Complete Guide: Electrical Outlet Types

By Springdale Electrician,

A photo of Mister Sparky Electrician NWA teaching us about electrical outlet types.

Electrical Outlet Types

Don’t Let Your Electrical Outlets Be A Headache.A photo of one of the electrical outlet types.

If your home is of an age where there are problematic electrical outlets, then it’s time to investigate the different electrical outlets available before you have any replacement.

The electrical outlet types typically found are the “two-pronged” outlet if you have an older property. These are outdated and could be a danger since they do not have the third or “ground” hole, and don’t have the necessary grounding connection within the home’s electrical system. The problem with these electrical outlet types is most household appliance plugs have three prongs, not two, so what is the solution?

You could get an adapter plug that will fit into the two-pronged outlet and allow you to connect a three-pronged appliance, but it will not give you any level of protection from electrical shocks. A ground wire is essential to keep you safe.

If your home has outdated or faulty outlets, and you are considering upgrading them because you are having problems, what electrical outlet types can you install?

The most common electrical outlet types available are:

• 120-volt – 15 amp outlets.
These are the most commonly used outlets for a residential setting. They are easy to spot, having two identical outlets, with three-pronged holes. They can come in various colors to match a home’s decor and rated for 15 amps. You will find them in bedrooms, living rooms, dens, and dining rooms. Usually, the two vertical slots are at the top on the outlet, with the third one, the arch-like grounding hole at the bottom.

Occasionally, you will see the outlet in the reverse position, with the two vertical slots at the bottom. This is one way to signify that this outlet is controlled by a wall switch, and not live all the time as with the regular outlet. Most times, they are used for lamps that need to be switched on upon entering a room.

• 240-volt outlets.
These are not like any standard electrical outlet type but are meant for a specific use, such as heavy-duty power tools, clothes dryers, and cooking ranges. They are designed to be a single outlet with a dedicated circuit in the home’s breaker panel. Because of their increased power load, they have a much larger amperage, 30amp, or 40 amp breakers are installed to handle the load.

When comparing a 240-volt outlet to a 120-volt outlet, the first visible difference is the shape. A 240-volt outlet is more significant, generally round, and has three or four holes depending on the age.

The design of the outlet means that the appliance plug must match exactly, avoiding the risk of plugging an inappropriate appliance, and causing injury or worse, causing a fire. In recent years all 240-volt outlets have changed from the three-pronged type to a four-pronged outlet. The additional prong gives a ground wire providing extra safety against electric shocks.

Having your appliances rewired to accommodate four wired plugs should solve any problems. Rewiring work like this should be done by a qualified electrician to ensure the correct installation.

• 20 amp outlets.
Most electrical outlet types found in the home are rated at 15 amps, but some appliances need more power, which is where the 20 amp outlets and circuits come in handy. With 20 amp outlets that support 25 percent more load, they can deliver the much-needed power supply without tripping circuit breakers.

These outlets are usually found in garages, laundry rooms, and kitchens where most of the power-hungry appliances are located. To recognize a 20 amp outlet, look for a small notch added to the left-hand side prong.

If there is a need to replace a standard 15 amp outlet with a 20 amp outlet, it cannot be a simple exchange because 20 amp circuits require wire that is thicker than 15 amp circuits allowing it to carry more current.

• GFCI outlets.
GFCI (ground fault circuit interrupter) outlets can be found anywhere in a home where there is a chance of water being present. The bathroom and the kitchen are the two most likely places to find these electrical outlet types. They are designed to instantly shut off the power to the outlet if a short circuit or ground fault is detected.

For example, a faulty hairdryer is being used in the bathroom, and there is water on the floor. A short circuit in the hairdryer could result in the current passing through the body to the wet floor electrocute the person using the dryer. The GFCI outlet will shut off the power before any current can leave the hairdryer.

• Switched outlets.
Ever wanted an outlet where the power can be turned on and off, instead of at the appliance?

With a switched outlet, which has one outlet and a switch, it is possible. An appliance can be plugged in permanently, but with the switch’s flick, it can be turned on or off at any time.Mister Sparky Electrician NWA shows you one of the electrical outlet types.

• USB outlets.
Mobile devices need charging all the time, so rather than plugging a USB adapter into an outlet, USB outlets combine the best of both worlds. The best choice is one with two regular outlets, but also has a couple of USB ports built-in for charging any mobile device.

• AFCI outlets.
An AFCI outlet looks the same as a GFCI outlet, but it is an arc fault circuit interrupter. Arcs can occur when the electricity jumps across two wires, potentially causing a fire. Older houses can have AFCI outlets installed at the first outlet on every circuit, protecting all outlets on the same circuit.

• Smart outlets.
These electrical outlet types are just like regular outlets but can be controlled by a smartphone.

An appliance, such as a lamp, can be turned on or off from anywhere using a smartphone, but they do require some Smarthome hub, to allow communication between the outlet and the phone.

As with any electrical work, upgrading electrical outlets and or circuitry should only be done by a licensed professional. Give Mr. Sparky a call for a free estimate for any electrical work needed.

