Electrical outlets are the quiet workhorses of the modern household. They safely and efficiently meet many residential electrical needs by serving as no-nonsense dispensers of the power that fuels daily life. Without the ability to plug in around the home and office, today’s electronics would be little more than unwieldy paperweights.
Because of their importance to life as we know it, electrical outlets and their accompanying wallplates come in a wide array of styles and configurations. In fact, regardless of your practical requirements or sense of style, there’s likely an outlet and wallplate that can fill your need. Thanks to the internet, it’s easy to find unique, purpose-driven outlets and buy decorative wallplates online. Read on below to learn more about the diversity of outlets that are on the market.
Standard 3-Prong Outlets
The most common outlet you’ll find in most residential applications is the trusty 3-prong outlet. These outlets usually feature two terminals that each have three prongs. Each terminal has two slots and a U-shaped hole beneath them for grounding purposes. These outlets are usually sufficient to meet most household needs, as they are 15-amp outlets with 125 volts. In older homes, you may see the precursor to the 3-prong outlet, the 2-prong outlet. The differences go beyond the number of holes in the outlet, as 3-prong outlets are inherently safer because of the presence of a grounding wire; 2-prong outlets have only two wires and are ungrounded.
GFCI outlets, also known as ground-fault circuit interrupter outlets, are typically used in areas where moisture is common, as they provided added protection from electrical shock in the presence of water. If the current in the outlet is in danger of leaking, the GFCI outlet will break the circuit and prevent electricity from flowing, thus preventing electrical shock hazards. The outlet can then be reset using two buttons located in the center of the outlet between the two terminals.
With the prolific presence of smartphones, laptops, and other digitally driven electronics, the need for power is never-ending. Many of these devices are powered or charged through USB cables. While you can always use charger adapters to plug your device into an existing 3-prong outlet, for example, some outlets feature built-in USB ports that you can plug your USB charging wire into directly. They come in a variety of configurations, including USB only outlets and outlets that combine 3-prong outlets with USB ports.
These handy outlets can help save space and prevent the need to add wiring infrastructure by condensing two functions into a single electrical box. Combo outlets feature a switch and an outlet in the same box and are ideally suited to rooms that are small or have limited existing wiring. You aren’t limited to a toggle switch paired with an outlet, as there are multiple other switch configurations which can be mated with your outlet to meet your specific needs.
While most household needs can be met by a regular 15-amp, 125-volt outlet, there are some instances in which more power is needed. In such cases, you can install a 20-amp outlet to provide more available current to higher draw appliances. For example, a 20-amp, 125-volt outlet is perfect for kitchen appliances, such as the refrigerator. They look just like standard 3-prong outlets with one key visible distance. They have a horizontal slot on the left prong. For power needs that are even greater, a 20-amp, 250-volt outlet can power heavy equipment such as air compressors, high-powered heating elements, and welding machines.
While you may be most familiar with 3-prong outlets, there’s a much wider world of electrical outlets and wallplates available to meet the expanded needs of homeowners. To learn more about the different types of outlets on the market, contact Wallplate Warehouse at (888) 643-3744.