If you are not an electrician, you most of the time that you access your electrical system is through an outlet. But how much do you really know about your outlet? And how can you use it safely? In my opinion, sharing some of the design elements which help to keep you safe can increase the appreciation we have for our modern electrical systems. Here is a rundown of a few things you should know about your outlet, types of outlets, and how to stay safe while using them. This article will focus on one of the best additions to modern outlets: the ground.
Using an outlet is a fairly simple procedure. But while you may not think twice when plugging something in, a lot of time has been spent in the engineering of that outlet. Being aware of the type of outlet you have can give you a greater appreciation for the small features that help to keep us safe. The main safety feature of an outlet is obvious. It creates an interface that allows our devices to access the electrical system, without an exposed live wire or surface. If something is plugged in correctly, the connection should not allow any current to escape at the outlet. But there can be other safety devices built into an outlet. The first, is the addition of a ground. In an outlet, the two top holes are the hot and neutral hole, with the lower centered hole being the ground.
When you plug in an appliance, the two prongs create a circuit for electrons to flow, flowing from the hot terminal, through the appliance (powering the motor), and back into the neutral terminal. However, occasionally this goes wrong. If a wire comes loose, the electricity might find a different path. A loose wire could mean that touching the appliance delivers a potentially fatal shock. This is where the ground comes in. The ground plug creates a low resistance path for electricity to flow in the case of an appliance malfunction. This will cause a surge of power that trips your circuit breakers, stopping the flow of power and eliminating the safety hazard. It is much better to have an appliance that won’t turn on than it is to receive an electric shock. However, this is only the start of the many safety features. Next time, we will talk about two other parts of outlet design intended to keep you safe.