What is a wall outlet?
A wall outlet is a wall-mounted electrical receptacle that provides a point for consumers to plug in various electronic items. Wall outlets provide flexible access to electricity for use with a wide variety of components. Some come with special features designed for specific applications, like devices used in wet environments. It is typically easy to relocate wall outlets as well as to add more to meet household needs, although homeowners may prefer to hire an electrician to do this work.
The design includes one or more electrical sockets designed to accommodate plugs of the most common type used in a region, with a cover to limit exposure to the interior wiring. Older outlets may lack a ground, while newer ones should be grounded in accordance with the electrical code. Some include ground fault circuit interrupter (GFCI) technology, which cuts power to the outlet in the event of a ground fault. This type of outlet is most commonly used in wet areas where there is an increased risk of electrocution.
It is possible to connect a wall outlet to a switch, to allow people to power the outlet on and off. Outlets can also be placed on timers to limit electrical use, and may include features like separate ports for devices that use nonstandard plugs. Universal serial bus (USB) outlets, for example, allow people to connect USB devices to a standard wall outlet to charge, rather than requiring the use of a converter.
The voltage delivered to a wall outlet can vary. Some are designed for equipment like stoves and dryers, which require a higher voltage to function, and may contain a notice alerting people to the different voltage. In other cases, such equipment is hardwired directly into the wall. A standard outlet typically uses the standardized voltage common to a region, such as 110 in the United States versus 220 for circuits used to power devices like stoves. When using wall outlets in other regions of the world with devices from home, a plug converter and voltage transformer may be necessary.
Wall outlets present some safety risks. It is possible for people to electrocute themselves by sticking fingers into a wall outlet, or coming into contact with exposed plugs that do not fit outlets securely. When an outlet is not in use, it can be advisable to cap it with a plastic plug to limit the risk of electrocution. Outlets that are routinely left unused can be unpowered to reduce the chances of an electric shock.