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What Is a Wall Receptacle?

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  • Written By: M. McGee
  • Edited By: Lauren Fritsky
  • Last Modified Date: 15 July 2014
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A wall receptacle is a location on a wall where an electrical appliance may be plugged in. The majority of receptacles have either two or three holes. The two-hole models accommodate an electrical plug with a live connection and a neutral connection; the-three hole models take plugs with a third ground connection. There are different power regulations in different countries; as a result, there are different styles of wall receptacles. This will prevent accidental exposure to the wrong electrical current, avoiding damage to the appliance and reducing the chance of fire.

Even though the appearance of wall receptacles may vary, they are all built basically the same. Most models have two or three holes, and each hole has a specific purpose. One hole is for the live wire, which carries the current from the wall to the plugged-in item. The other hole in a two-hole system is for the neutral—it carries power back to the source. On the three-prong system, the third hole is for a ground wire, which will bleed off excess power in an emergency to prevent a circuit overload.

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Some receptacles are polarized, meaning a two-prong plug will only fit into the receptacle with one orientation. In this case, the live and neutral have a specific orientation, and the wall receptacle can prevent the incorrect powering of the device. In a non-polarized system, the task of keeping the live and neutral wires separate falls on the device alone. While polarization may be used on a three-hole wall receptacle, it doesn’t provide additional benefit, as a three-hole plug only has one orientation anyway.

Different countries have different standards for power. Their devices use differing amounts of current, and their wall receptacles use different configurations. It is possible to use electronics for a different country in some specific cases. Military bases, embassies, and other locations where people from another area occupy a single place often have receptacles that match their home country as well as those of the local country—some hotels that cater to foreign guests do the same. Lastly, it is possible to find power adapters for traveling into other power zones.

Most countries commonly use two to four different types of wall receptacles. Most countries have a two- and three-hole version of the standard power connection and a polarized and non-polarized version of each. Then, there is an outlet that is used to operate refrigerators, washing machines and other large items. These are almost universally three-prong outlets and are usually quite large. Lastly, some areas have an extremely large wall receptacle that powers industrial machines like milling machines and lathes, but this is an uncommon plug type.

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