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Power Receptacles: What Are They?
As you start to tackle your next home entertainment DYI project or plan to update the connectivity in your office, you may be focused on making sure you have the correct HDMI cables, connectors, equipment, and storage solutions. You may not immediately think of the power receptacle, though the inconspicuous power receptacle is an extremely important and vital component to any electric or networking project.
Stock image of Electrician installing a power outlet.

Power Receptacles: The Basics

  The term “power receptacle” basically refers to the electrical outlet. They are devices that allow electrically operated equipment to be connected to the primary alternating current power supply in a building.   Think of all the outlets around your home that provide the power connection to your TV, lamp, toaster, etc. How they work is relatively simple. The plug (the movable connector attached to an electrically operated device’s main cable) connects to the socket (the object fixed on equipment or a building structure and connected to an energized electrical circuit), and power is then distributed from the main source to the object. Thumbs up, and Electric cable in Electrical Outlet on the Wall. Power 110v Electrical plugs and sockets differ in voltage and current rating, shape, size, and type of connectors.  In North America, we use connectors standardized by the National Electrical Manufacturers Association. The devices are named using the format NEMA n-mmX, where n is an identifier for the configuration of pins and blades, mm is the maximum amperage, and X is either P for plug or R for receptacle. For example, NEMA 5-15R is a configuration type 5 receptacle supporting 15 amps. It sounds complicated, but it is a system that helps enable electricians and consumers alike to correctly identify the amount of power a particular power receptacle can handle.  

Power Receptacles: Their Importance

  The power receptacle exists to reduce the risk of users accidentally touching energized conductors and thereby experiencing an electric shock. A brief back story—the power receptacle started becoming available in the 1880s, to replace connections to light sockets with easier to use wall-mounted outlets. Throughout the decades, many types of power receptacles were developed throughout the world in order to address the issues of convenience and protection from electric shock. When you think of them this way, their importance is increased substantially!   Today there are approximately 20 types of power receptacles in common use around the world and, luckily, they are much safer and more convenient than they were back in the 1880s. Power receptacle systems today often incorporate safety features in addition to the recessed slots or holes of the energized socket. These may include sockets with blocking shutters and sockets designed to accept only compatible plugs inserted in the correct orientation.   If you have an older home or office, or if a power receptacle was damaged, it is very important to update the power receptacle to a newer, safer version.  

Types of Power Receptacles

  When it comes to equipment that connects directly to the electrical mains of your home or office building, we highly recommend purchasing quality materials. Low-quality equipment can, at best, damage your gadgets and, at worst, cause serious injury.   While some people may think that the power receptacle is a standard, non-changing object, we have seen exceptional new developments in power receptacle technology and design. With our technology-obsessed society, it has become that much more important to be able to charge your cell phone, tablet, and iPod® quickly and easily. Electrical-outlet-in-the-USA-power-socket-with-USB

Enter the USB charging outlet. Available in either 120v outlet + USB ports or all USB ports, this power receptacle allows you to streamline your USB charging—reducing clutter and providing an easy way to power your most-used devices.   In addition to the functional use of the power receptacle, we’ve seen great updates to the power receptacle’s aesthetic. As more and more things go wireless, there has been less of a need for wires and cables. However, we’re still a long way from a world with no wires and, until that day comes, you may want to consider a power receptacle that can neatly hide and organize wires you wish to disguise. Items like a bulk cable wall plate allow you to install power and low voltage cables behind your flat panel TV, your amplifier, or other audio and video devices.  

What’s Next for the Power Receptacle?

  As technology continues to evolve, the power receptacle will continue to adapt to the new changes. We’re already seeing wireless charging stations, power outlets in cars, and wireless charging stations embedded in furniture.   If you always wondered if you could remotely charge your smartphone with the flat-screen TV in your living room, you may soon be in luck. A team of U.S. engineers believes that turning your living room into a wireless charging station is not a far-fetched dream. It will be interesting to see what’s next!
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