An Introduction to the Different Types of Electrical Outlets

Yellow background with a white electrical outlet

There are 75 electrical outlets in the average home, of various sizes, shapes, and functionalities. Are the ones are gracing your walls the right ones for the job? Here we’ll take a closer look at some of the most common types in your home, including what they have to offer, as well as new home outlet contenders designed to make your space more user-friendly.    

What Are the Most Common American Electrical Outlet Types?

  • Old & Outdated: 2-Prong Outlets
    Common in older homes, this 15 amp, 125 volt, 2-wired outlet is used for ungrounded circuits only, and is rapidly becoming obsolete due to safety and code requirements.
  • Old Faithful: 3 Prong, 15 amp, 125 Volt Outlets
    One of the most easily recognized and common outlets found in homes, this outlet features two long, upper slots, with a bottom, upside-down u-shaped slot for grounding, helping to prevent electrical shock should any wiring comes loose.   
  • Marvelous Multi-Tasker: Switch/Outlet Combos
    This winning combination outlet provides two features in a single device. Great for kids rooms and night lights, it can also allow you the ability to transform a receptacle, adding an additional switch or outlet to an existing box - without the need for any added wiring.  
  • Shockingly Safe: GFCI Outlets
    GFCI or Ground Fault Circuit Interrupter outlets are required in areas with close proximity to water, such as bathrooms, the laundry, wet areas of the kitchen, crawlspaces, basements and the outdoors. They prevent electrical current from leaking, monitoring flow, and cutting off power to equipment if current leaks or spikes to a hazardous level. They can be easily identified by the 2 small buttons in the center – a “TEST” button, and a “RESET” button, each of which is in a different color.
  • Large & In-Charge: 20 Amp, 125 Volt Outlets
    Used with high current devices as specified by electrical code, such as large kitchen appliances, these outlets are similar in appearance to standard, 15 amp outlets, but with a slightly different look: On these outlets, there is a horizontal slot connected to the top left vertical slot of the outlet.  
  • The Hobbyist’s Friend: 20 Amp, 250 Volt Outlets
    With a design not typical of standard outlets, the unique shape of these outlets is made specifically for air compressors or hobby shop equipment

Newer Types of Electrical Outlets

In addition to the above commonly-used outlet types, there are an array of amazing new outlets. Inexpensive and quickly installed, they offer functionality many of today’s standard outlets do not.

  • USB Outlets
    Family fighting over outlets due to mobile-device charging overload? USB outlets offer a functional, simple solution.
  • Recessed Outlets
    Add extra space to your home, and banish large gaps between walls and furniture with recessed outlet options.
  • Tamper Resistant Receptacles
    A must-have for every home, these specialized outlets are now required by code in newly-built homes, and feature a barrier to prevent children from inserting small objects into them.
  • Built-In LED Night Light Outlets
    Keep tiny and fragile night light components away from little fingers with this convenient, safe, nighttime lighting option.

Interested in learning more about specialty electrical outlets to better improve the function of your home? Get a closer look at outlet options on our blog, or contact Mr. Electric® today.

This blog is made available by Mr. Electric for educational purposes only to give the reader general information and a general understanding on the specific subject above. The blog should not be used as a substitute for a licensed electrical professional in your state or region. Check with city and state laws before performing any household project.