Receptacle Orientation, it’s all in the profile
Is outlet receptacle orientation really a thing? Do outlets have an up? Have you ever looked at your outlets and noticed that one or more are oriented differently? Have you ever been curious about whether there is a “right way” to install an outlet? I’m going to guess no, and are probably thinking, “Who cares??”… but then there wouldn’t be anything to write about. Moving on. There may be more to the orientation of a receptacle than you realize. However, according to the National Electric Code (NEC), there is no “right way”. In this post, I’ll give you the quick and dirty of the not-so-great debate.
So why the different orientations?
North Americans have become accustomed to a specific way of installing power outlets in their homes. Conventionally, the receptacle orientation has the outlet with the two surprised faces staring back at us, as shown in the example image.
A Case for Change
There is another way
Up to this point, we have assumed that the receptacle is installed in portrait orientation. However, we need to consider landscape orientation, or side-to-side installation, as this could be the only scenario where the position of the conductors is relevant. Let’s revisit the hypothetical situation where a metal object falls and connects the conductors. If both neutral terminals are on top, the situation is likely safe and there is no need for concern. However, if the hot terminals are facing up, there could be a safety issue. It’s important to note that although this scenario is unlikely, Murphy’s law dictates if it can happen, it will. Consider the possibility of a curious toddler with a butter knife exploring the area. It may seem far-fetched, but don’t let me say “I told you so.”
If you’re wondering how to reclaim the time spent reading this post, I apologize. This has been something that’s been bouncing around my head for a good minute. And I figured, why should I be the only one tortured (err, blessed) with this brain nugget? For more interesting readings, check out my other blog posts.
Looking for some light reading? Check out the NEC online. It’s FREE!