Retrofitting a USB Charger/Receptacle Combo
Mobile electronic devices go everywhere yet, being battery-powered, they must stop from time to time to get recharged. Sensing a hot opportunity, electrical suppliers came up with retrofit receptacles in which you can charge two mobile devices at once. So here’s how to replace a standard duplex receptacle with an ingenious Leviton USB charger/receptacle combo that speeds recharging and gets more use out of a one-gang outlet. As a bonus, the bottom portion of the combo is tamper-resistant (TR) receptacle.
What it’s not. Though the upper portion of this combo device has two USB ports, these ports do not enable you to transfer data. The USB ports exist solely to recharge mobile devices. Because the combo has a built-in transformer, however, you no longer need the cube-like adaptor into which an iPad, iPhone, Kindle (etc.) USB cords insert.
What it is. The combo shown in the photo sequence has a TR outlet rated 15A, 125V; its USB ports are rated 2.1A (DC), 5V (DC). Quoting Leviton specs, “The right USB port [of the pair] is specifically designed for use with larger battery devices…. The left USB port is ideal for changing smaller battery devices.”
Installation. Turn off the power to an existing outlet and use a non-contact voltage tester  to be sure the outlet is de-energized. Lock the breaker panel or remove the fuse controlling the outlet to be sure that no one inadvertently re-energizes the circuit while you are working on it.
Remove the cover plate , unscrew the mounting screws holding the existing receptacle to the outlet box and gently pull the device out from the wall. Disconnect its wires in this order: hot (black), neutral (white), ground (green or bare copper) .
Reconnect wires to the new USB combo in the reverse order: First connect the ground wire to the green grounding screw , then connect the neutral wire, then the hot wire.
Our electrician re-used the existing loop to attach the ground wire, but he elected to back-wire the neutral and hot wires. He used needle-nose pliers to straighten their loops, then snipped them so the stripped portion of each wire was 1/2 in. long. He then inserted each straightened wire end into a clamp next to a terminal screw. The neutral (white) wire attached to the clamp next to the silver screw; the hot (black) wire attached to the clamp next to the brass screw . Tighten terminal screws to grip wires firmly in the clamps.
Carefully fold the combo receptacle into the box, tighten mounting screws, and install the cover plate. Re-energize the circuit and you are ready to charge your mobile devices.
Now available on Amazon!
This blog is adapted from Wiring Complete 2nd Edition, just released on Amazon.com and selling briskly. (It’s already a best seller on the Taunton Store.) Wiring Complete 2 has 800 photos, 50 detailed schematics, and covers installing advanced components such as wireless switches, LED conversion kits, and whole-house systems. Click here for a complete Table of Contents. Co-author Michael McAlister is a licensed electrician, C-10 Electrical Contractor, and B General Building Contractor in California.
Wiring Complete 2 has the same DNA as Renovation 4th Edition, which contains thousands of field-tested tips and techniques from master builders across North America. R4‘s 614 pages include 250+ technical drawings and 1,000 photos selected from the 40,000 that I have taken over the years. I hope you find them helpful. – Mike
2013 Mike Litchfield
This Leviton USB charger/TR receptacle combo charges more quickly than a standard USB adaptor; you can also charge two mobile devices on the top of the combo.
1. Cut power to the outlet and use a non-contact tester to be sure the power is off. Test all three slots in the receptacle.
2. Remove the snap-on cover (if any), then unscrew the mounting plate.
3. Without touching the sides of the receptacle, unscrew the screws that mount the receptacle and pull it gently from the box. Test again for voltage.
4. After removing wires from the old receptacle, attach them to the new device. The pros always connect the ground wire first, then the neutral, then the hot.
5. This device can be back-wired by inserting stripped wire ends into clamps next to screw terminals. Tighten screw terminals tightly.
Wiring Complete 2 has 800 photos, 50 detailed schematics, and covers installing advanced components such as wireless switches, LED conversion kits, and whole-house systems. Click here for a complete Table of Contents.