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20 Amp electrical outlet (C) D FriedmanElectrical Outlet Ground Up or Down
Which way should a receptacle be mounted?

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Does the electrical receptacle ("wall plug") go with the ground connector "up" or "down"?:

Here we review opinions of electricians and research authorities on the best position for electrical receptacles, with the ground-opening below the wall connector blade openings, as shown in our page top photo, or with the ground opening uppermost.

This article series describes how to choose, locate, and wire an electrical receptacle in a home. Electrical receptacles (also called electrical outlets or "plugs" or "sockets") are simple devices that are easy to install, but there are details to get right if you want to be safe.



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Which end of electrical outlets go "up"? The ground hole should be up, down, or sideways?

Electrical outlet with ground connector down (C) Daniel Friedman

Can the outlet be installed any way? For example ground hole facing up, down, or sideways? thanks, - Anon

Reader comments on which way the electrical outlet should be installed: Ground connector up or down?

One comment regarding 'inverted' outlet mounting (ground up, vs down).

[Click to enlarge any image]

While not specified in the code, I have noted that several electricians PREFER to mount a switched outlet so that the ground prong is up while mounting the non-switched outlets with the ground down. That way the homeowner can quickly determine a switched from a non-switched outlet. - Anon 9/5/12

(Aug 14, 2014) F. Rego said:

Thanks for the information - someone has said they like the ground prong up for a simple chance that if the ground prog is at the bottom and the extension cord gets somewhat loose and hungs that the two main prongs ( neutral /hot )are exposed and it by chance some metal item may fall it could short it out or cause a spark and ignite (example: drapes ) as for the ground prog up all it will do is deflect it out of the way.

Electrical outlet with ground connector down (C) Daniel FriedmanJohn said:

Our electricians at work told me that they prefer to install the outlets with the ground conductor up because it reduces the chances of a metal object (i.e. paperclip) falling off of a desk and landing between the neutral and phase conductor.

With the ground conductor up, there is a better chance of such an object getting deflected or falling between the neutral and ground, which would be safer than falling between the neutral and phase conductor.

Although there is still a chance that an object might fall between ground and phase, it would be less likely than if the ground conductor was down. Because a typical 3-conductor plug is triangle in shape, an object is more likely to be deflected falling on the ground side than the phase / neutral side. - 2 Aug 2015

Reply: the position of installation of an electrical outlet won't affect its operation; insertion hazards at electrical receptacle slots

Anon, the position of installation of an electrical outlet won't affect its operation and should not normally affect its approval by the electrical inspector.

In some areas I see the outlet installed with the ground connector always "up" as in our photo at left, though to me that's less attractive than the position shown in our electrical outlet photo at far left.

I've also seen arguments expressing the OPINION that the position of the grounding pin connector might help resist the tendency of a plug to fall out of its connection. That's nonsense. If a plug is falling out of a receptacle, one of the two objects is worn or damaged and should be replaced to assure a safe, mechanically secure connection.

Anon,

About upside down electrical outlets - thanks for the interesting comment. Unfortunately because there's no standard mount position associated with switched electrical receptacles, the next owner in a home will probably be confused unless the secret code is passed-on to everyone.

John:

Well as the Poughkeepsie police desk seargeant told our renter Anna M. when she complained that the Amtrack trains three miles away were too loud and that the cops ought to do something about it, ... "well that's one I've never heard before".

The claim that ground-connector up might reduce the chances of a live short across the hot and neutral spaces of a wall plug is technically plausible, though the probability of a paper clip or hairpin happening to fall onto a wall plug exactly into the gap that might appear at a wall plugh that happens to not be plugged in far enough to prevent such contact seems to me to be very small.

It's the sort of explanation I used to make up before my friend Paul told me I was thinking too much and speculating too wildly.

What is a real hazard at electrical receptacles is the insertion by children (or an adult fool) of a paperclip or other foreign object into the electrically live slots. That concern has been addressed by research and by patents (Short 1989). None of the patent citations considered the bad luck of a falling paperclip shorting an electrical receptacle or its wall plug. They all focuse on inserted objects.

Thanks for the report, we'll keep it in the act.

Research on which way the wall receptacle is installed: insertion of foreign objects into electrical receptacles

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