Also known as outlets, receptacles, electrical sockets, and plugs, wall plugs are specifically designed to allow electrical equipment to connect to the electrical grid. The most common type features two vertical slots for the electrical prongs and a single hole for the grounding prong, but there are many other types of wall plugs made for varying purposes, like surge protection, tamper-resistance, and remote control.
If you briefly look around your home, it's likely you will see many standard 15-amp duplex wall plugs. However, with a little more effort, you may spot some other types of wall plugs, like GFCI outlets that feature a 'Test' and 'Reset' button, or 120/240-volt outlets that are made for dryers or ranges and other large appliances. Use this helpful guide to learn more about the various types of wall plugs, so you can make the right choice based on design, purpose, and location.
01 of 09
Best for: Low amperage devices, like TVs, alarm clocks, chargers, toasters, coffee makers, game systems, and more.
Easily the most recognizable type of wall plug, the 15-amp duplex outlet can either be two-pronged or three-pronged. The two-pronged versions have two vertical slots to receive a two-pronged plug, while the three-pronged versions have two vertical slots and a single hole for a grounding pin.
These outlets are designed to supply power to two low voltage devices at a time, so they typically have an outlet at the top and an outlet at the bottom. They are affordable, basic options that are common throughout most residential homes, though they lack many of the safety features that are present in alternate types of wall plugs.
02 of 09
Best for: Small appliances that require more than 15 amps to function.
20-amp duplex plugs are similar in appearance to the 15-amp duplex plugs, with one main difference: 20-amp duplex plugs have a small horizontal slot alongside one of the vertical slots. These wall plugs are best for household appliances that need more power than a standard 15-amp outlet can provide.
Common examples include washing machines, dishwashers, and even some space heaters. However, the higher amperage rating does not prevent you from plugging in light-duty devices, like a charger, toaster, or lamp. You can still use these outlets with any lower amperage devices that are intended for 15-amp wall plugs.
03 of 09
Best for: Large appliances and devices that have a high power draw.
When you need to plug in a large appliance, like a dryer or oven, you need to use a 120/240-volt outlet. The smaller 120-volt outlets used for light-duty devices, like chargers, hair dryers, or TVs, do not provide enough power for larger appliances and devices that have a high power draw.
Instead, you need to connect these appliances and devices to a high voltage outlet. Keep in mind that if you are installing a 120/240-volt wall plug, you need to ensure that your home electrical system has a compatible circuit. Additionally, it's necessary to check the appliance you want to connect to determine if you need a 20-amp, 30-amp, or even a 50-amp, 120/240-volt outlet.
04 of 09
Smart Wall Plugs
Best for: Smart home integration, convenience, and remote control.
Wall plugs used to be simple fixtures that were only made to connect electrical devices to the home's electrical grid, but smart wall plugs have combined the basic purpose of a standard outlet with the conveniences of a smart device. These wall plugs can be set to follow a specific program or schedule so that they switch on or off automatically, making it easier to set up devices, like lawn sprinklers or even coffee makers.
Smart wall plugs are also designed to monitor and control power consumption in order to improve the efficiency of the home. With an integrated smart home system, smart outlets may also be able to be controlled and monitored remotely through an app on your mobile device or with voice commands.Continue to 5 of 9 below.
05 of 09
Best for: Accommodating large or bulky plugs.
A rotating outlet can be installed in place of a standard 15-amp duplex outlet in order to increase the flexibility and convenience of the wall plug. The receptacle rotates in place, so that if you have a bulky electrical plug that would normally block the bottom receptacle, it can simply be turned to one side or the other, allowing another device to be plugged in.
This feature reduces the need for power strips and makes it easier to ensure that your devices are properly plugged into the power outlet, so you don't wake up to a dead phone battery.
06 of 09
GFCI Wall Plugs
Best for: Protecting nearby individuals from electrical hazards in areas close to water.
You can typically find Ground Fault Circuit Interrupter (GFCI) outlets in places that are close to water, like bathrooms, kitchens, laundry areas, outdoors, and in some basements and in garages. These outlets are specifically designed to track the current flow of electricity and cut off the power to the outlet if a spike or leap in the current is detected.
For instance, the surge in electricity that can occur if a hair dryer is dropped into a bathtub full of water will trip the switch, automatically turning off the power to the outlet in order to prevent electrical accidents. GFCI outlets are easy to identify because they have a 'Test' and 'Reset' button on the outlet panel. (Note: there are similar looking outlets now on the market, AFCI or Arc Fault Circuit Interrupters. Be careful to pay attention to the type you have.)
07 of 09
Best for: Connecting USB plugs to the home's electrical system.
For the purpose of accommodating the wide range of devices that come with USB charging cables, individuals can have USB outlets installed in their homes. These wall plugs typically feature the same 15-amp duplex design for standard live voltage devices, but they also have one or more USB ports where USB cables can be connected directly instead of having to rely on an adapter.
Also, you won't need to worry as much about the size of the plugs, because USB cables take up less space than USB adapters. This feature allows you to connect more devices to a single outlet, reducing the need for power strips and extension cords.
08 of 09
Best for: Protecting kids from accidental electrocution.
Removable plastic plugs have been used for decades to physically block electrical outlets to prevent kids from sticking items into the open slots. However, not every person is diligent in putting these protective plugs back into the outlet after every use. Instead, you can invest in tamper-resistant outlets that feature a built-in shutter mechanism to block the insertion of most small objects.
These outlets can be used in place of standard 15-amp and 20-amp outlets. You don't need to worry about remembering to put the shutter back into place because it automatically closes when there isn't a compatible device plugged into the outlet. Recent building codes have started to make it mandatory to use tamper-resistant outlets in new construction, helping to ensure the safety of kids at home.Continue to 9 of 9 below.
09 of 09
AFCI Wall Plugs
Best for: Electrical fire prevention.
Arc Fault Circuit Interrupter (AFCI) wall plugs are designed to detect when arcing occurs and to deactivate the outlet automatically. Arcing can be caused by an overheating appliance, driving a nail or screw through an electrical wire, or even when rodents or other pests chew into the wiring of the home.
The result is that the electricity jumps between connections, which can create sparks, high heat levels, and fire. If arcing is detected, the AFCI wall plug will automatically deactivate the outlet. These products are great for kitchens, laundry areas, and bedrooms.
Choosing a Wall Plug
When you are installing new wall plugs in the home or selecting the type of wall plugs you want to have installed by a professional electrician, it's necessary to consider where the plug will be installed, the purpose of the wall plug, and if there are any safety features that could help protect individuals living in the home. Standard 15-amp duplex outlets are the most common and cost-effective option, but make sure to check the power requirements of your appliances to determine if you need a 20-amp duplex outlet, or even a 120/240-volt outlet.
If you are installing the wall plug in the kitchen or bathroom, it needs to be GFCI protected. If you are installing it in a bedroom, it's a good idea to look for an AFCI outlet to help prevent electrical fires and accidental electrocution. AFCI is becoming the norm, not the exception, in recent code versions. Similarly, a tamper-resistant outlet is a great choice for homes with kids. However, if the most important factor is convenience, then it's recommended to look into rotating outlets, USB outlets, and smart outlets.