When shopping for outlets, often called receptacles, people often ask what the difference is between cheap ones and more expensive varieties. After all, they look the same on the outside and have the ability to connect an assortment of appliances and electronic devices into them. And while we're talking about outlets, why do some have different slot configurations on them? Is there a difference? Why not just replace each with a cheap outlet replacement? Aren't they all the same anyway?
The Difference Depends on the Application
Looking at them at the department store, the cheaper models of outlets may seem more attractive to your pocketbook, but is it the right choice for you and the installation you're trying to fix? It depends on your installation and application needs. Are you going to live in the house you are replacing the outlets, or is it a replacement for a general outlet in a tool shed that hardly gets used? Are you upgrading your home? Maybe you're upgrading the electrical to sell your home and you're just trying to keep the rehab price down.
There are some common troubles with household outlets to consider. Receptacles are built to grip the cord plug once it is inserted into the outlet slots. It is very important that the plug isn't falling out of the outlet, meaning that the tension on the internal contacts strips has lost their usefulness. loose connections can cause a heat buildup within the outlet and can cause electrical fires.
As far as selecting outlets, cheaper outlets are built just that, cheaper! A 15-amp outlet can still carry 15 amps, but the thickness of the material used for contacts within the outlet itself and the construction thereof is higher quality in the more expensive models. If you want an outlet to work properly for a year or so, a cheaper model may give you adequate use. However, if you're looking to go the long haul and need a durable outlet that can handle everyday use and abuse, you'd better choose the more expensive model.
And speaking of different outlets, there are outlets that are rated for 15 and 20 amps. There are also outlets that are general use and those that are commercial grade. Obviously, the commercial grade is more money but will be more durable, saving you money in the long run.