How I Orient My Electrical Outlets

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For years, I have mounted most my electrical outlets "upside down" (see Figure 1) – by upside-down I mean the ground slot is up. Recently, I have started to see more folks orienting their outlets this way. I see that Finehomebuilding Magazine and the Journal of Light Construction (JLC Field Guide) recommend this approach as well. However, it is not required by the National Electrical Code.

Figure 1: FineHomebuilding Magazine Forum Answer On Outlet Orientation.

Figure 1: FineHomebuilding Magazine Forum Answer On Outlet Orientation.

I started doing this when I saw a child drop a metal object onto a loosely plugged in cord. With power and neutral wired as the top slots, the metal object shorted and created a spectacular flash. Fortunately, no one was hurt but the outlet and plug were both damaged. Having the ground slot at the top means that a metal object dropped on a plug is far less likely to contact the power contact. Watching what happened to this child drove me to reorient many of the outlets in my home.

Note that some products (e.g. my refrigerator) have cords that tend to pull out of outlets that are wired with the ground-slot up. These outlets should then be wired in the conventional manner (i.e. ground-slot down). These outlets usually are in places where metal things are not likely to fall on cords plugged into them.

The same logic applies to sideways-mounted outlets (Figure 2). In this case, the neutral slot is mounted up.

Figure 2: Sideways-Oriented Outlet.

Figure 2: Sideways-Oriented Outlet (Source).

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2 Responses to How I Orient My Electrical Outlets

  1. Guillermo says:

    This is great, I actually thought about this some time back too. Given that most plugged in devices pull the chord from the bottom, the top of the plug (with the neutral + hot wires) tends to stick out more often which presents a hazar for anything that could get wedged between the wall and the given plug. Another elegant solution is to have recessed terminals like they have in Europe, so that plastic covers the plugs in case it sticks halfwa out.

    • mathscinotes says:

      I have always liked some of the European-designed electrical gear myself. Your comment about the hot/neutral contacts tending to be exposed because of dangling cords is right on.


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