All About Outlets
An electrical outlet is the receptacle for the plug of an electrical device. In other words, the outlet is the receptacle an appliance is plugged into. Outlets can come with one, two or three receptacles where one, two or three appliances can be plugged in. In the United States, there are more than 130 receptacle configurations that are currently in use. The most
common of these configurations are briefly discussed below. The electrical staff at A & K Services of Iowa are well trained and experienced to best determine what device is needed for your application.
Before discussing receptacle types, it is best to understand the role that amperage plays in relation to receptacle design. Amperage refers to the amount of current that a particular appliance uses. The amount of amps an outlet is rated (or otherwise UL listed) for can range anywhere from nearly 0 to 60 amps and possibly more depending on the demand of the appliance or device in question. In residential homes, for example, most common receptacles are rated for 15 or 20 amps. Some common exceptions are clothes dryers and electric range units, which use significantly more in some cases. It is always best to have a qualified electrician determine the best receptacle for the job. Installing an outlet that is under-rated for the amount of demand placed upon it can result in personal injury, loss of property - most likely from fire, and even death in some cases.
Standard receptacles are the regular outlets that most people deal with on a day-to-day basis. These are the outlets you will find throughout your home or office that are used for everyday items such as computers, televisions, table lamps and much more. The quality and design of these receptacles will vary depending upon the original intended use at the time of installation. Residential receptacles are usually constructed for light or occasional usage, while commercial receptacles are heavier-duty for consistent usage where the user may be routinely inserting and removing a device. At the high end are hospital-grade receptacles which are designed to endure extreme usages where power will be delivered under a load for 24 hours a day. As with most things, the heavier the grade, the more costly the device will be.
GFCI receptacles or properly known as Ground-Fault-Circuit-Interrupter are designed to protect people from accidental electrical shock. This type of outlet monitors the electrical current and can sense if the current varies from its intended path. If this happens, the outlet will immediately break the circuit. These types of outlets are required in certain areas such as kitchens and bathrooms, along with numerous other areas as defined by the National Electrical Code®. GFCI receptacles feature a test and reset button that allows testing of the device to insure it is working properly. It is recommended that this test be performed on a monthly basis.
AFCI receptacles or properly known as Arc-Fault-Circuit-Interrupter are designed to help prevent accidental electrical fires. An arc fault occurs when the current moves along an unintended path. This causes excessive heat which can ignite materials close to the outlet such as wood or insulation. Like GFCI outlets, AFCI outlets monitor the current and will immediately break the circuit if it senses that the current is flowing through an unintended path. Arc-fault protection is required in a number of living areas in residential structures by the National Electrical Code®.
Tamper & Weather-Resistant Outlets
Tamper-resistant and weather-resistant outlets are designed to provide additional safety and durability. Tamper-resistant outlets will have a 'TR' marking on the face of the device, while a weather-resistant outlet will have a 'WR' marking on it's face. These types of receptacles are required in various locations as specified by the National Electrical Code®. These outlets feature a shutter sliding system that prevents the outlet from opening unless pressure is applied to both slots. This means that the outlet will accept the two prongs of an appliance's plug, but if a child tries to insert an object into the socket, it will not open, preventing injury or death. Weather-resistant outlets additionally are designed to be highly durable to withstand the elements.
Due to advances in technology, there are a variety of receptacles available to complement decor, increase safety and provide convenience to the end-user. Receptacles are available to provide the user with options such as USB charging, night illumination, electronic surge protection and more. Devices are also available in a wide-range of colors to accent every decor imaginable. Some devices are not available in every color, so it is important to consult with a qualified electrician to find out what options are available for each situation.