Different types of electrical outlets & power plugs

Investing in your comfort is essential in a growingly material world where stocks plummet daily. The economic order is highly inconsistent. Whether enjoying a dive in your swimming pool on the weekends or sitting down to watch TV after a workday, your home is your sanctuary.

US electric outlet

It cuddles you from the unknown horrors of the world and fills your heart with embrace. This is why it’s crucial to understand the different elements of your house, so you can continue to lead a life of peace and serenity. With so many different types of electrical outlets, things can get confusing.

Type of outlet

You may know precisely the wood used for the staircase. You probably don’t even know there are about a dozen different electric outlets. We reckon you could distinguish between a type E and B plug. We’ve made this to help you understand your home from the inside out and avoid any risk of electrical fires or mishaps. We’ve crafted a guide on the different types of electrical outlets and power plugs.    

US and European electrical outlets

Types of power plugs 

Traveling to exotic lands is a promised way to get you through the Monday blues. Certain things are different once you’re in a distant corner of the world. It’s one of the most noticeable differences in the type used in the country. For instance, France has a different one than the US does.

The different styles mark innovation and growth in a particular area. As per the technological advancements of electricity a country had to offer, the design gradually changed.  

Here are the types used worldwide so the next time you’re on vacation, you don’t have to wonder if your hair dryer will work or not:

electrical outlet on metal background

US types

When electricity was first introduced, the purpose was lighting alone. And with most electric lights wired or screwed into the walls, there wasn’t a need for a plug. But eventually, it became clear that electricity had applications beyond lighting as the understanding advanced. Thus, Harvey Hubbell invented a separable model with two flat blades. It was type A. Due to the lack of a neutral blade, the risks posed by a short circuit could not be mitigated. Eventually, type B was introduced. It included an additional rounded prong for grounding. Today, A and B dominate the US domestic and industrial settings. It’s also used for other settings.   

AC

Ac power plugs constitute most of the ones mentioned below, from type A-N. Essentially, it’s any design that connects directly to the building’s alternating current. A wide range of shapes, sizes, designs, and voltage and current capacities are available. Due to the risk of polarity reversal, many plugs include a protective pin. It reduces such risk. Further, AC ones may have insulated live pins to protect against electric shocks.  

Type A 

It’s the plug that started it all.

Type A plug has two flat blades. They’re arranged parallel to each other, about 12.7mm apart. The hole at the tip of each blade allows a firm grip at contact and prevents it from getting loose or falling off. Since it isn’t grounded, it’s mostly used for smaller appliances. It safely allows 100-127V and 15A to flow through. The typical type A is most commonly used in North and Central America. With a slight variation in the voltage capacity, it also becomes functional in Japan. 

Type B

It’s a redesign of the original proposal.

Type B plug has two flat blades, similar in design and dimensions to type A’s predecessor. It comes equipped with an additional third prong, rounded at the end. It provides grounding. The neutral prong protects your appliance and electric set up in case of a power surge by sending the extra power toward the ground. It allows 100-127V and 15A. It’s predominantly used throughout North and Central America and Japan.  

Type C

It’s a slight alteration in a different part of the world.

Type C plug has two rounded prongs parallel to each other, about 19mm apart. It is unpolarized. Thus, both the prongs are connected to live connections. However, the recent models feature an insulated sleeve which reduces the risk of electrocution. It can manage a voltage of 220-240V and has several options in current capacity. It includes 2.5A, 10A, and 16A. It is amongst the most common designs worldwide but is mainly used in Asia and South America. It’s also popular in Europe.  

Type D

It’s a distinct design, exclusive to certain countries.

Type D plug has three rounded prongs, where two are parallel. The third is earthing contact. Since it’s grounded, failure at the hands of a power surge is mitigated. Due to the bigger size of the prongs and the unavailability of insulation sleeves, it’s more prone to damage. It allows 220-240V to run through and functions at a mere 5A. It is currently used in India and Nepal alone as most other countries have reverted to a safer, more efficient option.

Type E

It’s a European way of thinking.

Type E plug has two rounded prongs parallel to each other, about 19mm apart. That’s not all! The design features an additional aperture, known as the earth pin. It serves the same purpose as a grounding prong, redirecting the power surge to the ground. It connects with 220-240V at 16A. It dominates the European continent, from France and Belgium to Poland and Slovakia.

Type F

Schuko. It’s a protective contact for a protective design.

Type F plug has two round prongs parallel to each other at about 19mm apart. It is referred to as Schuko, which stands for protective contact. Here, protective means ground. The earthing connection is established before the live wiring is activated through the two earthing clips facing each other. It supports a meticulously symmetric design. It will always be a perfect fit no matter the angle you insert it. Operating at 220-240V, it supports a current of 16A. It is especially popular throughout Europe, excluding UK and Ireland. You’ll also find it in Russia.

