questionswhat is the "right" way to install an electrical…


"A: Rex Cauldwell, a master electrician in Rocky Mount, Va., replies: There is no official right or wrong way to orient a receptacle—the National Electrical Code doesn’t specify—but you can decide by using logic and common sense. Clothes washers, refrigerators, and window air conditioners typically have cords with immediate-turn plugs. For appliances with this type of plug, orient the receptacle so that the plug inserts without having to loop over itself. Otherwise, the downward pull of the cord tends to tug the plug from the receptacle...
For all other plugs, I put the grounding slot on top. If a plug is partially pulled from the receptacle, exposing the hot and neutral blades, and something metal falls on it (like a knife or a picture frame), a direct short won’t occur because the grounding pin deflects the item from the terminals."


Depends upon where you are and code. In some areas "standard" is with the grouding plug at the bottom. Grouding plug up outlets indicate that an outlet is controlled by a wall switch.


Good and informative answers. Interesting concept, reversing the orientation for outlets controlled by a switch!


My thinking is in the hospital, most of the items can be wheeled around and the cord comes down from the item to the plug. This is opposite of how you usually plug things in at home, where the cord comes up from the floor. Maybe because of this difference, they put them in upside down?

edit: One thing I saw on the www is that if the weight of the cord starts to pull out the plug or something drops on it, having the ground up is better for two reasons.
1. It doesn't expose the hot lead which could cause injury if touched
2. The ground will pull partially out, but the hot stays connected, which could be very important in a hospital for items that are essential for life support


The correct answer, of course, is to have the grounding plug on the bottom. Otherwise, Plugman's face is upside down.



Pah! (I kill the power when it isn't inconvenient but working on live circuits is so much more fun and not that much more dangerous.)


In the last three places I have lived (in the USA) there have been some plugs going one way, and the others the opposite. I don't think there was too much thought going into orienting them a particular way.

Where the plug orientation is a real problem, I've simply taken it out (with the breaker switch off, for you safety-conscious sorts) and flipped it over. The main reason I've done that is to plug in emergency backup lights that go on in a power outage, and small night lights on the stairs. Since these all have light sensors, plugging them in upside down means it is always "dark" in their world so they stay on in the day.

I replaced a wall outlet in the kitchen with one that has rotating plugs. I'm fond of that outlet and wish all outlets were made that way.


The grounded (two cord) outlets near my bathroom vanity go sideways. I really do not like it. Two three prong large plugs cannot go in at the same time.


@jsoko: That's a good point. I was tuning a guitar one time and the little string broke, flipped in to the air, and landed between the outlet and the plug of my amp, arching across the blades and blew a fuse. I can imagine that since all of the appliances a hospital uses are above the outlet, that orienting the ground slot up is a good preventative measure.


As an aelectrical designer we put receptacles with a dedicated/isolated ground "upsidedown". So that you know where they are after the walls are put up.


I was told by a good friend of mine that's an electrician that people started putting electrical outlets with the ground on top as a safety measure. I didn't understand it either until he explained that if something fell onto the outlet (between the plug and the outlet) it wouldn't short out if it hit the ground. Of course, most will argue that most people don't hang conductive material on our walls, but the argument for safety is always a good one.

Personally, I prefer the ground to be on the bottom. No particular reason, other than that's how they were in the house I was raised in.


@baqui63: I'd hate to see what your hair looks like!

Maybe something from the Road Runner cartoons after Wile E. Coyote gets blown up, zapped, or whatever.


It's typical to see outlets installed with grounding pin up for commercial projects. Residential I would say grounding pin down. If you have a wife like mine whom likes those wall plug-ins, they won't work in an upside-down orientation.
One thing to note is that the 2008 and 2011 National Electric Code require that all new outlets be tamper resistant/child proof. Of course it depends if you're local municipality has adopted the current code but if you don't install, when trying to sell an inspection will mark them out of compliance.


Any way you install it, I will still attempt to plug the vacuum in the wrong way first.


I don't know if it's a local or state-wide thing, but when I asked about this in a new building in New Jersey I was told the local code specified that the ground side must be installed at the top in all commericial buildings, and at the bottom in all residential buildings.

The explanation I got was it was just a quick and simple way for a code inspector to see if the electrician is paying attention to code, since a mistake in outlet orientation means he may have made internal mistakes as well. I don't know how accurate that is.


I'm shocked that people don't know how to do this.


Once this is resolved once and for all, can we finally decide which way the TP should be placed on the roller?

(And, while I really appreciate and approve of the safety issue noted requiring that the ground plug should go up, I also prefer that the little faces be turned right side up. Just another touch of OCD.)



I've never been shocked while replacing an outlet or switch with the power on.

I have been shocked, though... first time was when I was seven and helping my father rewire the light on our basement stairs (adding another switch at the bottom of the steps)... he told me to grab a wire and I did. Learned the fun way to not do such things without first checking more carefully (and my mother was rather pissed at him too).

In truth, I've gotten shocked more often doing telephone wiring... the ringer voltage is basically 120VAC, so if the phone rings while you're working, it can bite you.


Any way where you don't get electrocuted sounds like a win to me.


@baqui63: You are correct, leaving the power on made it a lot of fun when I tried to change an electrical outlet. You learn real fast how to keep a steady hand, I'll tell you that much.


Ground pin up makes it easier to get something plugged in when you're in a hurry.

It could be that emergency generator powered outlets are oriented one way and grid power only are oriented the other?


Hospitals are very concerned about things becoming unplugged. There is even something known as "hospital grade" receptacles that, to qualify for that standard, require a minimum amount of force to remove the plug. So, maybe through some reasoning unknown to me, it may be favored to have the ground, the longest of the three plugs, on top. Maybe there's more upward force from moving beds and equipment that makes it better to have that longer plug on top.