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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.
Which end of electrical outlets go "up"? The ground hole should be up, down, or sideways?
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.
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.
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.
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
Allison, John. "Shock-resistant electrical outlet." U.S. Patent 6,455,789, issued September 24, 2002.
Gizienski, John J., Stephen P. Short, and Robert J. Mellen. "Safety electrical tap." U.S. Patent 4,867,693, issued September 19, 1989.
McBain, Theodore, and Melvin R. Osborn. "Electrical outlet safety cover." U.S. Patent 5,813,873, issued September 29, 1998.
Newman, Fredric M. "Electric wall outlet protector." U.S. Patent 4,302,624, issued November 24, 1981.
A wall electrical outlet protector for children which is integral with or mountable on an electric outlet wall plate which includes doors swingable in the plane of the wall against a return spring bias to an open position to allow access to the wall outlet.
Interengaging edges present prying of the doors away from the unit and optional detents may be utilized to provide resistance to opening of the doors.
The protector may be easily applied without disturbing the electrical wiring but can only be removed by the unscrewing of the plate retention screw using a screwdriver.
Richardson, Michael T. "Apparatus for recessing an electrical device in a wall." U.S. Patent 6,750,398, issued June 15, 2004.
Short, Stephen P. "Safety electrical receptacle." U.S. Patent 4,867,694, issued September 19, 1989.
An electrical receptacle is provided with a shutter mechanism to block spurious insertion of a foreign object through one of the receptacle slots short of the receptacle power circuit contacts.
This mechanism includes either one or two slides supported for movement between closed-latched and open positions.
Access to the contacts requires the slides first be unlatched by a blade penetrating one receptacle slot and then cammed to open positions by another blade penetrating the other receptacle slot, as occurs incident to the insertion of a standard electrical plug into the receptacle.
Use the "Click to Show or Hide FAQs" link just above to see recently-posted questions, comments, replies, try the search box just below, or if you prefer, post a question or comment in the Comments box below and we will respond promptly.
 The 2008 NEC National Electrical Code (ISBN 978-0877657903) Online Access LINK (you'll need to sign in as a professional or as a visitor)
 Special thanks to our reader Steve who pointed out prior errors in our illustrations.
 Simpson Strong-Tie, "Code Compliant Repair and Protection Guide for the Installation of Utilities in Wood Frame Construction", web search 5/21/12, original source strongtie.com/ftp/fliers/F-REPRPROTECT09.pdf, [copy on file as /Structures/Framing/Simpson_Framing_Protectors.pdf ]. "The information in this guide is a summary of requirements
from the 2003, 2006 and 2009 International Residential Code
(IRC), International Building Code (IBC), International Plumbing
Code (IPC), International Mechanical Code (IMC), 2006 Uniform
Plumbing Code (UPC) and the 2005 National Electrical Code."
"Electrical System Inspection Basics," Richard C. Wolcott, ASHI 8th Annual Education Conference, Boston 1985.
"Simplified Electrical Wiring," Sears, Roebuck and Co., 15705 (F5428) Rev. 4-77 1977 [Lots of sketches of older-type service panels.]
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