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Understanding Different Types of Electrical Outlets and Their Uses

If you have noticed that your home's electrical outlets do not look the same, that's because they are not created equal. Different types of electrical outlets exist, each designed for specific uses and areas of the home.

We'll walk you through the common types in this post, so you can install the right ones that can prevent electrical hazards and enhance energy efficiency.

15-amp outlets

You'll likely have 15-amp outlets in your home, as they are the most common in the United States. They usually have three slots.

The long vertical slot is neutral, the shorter vertical slot is connected to the hot wire, and the third "grounding" slot neutralizes dangerous electrical currents. However, you can also find 15-amp outlets with two vertical prongs. 15-amp outlets are designed for small appliances like lamps and computers that do not draw much power.

20-amp outlets

If you have appliances that draw more power than a 15-amp outlet can support, you can upgrade to a 20-amp outlet. Like 15-amp outlets, they have three slots. However, you can easily identify a 20-amps (125V) outlet by looking for a horizontal slot that joins the longer vertical slot, giving it a t-shape. 20-amp outlets are usually found in kitchen and laundry areas and are ideal for washing machines, air fryers, and dishwashers.

GFCI outlets

GFCI (ground-fault circuit interrupter) outlets prevent electrical shocks by quickly shutting off power when it detects a power surge. For instance, it can be dangerous if water accidentally gets into your hair dryer while using it in the bathroom.

A GFCI outlet, however, can quickly cut off power the moment it detects a spike. To tell if an outlet is GFCI, look for the "TEST" and "RESET" buttons in the middle. GFCI outlets are ideal in the kitchen, bathroom, and other areas with moisture exposure.

AFCI outlets

AFCI (arc-fault circuit interrupter) outlets detect faults that can cause fire, cutting power before accidents occur. Arc faults are a result of loose or damaged wiring and can lead to the generation of huge amounts of heat.

An AFCI outlet can detect arcing and interrupt power, preventing an electrical fire. Like GFCI outlets, AFCI outlets are distinct with their "TEST" and "RESET" buttons.

USB outlets

Today, many of our devices charge via USB, making USB outlets a necessity. They look just like a traditional outlet but have one or two USB ports, making it super convenient to charge your smartphones and other devices without a charging brick. USB outlets are affordable, so you can easily upgrade from older outlets.

Tamper-resistant outlets

Tamper-resistant outlets are especially important in homes with children. They have a special shutter that prevents the entry of foreign material like forks, nails, and knives, only opening when you insert the correct plug.

As a result, they prevent electrical injuries, making them a perfect option if you have children, who are naturally curious and want to know everything around them.

Smart outlets

Yes, smart outlets are available today too, and you may already have an idea of how they work. A smart outlet allows you to turn on and off the outlet via a smartphone or voice control.

You can also program these innovative outlets to turn on or off your plugged-in device at a specific time. Thanks to their features, smart outlets are energy-efficient, allowing you to save money and monitor energy usage.

Leave your electrical jobs to the pros at Werkheiser Electric

Now that you know the common types of electrical outlets and their purposes, it's time to choose the right one for your needs. However, upgrading outlets is best left to a qualified electrician for safety reasons.

At Werkheiser Electric, we can guide you in choosing suitable outlets and help change them, ensuring safety and making your home more energy-efficient. Request an outlet upgrade today.


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