Electrical Outlets: Types of Outlets and Popular Symptoms of Failing Outlets

We all take electricity for granted. Electricity is what enables all of our devices to give us the conveniences and comforts that enjoy today. We find an outlet, insert the plug of the device or appliance inside it, flick a switch, and voila! Rooms get cooling, clothes get washed, food gets cooked, and the laptop gives us access to the entire world.

It’s easy to take electricity for granted, but do you remember how much thought you put into choosing the electrical outlets in your home? Maybe you weren’t the one in charge of choosing them, yet they’re the gateway point between your appliances and electricity. It only makes sense to know as much as there is about them, right? Let’s talk about how electrical outlets work at home, what the different types are, and how to ensure safety around them, to protect your kids or pets.

How Do Electrical Outlets Work?

Electrical Outlets

Let’s start by explaining how electricity goes inside your home. In Australia, homes get an electrical current through the national power grid through wires or cables to a service head. This service head generally has two 230V wires and a neutral wire. Then, there’s an electricity metre that measures your electricity use. Electricity then heads into the electric service panel where the circuit breakers are housed. The panel is the hub from where the electricity flows to all of your electrical outlets and light switches.

Standard home appliances draw power from 230V switches, whereas larger appliances require 240V or 250V, taking advantage of both wires and the neutral wire. The electrical circuits inside the home are typically looped and chained together. Moreover, in most modern homes, there are two circuits – 10A and 15A. In older homes, these circuits can be combined. The amps of the circuits represent the current’s strength. Generally, lighting applications require less current than appliances, which is why lower amperage circuits are suitable. Think of the amps like water spraying from a hose. The lower amps, the less water.

Types of Electrical Outlets

double power points

There are quite a few different types of electrical outlets, also known as receptacles. Some have double power points, and many of them even have a third U-shaped grounding hole that’s attached to the ground wire. The outlets are what fit the plugs. Some plugs feature two flat parallel prongs, whereas others feature three prongs. You also have to consider the type of prong or pins, as not every type fits every outlet. For instance, Type A and B plugs can only be used in the United States, whereas Type C plugs are used in Australian outlets.

For small devices, consider a 10 amp double power points outlet. These outlets resemble faces, with slots for eyes and a grounding hole for a mouth. The short slot is hot, and connects directly with a wire that provides the current. The longer slot is neutral, completing the circuit and enabling the current to travel from the hot slot to the appliance and back to complete the circuit. The grounding hole sends excess electricity safely to the ground.

15 amp outlets, are used for more powerful devices and are often found in garages, kitchens and laundry rooms. These are recognisable by their longer neutral slot that features a horizontal notch at the opening.

How to Ensure Safety Around Electrical Outlets

double power points

Electricity is amazing, but it can also be dangerous. Electric fires and shocks are two hazards that pose a threat to your life and the life of those around it. However, most people are fortunate enough to live alongside it without any serious risk, as long as they follow the safety measures, of course. In Australia, there are about 20 deaths every year from electrocution, and more than half of them happen at home. Believe it or not, most of these tragedies are preventable.

The severity of the injuries sustained from electricity depends on the amount of electricity that will go through the person. Light currents can be felt as a light tingle. However, as the flow of electricity increases, so does the intensity of the pain. Loss of muscle control and shocks, as well as respiratory failure and muscle contractions, aren’t uncommon. And if you can’t let go of the shock source, death is also possible. Large amounts of electricity result in burning, cardiac arrest, nerve damage, or death.

There are tens of thousands of electrical home fires in Australia each year, and some of them result in deaths and injuries. Property damage is also significant. The leading cause is arcing, which is why it’s important to use quality electrical supplies and materials, as well as the services of electrical professionals.

Symptoms of a faulty outlet include sparking, burn marks or smokey smells, popping and buzzing sounds, water damage, if the outlet is hot to the touch, and so on.