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Outlet vs Receptacle

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.

Receptacles

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.

Receptacle Orientation

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

Ground

terminal color: dark green

Neutral

terminal color silver

Removable tabs

15 Amp Receptacle

Hot

Terminal color brass

Horizontal slot for rotated neutral pin to accommodate a 20 amp plug.

20 Amp Receptacle

15 Amp Receptacle

Duplex Receptacle

Single Receptacle

Single Receptacle Duplex Receptacle
20 Amp Plug Decora Style Receptacle

15 Amp Two Prong Plug

Electrical Plugs

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

Hot

15 Amp Two Prong Plug

Neutral (oversize pin)

15 Amp Three Prong Plug

Neutral

Ground

Hot

Hot

Ground

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.

240 Volt Receptacle

15 Amp Three Prong Plug