Fix An Upside-Down Outlet
If you have an outlet that is mounted upside-down and pointing upward, this likely was not your doing. Most homes and buildings in the US were wired with outlets facing up to accommodate floor lamps and other pieces of furniture which tend to be plugged into the wall from above.
This problem can be tackled without too much hassle—just turn off the circuit breaker to the outlet, remove the cover plate and switch, then flip the mounting bracket over. Remember that a GFCI outlet should never be mounted upside-down—the test button should not face up when installed.
why are some outlets upside down?
Wiring for outlets was standardized long ago and as such, there is really no rhyme or reason why some outlets face up and others down. If you have a lamp resting on the floor in your home, the outlet above it has to be plugged in from below so that the plug can easily reach and rest on top of the lamp base.
A simple way to test whether an outlet is wired correctly is to plug in a lamp and set it on the floor. If it lights up, you have nothing to worry about. Just be aware that if the lamp has a three-way bulb, the wiring may be backwards from what you’d expect—the switch should turn the light on, not off.
Find the breaker for the outlet and shut it off
Unfasten the mounting screws and carefully pull away the outlet from the box in the wall. The wires will still be attached, so be careful not to place any stress on them as you do this.
Reach behind where the outlet was and feel for a metal grounding strap with a green screw at the bottom of the outlet box. You should be able to reach the strap from either side of the outlet, but if it is hard to grasp, try using needle-nose pliers as a grabber. Loosen the screw slightly with a Phillips screwdriver and wiggle the ends of the wires away from the grounding strap.
Turn off power to the breaker controlling the outlet
Find the breaker in your main electrical panel. Turn it off, wait 30 seconds for power to fully drain away, and then flip the switch back on. If you find that this does not work, check with your electric company to make sure you are allowed to turn off power; some communities require that you call an electrician before turning off the circuit.
Put your hand behind the outlet box and feel for the ends of the wires attached to the outlet. If they are hot, flip another breaker or go back to your main electrical panel and turn off power again. Grab a voltage sensor from a hardware store—they usually run less than ten dollars—and test all three sets of wires in the box. The hot wire(s) should register somewhere between 120-240 volts AC.
Unscrew and remove cover plate from outlet
Remove the screws on the plate’s grounding strap and carefully remove it from over the outlet. Unscrew and remove the outlets from their box as well, being careful not to touch any bare wires. Take a look at the mounting screws on the outlet. The one close to the hot lines should be screwed into the right screw hole, and vice versa for the other screw; these two holes will also have flat metal washers between them. Make mental note of how both mounting brackets are positioned (most likely in opposite directions).
Flip the mounting bracket on the outlet so that both screws are facing in the same direction. This will allow you to mount it correctly in your outlet box. Put hot and neutral wires through their respective screw holes, remembering which hole each wire goes into, but do not tighten them down yet.
Outlets should be wired so that the top plug can rest on a lamp.
If it doesn’t, you have an upside-down outlet. Flip the mounting bracket for your outlet to correct this problem. If your wiring is correct but just looks wrong, ask yourself if any lamps are resting on the floor; if not, then you do not have to worry about it.