I'm installing a wall mount over an existing electrical socket - so I want to remove the socket I've read that just capping off the Hot and Neutral wires is not the best approach and that disconnecting from the power source is best. I don't want to disconnect from the breaker panel as many other sockets that I want live are on the same breaker. How do I find where to disconnect the hot and neutral wires to the socket I want to remove?
You can rent or buy a circuit tracer, true. But cheap and easy: turn breakers off one by one until the existing socket goes dead. Now work backwards, finding the nearest also dead socket. Yours likely takes off from that point.
I have and use the Sperry LAN Tracker for this type of thing and it works well. It runs about $40 (WARNING: The power in the line must be off to use devices like this)
- Turn off the breaker for the run you'll be working on. If you don't know or don't have the time to figure out the specific breaker then just shut off all the main breakers.
- Un-wire the outlet you'll be tracing so you can get to the wires.
- Hook the red clip from the LAN Tracker to the "hot" wire. (typically black, but not always) and hook the black clip to the ground wire.
- Now you turn on the base unit which sends out a signal into the wire and then you carry around the detector to find the route the wire takes. (you have to press a tiny button the detector for it to detect; its a battery saving feature)
It does work through walls, but just barely. It's much better if you are in the attic and can point at specific wires, but for your purpose its likely to work fine for routing you to the correct spot. You'll sometimes get a false positive because the wire you're tracing runs in parallel with another wire and the signal some how jumps between the lines, but the false positive is always much weaker than the real thing so you get used to spotting them.
That said, if this is not an end-of-run outlet you'll wind up having to run a new line between two devices. So for instance if this outlet is in the middle of two other outlets you'll pull the wire out of the wall to the "left" and "right" of the outlet you want to get rid of and then run a wire from one outlet straight to the other.
If you don’t mind putting a cover plate over the outlet, you can cap the wires and do that. This is by far the easiest solution. Maybe you can find a decorative cover plate online.
If you don’t want to put a cover plate over it, then you have to disconnect the socket’s wires at its power source, i.e., the outlet/device that is right before it in the circuit. Then you can drywall over (or otherwise hide) the socket’s box.
To find its power source:
- Identify the breaker for the socket you will remove
- Turn if off
- Guess which socket or device comes before the socket in the circuit. Usually this is another socket/device on the same circuit that is closer to the breaker box. Then open it and temporarily disconnect and separate the wires. Make sure no one is going to touch the wires while they are exposed.
- Turn the breaker back on and see if the socket works.
- If the socket does not work, you found its source.
- If the socket still works, repeat 2 – 4 until you find its power source
- Once you find its power source, you can turn the power off and disconnect the socket’s wires there. But first, do 9 and 10 below. You may want to wait to disconnect the socket’s wires until you run the new wire, if necessary.
- Turn the breaker back on
- Determine if any other socket or light no longer works.
- If so, you will need to run a new wire from the power source where you disconnected the socket’s wires to the first socket/device that does not work. This will normally be difficult to do and may require hiring an electrician. But, if you can snake the wire yourself, go for it.