Outlet ground prong orientation

Discussion in 'Electrical Forum discussion & Blog' started by apparentgenius, Nov 24, 2008.

  1. hj

    hj Moderator & Master Plumber Staff Member

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    360,outlet

    At $12.00 apiece, I don't visualize many houses being trimmed with the "360 outlets" in every location. Fortunately, once the cord is plugged in it will probably never be rotated again, otherwise the slip rings might start to have dead spots on them.
  2. jwelectric

    jwelectric Electrical Contractor/Instructor

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    Glenn

    After a hard whooping from the moderators of this great site I have been ask to return to this site and do some educating.

    First we must determine just what you are talking about when you refer to an outlet.
    The term outlet as defined in Article 100 of the NEC is a point on the wiring system where current is taken to supply utilization equipment.
    The two most common outlets that should come to mind are lighting outlets and receptacle outlets. I am sure that Ray Mullin and Rex Cauldwell both authors of some of the best electrical training books on the market will point out what an outlet is in their respective text.

    Now some might say, what is the difference? The major difference is that you as someone trying to learn something about receptacles know that there is a difference in a receptacle and an outlet. Receptacle outlets are defined in the NEC as follows:

    Receptacle Outlet. An outlet where one or more receptacles are installed.

    When it comes to the orientation of the grounding pin of a receptacle it can be argued either way. I look at what is likely to happen and what has been documented in the past.
    We hear stories every day but most of the stories we hear are just that, stories.

    Ray as well as several others will debate that in the event of a metal plate coming lose it would be better for the plate to land on the grounding pin of a cord cap should one be installed. I always ask just how many cover plates have come off the devices in your home. How many have you ever seen just hanging on a cord cap?
    This is a very unlikely event and should not be brought into the discussion unless there are documented cases of where this is a problem. If it should become a problem then UL would address the 6/32 by ½ screw that holds the plate cover in place.

    Just as many will debate that the ground pin of a receptacle should be installed looking downward. Their reasoning is that a right angle cord will plug in with out bending the cord back over itself. This could cause the insulation on the cord to crack and start arcing across the conductors which will result in a fire.

    This break down of the insulation on cords was the forerunner for the induction of arc-fault protection on bedroom circuits in the NEC. The first arc-fault devices were designed to detect parallel arcs such as would occur in the event of cracking of the insulation of the cord that was folded back across itself starts arcing from one conductor to the other.

    There is no code rule that mandates the orientation of the grounding pin of a receptacle. In the event that the appliance being used caused the cord to fold back across itself it would be a good idea to reverse the receptacle to relieve the strain on the cord no matter which way it was originally installed.

    Remember that a receptacle outlet (the box) will be turned so that it can be installed on the stud but the receptacle can be installed as the installer desires. The correct orientation of the ground pin is at the discretion of the installer and anything else is nothing more than opinion. I am sure that you have heard the old saying about opinions and everybody have one just as everyone having something else and both probably stink.

    It is also important to know terminology when talking about trades. Some will sit back and laugh at my determination between an outlet and a receptacle.
    There are many plumbing moderators on this site and I wonder how they would respond should I ask if I can install a tee in a waste water drain. Can this question be answered with a simple yes or no? Will you want more information so we can reference Table 706.3 of the code? (Notice that I didn’t say anything about a sanitary tee)
    The same is true for electrical.
    For the plumbing moderators which way does the ground pin go on an outlet?

    Bottom line is if you are going to walk the walk then learn how to talk the talk.
  3. seaneys

    seaneys New Member

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    Location:
    Chicago Suburbs
    Our village 'recommends' the ground up or neutral up.

    They also like to see 'child proof' outlets....

    Steve
  4. Cookie

    Cookie .

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    I would imagine it would be owning your own business, doing homes, etc. My husband was a sparky and EE, and it did all kinds of different things, business, homes, mills, NASA, you name it. You got to put yourself out there; and I believe a good attitude counts.

    Remember too, all things are circular, it comes and it goes, it comes and it goes...

    Then, new things open up, new fields, new jobs are created, I try not to get caught up in the doom and gloom of today. For tomorrow could be alot better. I don't associate with those who do.
  5. apparentgenius

    apparentgenius New Member

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    Oregon
    JW. I truly mean this. Thank you for the response. It is very informative and that was my original intent, to gather opinions so that I could decide which is best for my application.

