What Are the Different Types of Electrical Outlets?

Electrical outlets

The variation in electrical outlets is designed to accommodate varying voltage requirements, along with environmental and safety measures. These criteria offer maximum protection to people while supplying each electrical device with the appropriate amount of electricity. Learn about the types of electrical outlets available using this guide.

Standard Outlets: 15-amp Duplex

Most outlets are wired using circuits with 15-amp capacity, as this is the common requirement for electrically powered household devices. These types have one long slot, one shorter slot and one grounding insert.

Tamper-resistant versions of these products are available to increase child safety. When not in use, the plug inserts are covered by a flap so no foreign objects can enter and induce electrical shock. While plastic covers must be reinserted after each use, tamper-resistant flaps close automatically.

When an outlet is installed in an area which will come into contact with moisture and precipitation, such as near a pool or outside on a patio, weather-resistant products are required by modern building code. These types are constructed with materials specifically designed to resist corrosion and rust.

Ground Fault Circuit Interrupter

Ground fault circuit interrupter (GCFI) outlets work at protecting you from electric shock. The device tracks the electricity flow which cycles through to the appliance and back. If there is a break in the current, the outlet trips immediately, cutting off all electrical power. Electrical code requires GCFI products in potentially wet areas such as kitchens and bathrooms.

High Current Outlets

Certain electrical devices require more voltage than standard 15-amp outlets provide. Twenty-amp types are wired with thicker-gauge circuit wires, and while they still have three prongs which appear similar to standard 15-amp outlets, the upper slots are perpendicular. Some kitchen appliances such as microwaves may require 20-amp voltage for proper function. Most 15-amp devices can be safely plugged into 20-amp outlets, but 20-amp-sized plugs will not fit into 15-amp outlets.

Washers and dryers may require an even higher voltage, such as a 125- or 250-volt capacity. These outlets have a specific prong configuration, normally with three vertical slots arranged in an arc and one grounding insert at the bottom.

When Should You Update Your Electrical Wiring?

If your home was built prior to the 1960s, you may have ungrounded, two-prong outlets in every room. While they look similar to modern 15-amp outlets, they do not have the third grounding prong insert. These electrical outlets are a sure signal the wiring in the home is old and should be updated as soon as possible to eliminate a risk of electrical fire.

If you require specialty outlet installation or your home contains aged, unsafe electrical outlets, contact Stanger Electric for a renovation estimate.