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  • Writer's pictureTri-Value Consultants / SPREI

Electrical Receptacles - Outlets: The Good The Bad And The Ugly

Updated: Mar 2, 2022

By: Michael J. Scaduto




When it comes to reading any of my blogs on electrical safety the following comments are to be clearly understood:

  • First, And foremost any and all electrical work must conform to the current electrical code for safety.

  • Second, Only a licensed electrician should make electrical improvements, upgrades, updates and repairs.

  • Next, Permits must be applied for from the local municipal jurisdiction for all electrical work.

  • Finally, All electrical work must be inspected and signed off by the local municipal electrical inspector.

Special comments:

Local municipal electrical jurisdiction requirements takes precedence over

any National Electrical Codes. The local municipal inspector determines if the NEC code or the municipal code applies to any electrical questions and issues.

In my discussions on electrical defects and electrical safety the technical term receptacle and the commonly used term outlet will be used interchangeably.

Please understand that I am not a licensed electrician, but rather a licensed home inspector. And since the electrical code changes and is updated every 3 years I, as well as all home inspectors, am not expected to be fluent in all of the electrical code updates and changes. That's why the final word on anything having to do with electricity is solely in the realm of a licensed electrician

Additionally, for anyone reading this who is a homebuyer understand that homeowners do not have to upgrade and update their homes to adhere to current electrical code requirements.


I have always had a keen sense of curiosity to most things in life, but especially with electricity. They say that curiosity killed the cat; hopefully my curiosity with electricity won't kill me.

The following discussions are some electrical areas that over the years have peaked my curiosity and interest and perhaps will be of some particular interest and of some enlightenment to you as well.



I am often asked by my clients why are some outlets installed upside down?

First let me say that there is no right or wrong way on how an outlet is installed. The National Electric Code doesn't specify how an outlet should be oriented.

However, common sense and logic should dictate how to install an outlet.

When an outlet, as shown below, is typically installed with its hot and neutral slots in the upper portion of the outlet and the ground slot in the lower portion a potential hazard exists.

Visualize the following scenario. If for example, a lamp cord is partially pulled out of a wall outlet and the hot and neutral blades are exposed any metal object (such as a knife) that falls or is inserted into this area will become energized.

Now picture a child playing with a metal object that could be inserted into this open electrical gap.

Need I say more!

Therefore the "safer way" to install an outlet is upside down, as seen on the left, with the ground slot at the top and the hot and neutral slots at the bottom. This way if a metal object (like the coin in the top right picture) falls in or is inserted into an open outlet gap the ground pin (when present) will deflect the metal item from becoming energized.

But there is an exception with plugs for appliances, such as for washing machines, refrigerators, air conditioners, etc. These appliance cords have what is called "immediate-turn plugs".

In order to not have an electrical cord from looping improperly over itself the outlet should be installed with the ground slot at the bottom.

The following illustration and picture show what an immediate-turn plug looks like and what an unsafe, improper cord loop looks like.