    I agree with your statement of LEARNING to talk the talk. The learning process involves myself not knowing everything and being willing to take constructive feedback, hence my questions. A response of "Didn't know that outlets had ground slots" in my opinion comes across as petty rather than helpful. It didn't seem like your intent wasn't trying to get more information to be helpful. A response such as, "do you mean receptacles rather than outlets" would have been informative, polite and helpful.

    Regards,

    Glen
  6. Cookie

    Cookie .

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    I know who would be able to answer that question very well would be Rugged. He is very enterprising in business, does very well, and appears to be having fun doing it all! We could all learn from him, he is a natural born educator and businessman.
  7. jwelectric

    jwelectric Electrical Contractor/Instructor

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    Maybe a question like- What do you mean when you say outlets don't have slots would have helped also. It was my intention to spark a question from someone but it is kind of obvious that some are kind of thin skinned.

    When someone is giving something away for free the one receiving takes it as it comes not as they would like to receive it. My advice is free on this site and I will give it in the manner I want to give it or I won’t give it at all. To gain the knowledge that I have amassed over the years one has to ask questions. I do not give step by step directions and hope that if you want my knowledge bad enough you will ask for it. I will always give references to my answers and when asked a full explanation.

    I have been standing in front of a classroom full of people trying to learn the electrical for a lot of years now. The one thing that they have taught me is that a given answer flows off peoples back. Get them involved and they retain what they learn. If they truly want to learn they will ask. If they want someone to give them the answer to the questions on the test then they aren’t looking to learn anything.

    The one thing wrong with the Do-it-yourself type of discussion board is, it is only human nature to search for someone that agrees with our thoughts and this makes everything seem right. One of the most common responses to a post is; “what is unsafe with it?â€
    or “my electrician has been doing it that way for years†or “the inspector has always passed it that wayâ€
    This in no way means it is correct.

    In the world of electricity a wrong answer might work for a long time before something goes wrong. Jar546 (Jeff I think) has posted a link to a little boy who was killed from electrical shock. This circuit worked without fail until the tragic accident.

    There is no doubt in my mind that the person that made that installation was not thinking about killing someone when he installed that circuit. They probably thought that the installation was done in a proper manner. Without a doubt in my mind the person did it in the fashion that they were taught or done something someone had told them would work. I feel sure that they didn't do anything they thought was wrong on purpose.

    How many people do you see on this site that asks if the equipment grounding conductor can be used for a return path? This has been asked here several times and at least once in the past week.

    Why is this happening? It is because bad advice is given and the person receiving the advice takes it at face value with doing any more research. It is due to the closed minded person that always says: “I asked 100 people and one of them said it will work so he must know what he is talking aboutâ€
    Unless you have some idea about electricity then any answer could be correct and the pocket book will tend to make cutting corners come easier. This is why terminology is as important as every thing else.

    Now I shall go to bed.
  8. Cass

    Cass Plumber

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    While on here there is one person asking the question but there may be 100s or 1000s reading and truly interested in the answer...that is why it is important to answer the question the first time it is asked even if it is not asked the way you would like it to be...it is still your choice weather or not to answer...

    Agree...which makes it more important to set the record strait when the question is asked the first time...

    In my mind I don't know how any electrician could think it was "OK" to send energy down a bare copper wire that was not properly insulated...this is just another reason that answering questions when they are first asked is so important...some of the possible 100s or 1000s of readers may never come back and it may be the only time that they will hear the correct answer...and with your expertise and knowledge you are better able to answer their questions in a clear concise manner that will correct their faulty understanding...

    I personally want to thank you and the other elecricians for helping on this forum as your input here has been invaluable.
  9. Cookie

    Cookie .

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    Ah, yes in a perfect world, we all would know all the correct terminology for everything. We could speak like doctors, engineers, electricians, plumbers, teachers, in all the languages in the world. In a perfect world, we all could speak sign language, french, english, german, and all the small dialects in far away lands from the USA. In a perfect world our bodies would never fail us, they would never age, we would not weigh too much or weigh too little, we would be perfect and just the same. In a perfect world we wouldn't need schools, or plumbers, or doctors, or electricians, because nothing would break and we would know everything. There would be no wars.

    We are living in a world far from being a perfect one. We strive to make it better. We all do our small parts to make our lives and those around us enriched.
  10. jwelectric

    jwelectric Electrical Contractor/Instructor

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    Location:
    North Carolina
    This is a prime example of answers given on a web site for a do-it-yourselfer. Just enough information was given for a wrong answer to be accessed. Through research one can easily find that the courts came up with a different conclusion than that of the link posted.
    Someone read just what was posted but failed to ask those hundreds of other questions that are needed to form a correct conclusion.

