While most of the electrical outlets in your home are the standard two- or three-pronged receptacles you’re used to, there are in fact a variety of different types of electrical receptacles. Each different type of outlet is designed for a specific purpose and is capable of channeling a certain voltage, so it is important for your home safety that you understand the differences before you try to make any changes to the wiring in your home.
These are the outlets you’re used to seeing around your house, which typically fit a two- or three-pronged plug and supply 120 volts of electricity. The three prongs include one hot slot, one neutral, and one grounding. Standard outlets are versatile in function and are used to power most of the electrical equipment you use in your home on a daily basis, such as TVs, fans, countertop kitchen appliances, and so on.
A special type of standard outlet found in kitchens, bathrooms, and other rooms of your house that may be exposed to damp conditions, GCFI receptacles are designed to prevent serious injury or damage that could result from an electric shock in places where there is the potential for electricity and water to meet. GCFI outlets can be identified by the “test” and “reset” buttons on their face.
The GCFI receptacle is designed to monitor electric currents, acting like a miniature circuit breaker that will shut down the flow of electricity if it senses an inequality between the incoming and outgoing current. If one or more outlets in your kitchen or bathroom stop working, look for the nearby GCFI outlet and press the reset button. It is likely that something tripped its circuit breaker.
The dryer receptacle is designed specifically to power tumble dryers, supplying either 120 or 240 volts of electricity. Dryer receptacles can have either three or four-pronged plugin slots, so if you’re installing a new receptacle make sure you verify which kind of plug your dyer requires. Building codes require that all new homes be fitted with at least one dryer receptacle.
A range receptacle is designed specifically to power an electric range or oven. Requiring a stronger amperage than your average home appliance, these outlets are much more powerful than the standard receptacle. They should always be installed with a circuit breaker as a safety precaution.
A 240-volt receptacle is a three-pronged receptacle that resembles a standard outlet, but channels a much stronger electrical current and is therefore not intended for use with standard home appliances. Unlike a standard three-pronged outlet, two of the three prongs of a 240-volt receptacle are hot, with one grounding slot. The 240-volt outlet is reserved for items that have greater energy requirements, such as power tools. As an added safety feature, many 240-volt outlets have a component that locks the plug into the slot so it cannot be accidentally dislodged.