Electrical outlet is a very common name for a receptacle. Many home improvement stores use the term “electrical outlet” when referring to a receptacle. Outlets are the points at which the electrical system are accessed (receptacle outlet or lighting outlet). A lighting outlet is an electrical box where a light fixture is mounted and gets power. A receptacle outlet is an electrical box where a receptacle is mounted and gets power.
A receptacle is a device that supplies power to an electrical load through a cord and plug. Common household 120 volt receptacles are rated for 15 and 20 amps. 15 and 20 amp plugs will fit into a 20 amp receptacle. 20 amp plugs will not fit into a 15 amp receptacle. The most common receptacle is a duplex which actually contains 2 receptacles.
Conventional receptacle orientation is with the ground pin at the bottom. Many electricians feel the orientation should be with ground at the top. This orientation would reduce the chance of metal (bracelet or necklace) contacting the hot and neutral when plugging or unplugging a cord.
Outlets and Plugs
Wires connect to terminal screws
20 Amp Receptacle
terminal color: dark green
terminal color silver
Terminal color brass
Horizontal slot for rotated neutral pin to accommodate a 20 amp plug.
15 Amp Receptacle
15 Amp Two Prong Plug
20 Amp Plug
20 amp plugs are sometimes used with shop equipment, window air conditioners, etc. A 20 amp plug can not be plugged into a 15 amp receptacle.
Decora Style Receptacles
Decora style is a decorative version of the standard receptacle. Decora style is about 3 ½ times more expensive than standard receptacles. Some homeowners have had switches and receptacles replaced in their home with Decora style as a form of remodeling.
240 Volt Receptacles
Neutral (oversize pin)
Neutral (rotated pin)
240 volt receptacles are used for electric dryers and ranges. They are wired with A & B phase 120 volts to get 240 volts. This receptacle utilizes a neutral and ground connection.
Tamper Resistant Receptacles
2011 NEC requires receptacles installed in dwellings to be tamper resistant with a few exceptions. These receptacles are designed to prevent children from inserting foreign objects into them. Both the hot and neutral prongs from a plug are needed to allow insertion.