If you’re thinking about making electrical upgrades in your home, it’s a good idea to know which types of outlets you have and what your options are

Chance are you know about smart outlets and outlets with
integrated USB ports, but you might be surprised at how many different outlets
you can buy and install in your home. Of course, they’re all built for
different situations, and you want to be sure your house is equipped with the
correct outlet for the job. Read on below to see six types of outlets
you can buy for your electrical upgrade.

GFCI outlets


A ground fault circuit interrupter, or GFCI for short, is
meant to quickly shut off an outlet’s power when it detects a short circuit or
ground fault. Normal electrical flow happens when the current comes through the
hot wire and returns back through the neutral wire, but if electricity flows
beyond that, the GFCI outlet will trip.

Basically, if you’re using a fault hair dryer, for example,
and your feet are wet, a short circuit from the hair dryer can cause the
current to pass through you, to your wet feet, and into the ground,
electrocuting you. A GFCI outlet kills power before the current can remotely
escape the hair dryer. Understandably, these outlets are pretty much guaranteed
to be found in houses nearby water sources.  

GFCI outlets are typically more expensive than regular
outlets, but are required to be installed in locations such as kitchens and

AFCI outlets


Though it’s not as well-known as a GFCI outlet, an AFCI
outlet looks very similar. Short for “arc fault circuit interrupter,” it
protects from arcs, which happen when electricity jumps from one wire to
another, which can result in a fire.

Any modern house built after 1999 should have AFCI circuit
breakers installed at the circuit breaker box. If you live in an older house,
you can install the outlets at the beginning of every circuit, which will
protect all outlets following in that circuit.

There are no requirements to add AFCI protection to existing
circuits in older homes, but if you plan on building an addition to your
house and need more circuits, they must be AFCI protected and up
to code.

20A outlets


With 20A circuits and 20A outlets, you can use more
power-hungry devices without the breaker tripping, because they can support 25%
more load compared to most other outlets. You’ll typically find 20A circuits
and breakers in kitchens, laundry rooms, and garages, since most power-hogging
appliances are located in those areas.

But how can you tell if an outlet or circuit is rated at
20A? You can figure this out by looking to see if the outlet has a small notch
added into the left-side prong opening. This means it’s a 20A outlet and the
circuit it’s on is rated at 20A.

Switched outlets


If you’re looking to control the power of an outlet by
turning it on and off whenever you want, go for a switched outlet. It’s a
receptacle that includes one outlet, and a switch that turns it on and off.
This is suitable if you have something plugged into an outlet, but you don’t
want it on the entire time.

You can also use this outlet to create your own switched
extension cord, where the cord itself will always have power, but you’re adding
on a second outlet that’s controlled with the switch.

USB outlets


By now, most of us wish outlets with integrated USB ports
would come standard in all houses. How convenient would that be? However, they’re
difficult to find and are rarely installed by default in modern homes.
Fortunately, you can easily install them.

There are a variety of USB-equipped outlets available. A popular go-to option are the ones that still come with two regular outlet receptacles,
but squeeze in two USB ports for charging your mobile devices. You can also
find one that replaces both receptacles with four USB ports. Both outlets can
charge your devices up to 4 amps, so your mobile devices can charge at full

Another option is to purchase a USB wall charger, so you don’t
have to do any electrical work.

Smart outlets


If you want to take things to a completely new level, grab yourself
some smart outlets. They’re like regular outlets, but can be controlled from
your smartphone. This means they can be turned
on and off from just about anywhere.

Smart outlet options include the Belkin WeMo Switch and
the ConnectSense, but these are basically adapters you plug into a regular
outlet. Instead, you can get smart-enabled receptacles that can replace any traditional
outlet. Of course, this requires a smart home hub, but if you’re considering
this option, it’s likely you already have one.


Source: How-To