With the ever-increasing number of phones and tablets in a typical home outlets are getting taken over by chargers. If you want to clean things up and create more efficiency for your space, you can upgrade your outlets to support not just standard 120-volt power cords but 5v USB charging too.
Although combination 120v/USB outlets were a complete curiosity even a few years ago, you can now find them everywhere from online retailers to big box home improvement stores in a wide variety of styles, shapes, and configurations.There are so many on the market, in fact, that it can be a bit bewildering to pick through them all and decide which to select. Let’s take a look at some basic considerations to ensure you get not only the right outlet for your needs, but one that will keep you and your gadgets safe.
Safety First: Buy Name Brand UL-Rated Products
matters. When it comes to equipment that connects directly to the
electrical mains of your home, cheap knock-off equipment can, at best,
damage your gadgets and, at worst, kill you. With that in mind, we
cannot encourage you enough to look at safety certifications. We
recommend you either purchase the outlets in person at a local retailer
or purchase UL-rated and favorably-reviewed outlets from reputable
Amps Matter: Get Enough Juice for Your Gadgets
Whether you’re talking about battery packs or wall chargers, the amount of amperage a charger can put out determines how quickly you can charge your devices. A lightweight 1A connection might be fine for topping off your Kindle, but it’ll take much longer than a 2A connection to charge your iPad (and in some cases certain high-demand devices just don’t charge correctly with low-amp chargers).
When shopping for a USB charging outlet, look for the amperage rating for the USB outlets. The outlet itself will have a 15 amp rating, but this is for the 120v AC side of things, not the 5v DC system that charges the USB devices.
Physical Size: The DC Transformer Goes Somewhere
Our final consideration is the size of the replacement outlet. Standard outlets are very skinny (only about as deep as your thumb is wide). Upgraded outlets with integrated USB charging are much thicker. In the photo above you can see how the USB-enabled outlet on the left is roughly twice as thick as the standard outlet on the right. What you lose on the outside of the outlet (all those clutter-creating USB chargers), you essentially shift to the guts of the outlet by packing the AC-to-DC transformer into the outlet box. In newer homes (or older homes with upgraded electrical systems) this shouldn’t be any issues at all as modern outlet boxes are deep enough–it’s a tight but not unmanageable fit. In older homes with shallower outlet boxes, you’ll need to replace the old in-wall box with new one to accommodate the bulky upgrade.
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