    When dealing with something that has the potential to cause death as is outlined in this thread concerning Isaac the use of correct terminology is very important.
    Given a 120 volt circuit we will find three conductors that have the word “ground†in them in some sort or fashion. There is the ungrounded conductor, the grounded conductor and the equipment grounding conductor.
    As has been displayed on this site twice in the past five days some seem to think that the grounding conductor can be used as the grounded conductor. One of these even thinks that an un-insulated conductor will carry current. This is very true and also very dangerous as the link concerning Isaac shows.
    As can be seen in this example the terminology is very important wouldn’t you think? But then again we can become lax in our terminology and let this continue into our installation. This easement of terminology could be the very reason why Isaac is no longer with us today.

    The bottom line here is that electricity is very dangerous. There is a reason why it takes years of experience before someone can obtain a license in most states. It is simply because the proper knowledge can not be posted on a web site on everything one needs to know in order to make a safe installation.
    Remember just because it works does not mean it is safe.
  11. Sullivan

    Sullivan New Member

    Messages:
    1
    Location:
    California
    not just antennas!

    Found this thread via Google search and I wanted to add two items:

    1. A house I was in that had been built in 1985 or so had the grounding hole "up" only for outlets controlled by a switch. This was the installer's way of letting you know "these outlets are different." An interesting idea, but I've never seen it done since then.

    2. A friend of mine had a shallow, but not completely stable, dish full of spare change sitting on top of her TV... and the TV was directly in front of its receptacle. There was a multi-tap adapter in the top outlet of the receptacle, and its plug was not fully in the socket. One day the dish was knocked backward and coins fell behind the set. Sure enough, a coin landed squarely on the hot and neutral prongs. *blam* So, it *can* happen, and not just from kids with toy remote control antennas.
  12. Bud Short

    Bud Short New Member

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    Location:
    Shreveport, LA
    The thread is NOT ridiculous, it could be possible that the National Electric Code would have a preference or standard for the orientation of a standard electrical receptacle. This thread has informed us that with the historic exception of hospitals, there is no preference. This is good and valuable information. The only discussion left is about preference, not code.compliance.
  13. jadnashua

    jadnashua Retired Defense Industry Engineer xxx

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    22,262
    Location:
    New England
    Some stuff is designed for the ground terminal to be down (many small plug-ins like nightlights, etc). Some stuff doesn't care. Then, there are cord plugs that, generally, you want to go down, verses up. Straight plugs aren't an issue. Pick your poison...
  14. Speedy Petey

    Speedy Petey Licensed Electrical Contractor

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    NY State, USA
    WOW!! Did this REALLY need to be drug up from 2008?????
  15. hj

    hj Moderator & Master Plumber Staff Member

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    When my house was wired, all the outlets were installed with the ground "opening" at the bottom EXCEPT for the ones which had the bottom outlet wired to a switch.
    Last edited: May 31, 2012
  16. BobL43

    BobL43 DIY Senior Member

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    I agree, but it is interesting nevertheless, and I see, that with all due respect, with some people who seem difficult today, it is not just a new thing. It is always with good intentions, but just the way it comes out. lol ( I did not have YOU in mind, by the way).

    I do tech support over the phone on very complex , very, very
    expensive (million dollars) computer controlled, frequency drive powered machinery. All I'm trying to say, is that it is better to speak respectfully with people than not. I don't have the luxury to piss off my customers. I was asked to come back after a year and a half of being retired to handle this department .Toot toot.

    Advice here on this forum is free, but that does not mean its OK to make advice seekers sound like complete idiots.

    If somebody needs to be made a fool of, all they need to do is visit alt.hvac. if they have usenet newsgroups available, and get themselves ripped a new anus when they ask a question. Things are better at Terry's for sure, but not always, and not everywhere

    OK Bob, off soap box.
    :eek:
  17. DonL

    DonL Jack of all trades Master of one

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    I mount mine sideways with the neutral up.

    That avoids confusion.
  18. BobL43

    BobL43 DIY Senior Member

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    Don, stop being so nasty. I knew you'd see my post:p
  19. hj

    hj Moderator & Master Plumber Staff Member

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    qutoe; I mount mine sideways with the neutral up.

    That probably drives interior decorators crazy, since they are used to having receptacles vertical except over counter tops. Especially if they, such as my wife, are trying to use fancy decorative plates which are created for vertical receptacles, and few, if any, for horizontal ones.
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