Mister Sparky Electrician Springdale, America’s On-Time Electrician in Bella Vista, Bentonville, Rogers, Springdale and Fayetteville services the Northwest Arkansas area with a team of licensed electricians. In addition to flickering lights, some of the electrician services provided by the company include electrical outlet/switch repair, ceiling fan installation, lighting installation, electrical wiring repair, landscape lighting installation and home electrical inspections.

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Common Electrical Problems

By Springdale Electrician,

Mister Sparky Electrician NWA teaching you about common electrical problems.

Don’t Be Defeated by Common Electrical Problems.

We are indeed living in interesting times. You may be among so many right now who are feeling constrained at home. Like many others, perhaps you have more persons at home all at the same time and suddenly recognize the expense is getting away from you, especially when electrical problems impact the electric bill.

If those pesky home electrical problems are now presenting you with even more challenges, given the increased usage, it could help to run down a few of the common issues to consider. Some are quite easy to tackle on your own with little professional skill. Others are more dangerous and could be the indicator for you to consult with a technical expert.

One of the most common reasons people overtax their electrical system incorrectly is directly the result of not knowing how specific circuits work. It is often too easy to plug in a new device with little concern for what the demand is doing to the whole system, at least until the electrical bill shows up. However, this is typically not your first sign of electrical problems, as we will show you here:

Common Residential Electrical Problems

It is important to preface anything expressed here with the caution for safety. DIY projects are excellent for most home projects. When it comes to electrical problems, however, mistakes can be more costly, and that cost can be more than that of materials. With that said, let us look at some of the more harmless issues before we cover the more hazardous ones.

Loose or Useless Outlet Plugs

A photo of Mister Sparky Electrician NWA repairing a broken electrical outlet.

If you have outlets that no longer provide power or that are loose, start at the breaker panel. Sometimes an outlet that is not giving power may have tripped the breaker. Check to see if any breakers are in the” OFF” position and reset them. Then, you can return to the outlet and see if it is working. Just be sure the item you use to test is also functional.

If the outlet is still powerless, it may be a matter of loose wiring. If you are uncomfortable checking this yourself, make a call to your local Mister Sparky to come out and check it. Before you unscrew the faceplate, make sure you have the breaker switched to the OFF position.

Once unscrewed, you can pull the outlet a few inches from the box. Check to see the outlet screws securely fasten the wires. If any of the wires have come loose, reattach with black to the gold screw, white to the silver screw. Then reattach the copper or green wire attached to the bottom of the outlet.

Do not underestimate the possibility that the outlet may be bad and need replacing, although this is rare. A loose box can be secured with shims to prevent movement that tends to cause wires to come loose. If you have performed all these checks and still have a dead outlet, it is time to call Mister Sparky.

Frequent Circuit Breaker Tripping

You may have reset a breaker only to find it keeps tripping. Tripping is a result of high wattage use, such as a microwave or a blow dryer. Thie issue is more typical when turning on items while using other power. Using multiple sources has to do with overloading one circuit that not designed to provide that much power.

A tripping breaker is also why we don’t advise using power strips with multiple outlets for a single circuit, for instance, in a bedroom. All the outlets for a bedroom may be on the same circuit. When you increase the number of plugs into it, you can overload that circuit.

This is one of the most common electrical problems as people have many more devices today than the way houses are set up. This also points to another of today’s issues: Too many appliances plugged in at the ready, such as phone chargers that continue to draw power even though you consider them not in use.

Electrical Shocks, Surges or Fluctuations in Power

Most of us are aware of surge protectors in this computer age. Electrical surges can be the result of lightning strikes or damaged power lines. Faulty appliances or bad wiring that you may not be aware of may also cause surges.

Power can also sag or dip due to a faulty power grid in the home. These fluctuations may cause more energy to surge through the lines when activated. This is precisely the kind of problem you want to call Mister Sparky out to check as an inspection could identify issues that need professionals.

Similarly, electrical shocks occurring when a device is either shut off or turned on is an indication of something more serious. Whether it is the appliance itself or the wiring, rather than risk a nasty shock, it is best to call Mister Sparky to check things out safely for you.

Light Bulbs that Need Frequent Replacement

Mister Sparky Electrician NWA showing you all the common electrical problems.Lights that often burn out are a sign of multiple possibilities, such as:

Bad wiring either on the circuit or the mains
Poorly placed insulation
Incompatible wattage
Poor connection
The bad primary neutral connection

This could be a light bulb that is designed to go out when it gets too hot, or it could be something more challenging. Isolating the root cause of any of these issues is a tricky proposition for the unskilled. To be safe and avoid injury, it is worth reaching out to your local Mister Sparky owned and operated by experienced, trained, and highly experts who live in your community.

Rather than risk it, you can “stay safe” by hiring an electrician from Mister Sparky who can come out and perform an inspection, pinpoint your issues and return your power to a safe and reliable condition. Even if you have moved into a previously owned home or made changes that may have compromised your circuits, the professionals from Mister Sparky will ensure your electrical problems are solved efficiently and effectively.