Type G

It’s the commonwealth plug.

The type G plug comes equipped with three prongs, where the two live pins stand parallel to each other at about 22mm apart. The third prong is at the top center of the plug and forms an unpolarized structure. The earth pin has no insulation, whereas the live pins are insulated halfway. Like most other plugs, it functions at a voltage of 220-240V and a current of 13A. As the name suggests, it is predominantly found in the UK. However, Malaysia and most of Arabia support the design. Singapore uses it, too.

Type H

It’s a design particularly exclusive.

Type H plug is unique both in its design and territory. While it may have a traditional three-prong design, it differs slightly. The prongs are arranged at an angular setting when flat and triangular when round. Two prongs serve as live pins about 19mm apart, while the top center is the earthing pin. It is unpolarized to support a voltage of 220-240V and a current of 16A. The design is especially distinctive because it is only used in Israel, Palestine, or Gaza.

Type I

It’s a distinctive plug at a distinctive angle.

Type I plug has your usual three prongs. While the center prong is an earthing pin with no insulation, the live pins are a little distinct. The two live prongs are flat, standing parallel to each other at about 13.7mm apart at an angle of 30°. They’re insulated to reduce the risk of electrocution. It functions at 220-240V, at a current of 10A. It may not be popular worldwide, but it’s notably used in Australia and New Zealand. It is also found in Argentina and China.  

Type J 

It’s a guarantee of a safer future.

Type J plug has three rounded pins, where the live pins are parallel to each other and about 19mm apart. The live pins are insulated to ensure that you don’t experience an electric shock. The earthing pin is not insulted, and it’s slightly more elongated than the other two pins. This ensures that the earthing connection is established first. Thus, it guarantees protection against polarity reversal. It functions at 220-240V, at 10A. It is limited in use, as only the Swiss seem to use it.  

Type K

It’s an upside-down frown.

Type K plug has three round pins, arranged much like the other designs, with two parallel and one at the bottom center. Whether an accident or intentional, its design appears to make a smiley face. The earthing pin is semi-circular and shorter than the other two pins. Whereas the live pins are slightly longer and 19mm apart from each other. Neither of the pins is insulated—it functions at 220-240V and 16A. As distinct as it, the design is exclusively used in Greenland and Denmark.      

Type L

It’s a homage to one of the first designs.

Type L plug has three round pins, all arranged parallel to each other. Its design is unique with a three-prong model, as most plugs tend to go for a triangular setting. The live pins are arranged on the ends of the plug, while the earthing pin is at the center. All three pins are equal in length, but only the live two are insulated. It is available in two models, where one supports 10A and the other 16A. The two models are slightly different in spacing but function at the same voltage of 220-240V. It is limited to Italy and Chile.   

Type M

It’s a design from the present for the future.

Type M plug has a sleek outlook with three rounded pins, where the live pins are 25.4mm apart. The central pin builds the grounding connection to protect against polarity reversal. The earthing pin is slightly more elongated to ensure a connection with the ground is established first. It functions at 220-240V and 15A. It is almost exclusive to South Africa alone.  

Type N

It’s slightly odd but more distinct.

Type N plug is purposely made distinct so that Brazil could’ve more control over what enters their borders. It has three rounded pins, where they live two are insulated and parallel o each other at 19mm apart. The protective pin is at the center but slightly shifted to one side. This design makes it incompatible with any other outlet. It functions at 100-240V while offering options for current flow at 10A, 16A, and 20A. It is exclusively used in South Africa and Brazil alone.

Type 1 

It’s not your everyday plug.

Type 1 plug doesn’t fit into all the above plugs as it has a very distinct shape and function. It’s a single-phase model with a 5-pin design used for charging particular car models. It’s also exclusive to the Asian region, rarely seen elsewhere.

Types of electrical outlets 

Revamping your home is no easy task; it tests your patience and finances. Why not make educated and learned decisions? Apart from the right paint coating that best fits your aesthetic, there are a few things you must get ahead of. Such as choosing the right one.

So here’s a dive into different options:

outlet being installed

15A 

You’re probably already aware of the 15A outlet, as it is preferred by homeowners time and time again. It is not only affordable but relatively easy to set up. Either you choose to install the two-pronged outlet, which offers two ungrounded connection slots. Or you can settle for a three-pronged one, which comes equipped with an additional earthing pin. The 15A option offers a bargain at low cost and maintenance. It only works with appliances with a low voltage and amperage requirement. It is ideal for all the lighting requirements.     

electrical outlet used in the US

20A

If you’re looking to plug-in devices that require slightly more power, then a 20A outlet is ideal. At 125V, it draws great power. It makes it a perfect fit for your washing machine or dishwasher. Should you choose to go even higher to 250V, it will pair perfectly with your air conditioner or compressor. However, it’s imperative to introduce a proper circuit with such a high voltage. You want to avoid short circuits or other mishaps. You can easily distinguish a 20A one by spotting the indentation into the left prong opening.  

