment grounding conductor shall not be connected between the grounding-type receptacles.
(3)Ground-Fault Circuit Interrupters.

Ground-fault circuit-interrupter protected receptacles shall be provided where replacements are made at receptacle outlets that are required to be so protected elsewhere in this Code. Exception: Where replacement of the receptacle type is impracticable, such as where the outlet box size will not permit the installation of the GFCI receptacle, the receptacle shall be permitted to be replaced with a new receptacle of the existing type, where GFCI protection is provided and the receptacle is marked “GFCI protected” and “no equipment ground,” in accordance with 406.4(D)(2)(a), (b), or (c)

(4)Arc-Fault Circuit-Interrupter Protection.

Where a receptacle outlet is supplied by a branch circuit that requires arc-fault circuit-interrupter protection as specified elsewhere in this Code, a replacement receptacle at this outlet shall be one of the following:

  1. A listed outlet branch-circuit type arc-fault circuit-interrupter receptacle
  2. A receptacle protected by a listed outlet branch-circuit type arc-fault circuit-interrupter type receptacle
  3. A receptacle protected by a listed combination type arc-fault circuit-interrupter type circuit breaker
(5)Tamper-Resistant Receptacles.

Listed tamper-resistant receptacles shall be provided where replacements are made at receptacle outlets that are required to be tamper-resistant elsewhere in this Code.

(6)Weather-Resistant Receptacles.

Weather-resistant receptacles shall be provided where replacements are made at receptacle outlets that are required to be so protected elsewhere in this Code.

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If you are referring to the AC Outlet Receptacle Cover plate - they come in several different colors and styles.

White, Bone, Black, Brown. Your hardware stores or even online search for AC Receptacle Covers. As for replacing it - there is usually one screw in the middle of the plate that allows you to remove it and replace it.

Now if you are talking about the AC receptacles themselves - the answer is replace the AC receptacle, they come in different colors as well.

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