Mister Sparky Electrician Springdale, America’s On-Time Electrician in Bella Vista, Bentonville, Rogers, Springdale and Fayetteville services the Northwest Arkansas area with a team of licensed electricians. In addition to flickering lights, some of the electrician services provided by the company include electrical outlet/switch repair, ceiling fan installation, lighting installation, electrical wiring repair, landscape lighting installation and home electrical inspections.

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How To Buy A Home Standby Generator

By Springdale Electrician,

Always be ready with a home standby generator says Mister Sparky Electrician NWA

What you need to know about buying a Home Standby Generator.Mister Sparky Electrician NWA showing you the benefits of a home standby generator.

A home standby generator can overcome that problem and supply you with continuous power for days on end. The reason is that it has a direct connection to your home’s main electrical panel and powered by a separate fuel supply; natural gas, liquid propane, or diesel.

Okay, I realize some of you may have a portable generator sitting in the corner of the garage. Just waiting for the time to come when you have to pull it outside, fill up the gas tank, (if you have any spare gas that is), crank it up, hope it starts, and then plug in a few electrical extension cords to keep a couple of lights and maybe your TV running.

Wouldn’t life be more comfortable if you didn’t have to do anything, but sit back, relax, and get on with your day? A home standby generator makes this all a possibility.

Buying a Home Standby Generator

is simpler than you might think, and there are many reasons for making such an investment:

Safety

– There’s no messing with gas cans and spilling gas all over the place. Minimizing the risk of fire, CO poisoning, and electrical shocks.

Convenience

– Even if you are away from home, you can rest easy knowing that the power will be restored automatically to the essential circuits like A/C, refrigerator, alarm system, or even the whole house.

Value for Money

– The investment you make in a home standby generator will be worth it each time there is a power outage. No more spoiled food in the freezer—no more sitting in the dark, hunting for flashlights or candles, and no more wondering when the power is coming back on.

Three Steps in Selecting a Home Standby Generator.

1. Choose which fuel to use.

Before you buy a generator, you need to identify which fuel type you can use.

Standby generators rated up to 22kW will usually run on natural gas or liquid propane. If you can use diesel, then you would have to look toward purchasing a liquid-cooled whole-house generator, that would be a lot more expensive.

Liquid propane and diesel fuel both require tanks, either buried or placed above ground, to store enough fuel to run the generator properly. Natural gas-run generators require the gas meter and gas line to be the correct size.

2. Calculate Your Power Requirements.

Next, you need to calculate how much power to prepare for during a power outage, and if you require only the critical systems like air conditioning and refrigerators, or if you would like your whole house powered.

Generator Sizes.

If you plan on having your central A/C connected, then you will need a generator that will be able to handle it. For example, if you have a 3-ton air conditioner unit, it will require a standby generator that is 11kW or greater.

To give you an idea of the size of the generator that will be needed to handle the demand, let’s say you have a 2,500 sq. Ft. home and you want to connect the following items to the standby system:
• Central A/C
• Electric Water Heater
• 2 Refrigerators
• 2 Freezers
• Electric Stove/Oven
• Microwave
• Dishwasher
• Garage Door
• Electric Dryer
• 2 computers
• WiFi
• Security System
All the above would mean to power all these units and appliances; you will need a 22kW Standby Generator with an automatic Transfer Switch.

Of course, all the items in your home won’t be running at the same time during a power outage, but the strength of the Standby Generator will be enough for you to carry on as usual until regaining power.

3. Choose the Type of Transfer Switch.

Just as you need a switch to turn your light on, a generator needs a switch to know when to start doing its job.

An Automatic Transfer Switch (ATS) senses when the power to your house has failed and immediately springs into action, powering up the generator. The switch continually monitors the utility power supply. If an outage is detected, along with starting the engine, it disconnects any power coming in from the grid, and electrifies your breaker panel via generator power.

Although the transfer switch does its job automatically, it isn’t instant. There will probably be a few seconds delay between the power going off and the generator powering up, but it is minimal. With restored power, the Automatic Transfer Switch will shut the generator down and reconnect your home to the power grid. The process is seamless, and the only way you know things are back to normal is if you can no longer hear the generator engine running or you go outside and see life coming back to normal.

The Power Is In Your Hands.A photo of a home standby generator installed by Mister Sparky Electrician NWA.

Now that you have an insight into just how easy it is to select and buy the correct home standby generator, you can have peace of mind knowing your house will have power when it all goes dark outside.

Please don’t make the mistake of waiting until there is a threat of a storm. You must factor in the time it takes to obtain the necessary permits, permissions, having your fuel tank placed above or under-ground, running a fuel line to the generator, and getting everything installed by a professional company.

 

Mister Sparky Electrician Springdale, America’s On-Time Electrician in Bella Vista, Bentonville, Rogers, Springdale and Fayetteville services the Northwest Arkansas area with a team of licensed electricians. In addition to flickering lights, some of the electrician services provided by the company include electrical outlet/switch repair, ceiling fan installation, lighting installation, electrical wiring repair, landscape lighting installation and home electrical inspections.

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