Switched outlets

An outlet that has mostly lost relevance and is only used during the holiday season. These come paired with a switch to leave your Christmas lights plugged in without worrying about damage. Instead of taking out the plug every time, the lighting can be switched on with the help of a button.  

GFCI & AFCI

Choosing the right outlet is important. It determines if your money was spent well and if it can protect you against any potential harm. From electrical fires to shocks, any damage is too threatening for electricity. Therefore, installing GFCI and AFCI outlets protects you against such mishaps.

The GFCI outlet is mostly introduced in rooms prone to being wet, such as the bathroom or basement. It is also good in the kitchen. It monitors the current level to determine any current leakage. If detected, it shuts down before it reaches a threatening level.   

Similarly, the AFCI outlet protects against potential fires. Electrical fires mostly occur due to heat created through arcing. Arcing is when electricity jumps between loose connections, generating heat and often a spark. We bet that’s never the lighting you expect! The AFCI prevents overheating and overcomes the arc faults by shutting down if a potential fault is detected. 

Tamper-resistant

It’s a growingly popular outlet that has replaced your standard outlets within homes and office spaces. It comes built with barriers that only allow the entry of the appropriate plug. You could try all you want to plug in a smaller switch, but it will bear no fruit. This is especially a game-changer for parents who were previously worried about their toddlers sticking metal forks into electric components.    

USB & smart outlets 

The devices show gradual change over time as the technology advances. USB and smart outlets are becoming increasingly popular in modern houses. They are ideal for any appliance, regardless of how power-hungry.

The USB outlets work well as phone and tablet charging stations. With more than one USB socket, you can charge all your devices in one place.

USB outlet

Smart outlets are truly a thing of the future. They’re modern and creative, and some of them are even unconventional. They have systems to measure power usage and can be controlled from a mobile device. You no longer have to run to your yard to switch off the sprinklers. Instead, you can switch them off through your phone. They use WI-Fi or Zwave to get the job done.    

Specialty

Not all features can be found in a generalized outlet. You might have to go for a more tailored solution for some specific requirements. The specialty outlets fulfill those specific requirements that others fail to consider. 

The rotating outlet

Several plugs are designed to be incompatible with most outlets. And in the absence of a specific outlet, they’re rendered useless. It is where a rotating one comes in! The outlet provides ease of use at any angle without worrying about damaging it. 

Weather-resistant receptacle 

It is ideal for you if you’re looking to safely install an outlet in your pool, patio, or an especially wet outdoor spot. It can withstand different weather conditions as well as varying water levels. 

What to look for

Here are the factors you need to consider when it comes to choosing an electrical outlet:

Location

Identify the spot where you would like to install it. Suppose the spot is particularly vulnerable to sweat or occasional wetting. In that case, you might have to go to a GFCI/AFCI outlet. If you find that it will be within reach of your toddlers, you might need to consider tamper-resistant ones.

electrical outlet

Appliances

Each one comes with a power limitation. Beyond that, you’re risking power failure and electrical fire. Worse, it could damage the equipment’s circuit. Therefore, note down the appliance you’ll be plugging in the outlet. Then, determine if it can fully support the appliance’s power consumption. 

Existing wiring

Before going shopping, you need to consider if your circuit is compatible with the said outlet. Is there space for additional appliances to be plugged in? Whether or not the right wires available for the outlet installation? What is the amperage of your circuit? Once you’ve answered all these questions, you’re good to go!    

Electrician installing an outlet

FAQ

What is size wire ideal for a 15A circuit?

A #14 copper wire or a #12 copper-clad aluminum wire works best for a 15A circuit. 

What is the most common outlet?

The 15A, 125V is the most common due to its affordability and ease of installation.

electrical outlet

Time needed: 10 minutes.


Here are the steps to calculating the amperage of an outlet:

How to tell the amperage of an outlet

  1. Remove any devices connected to the outlet. Using a wire cutter, cut the device’s hot wire.

  2. Remove a portion of the insulation of the cut wire.

    And wrap the wire connected to the plug around the multimeter’s red probe. Next, wrap the wire connected to the device around the black probe.

  3. Wrap the entire wire setup in electrical tape as a precautionary measure.

  4. Set the multimeter to setting A and plug the device into the outlet.

    measuring amp of an outlet

  5. Read the amp draw for the device displayed once the device is on.  

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