Updated August 2022
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Buying guide for best wall outlets

Even the most adept do-it-yourselfers sometimes need guidance on finding the best electrical components for your needs. Installing or replacing an electrical outlet isn’t always as easy as it seems, and if you don’t have the proper outlet, it’s going to make your job that much more difficult. A number of different factors, including power capacity and ports, determine whether a wall outlet will fit your requirements.

Some may feel the urge to skip the research and just head to the store when it comes to purchasing such a seemingly innocuous item, but buyer beware. Wall outlets get constant use and should be expected to work consistently without fail. Installing a poorly designed or poorly made outlet could end up costing you even more time and money in the long run. Read our shopping guide so you know what to look for as you shop for wall outlets. And check out a few of our favorite models when it’s time to buy.

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Installing a wall outlet in your home or office is quick and easy if you follow the proper protocols for safety and proper installation.

Key considerations

Wall outlets come in far more varieties now than they did even a few years ago. Although the basic design is the same, the engineering that goes into them is not. Take the following factors into consideration when shopping for a new wall outlet.

Power capacity

The amperage of a wall outlet dictates how much power can go through the circuit before the circuit breaker cuts off. In other words, if you have appliances that draw a combined 30 amps from a 20-amp wall outlet, the circuit breaker should engage and turn off the outlet, avoiding a fire or other damage. Most wall outlets come with a 15-amp capacity, although some offer up to 20 amps. Check the voltage that runs through your home or office (most likely 120 volts) and consider the items you plan to plug into the wall outlet. That will help you determine the power capacity you’ll need.

Breaker vs. no breaker

Some wall outlets come equipped with a built-in circuit breaker. This functions as a fail-safe if too much power goes through, much like a surge protector in a power strip. Some of them protect you from electrocution, while others protect you from overloading the outlet, which can cause a fire. The room in which you want to install the wall outlet will determine whether or not a breaker outlet is recommended.


Planning: Remember, if you’re installing electrical components yourself, always do the appropriate preparation first. Don’t assume that by simply watching an online video you have the required knowledge to install such a potentially dangerous item. You need to find out how many volts run through your home (likely 120 volts) and then find out what power is already running through the circuit from which you plan to draw. That will help you choose the type of outlet you need in a given location.

Location: Depending on the room in your home or office, you’ll need wall outlets in different places for different items. Plan for proper placement before you buy your outlets. You don’t want an outlet positioned too high or too low on the wall. Also make sure the outlet isn’t located in a part of a room where you’ll never need it.

Wall outlet features

Circuit breaker

GFCI: The ground-fault circuit interrupter on a wall outlet is intended to protect the user from small shocks and electrocution. Everyone has probably gotten a small shock at some point when touching a wall outlet, and it isn’t a pleasant feeling. GFCI outlets are one of two common types of outlet with two small buttons built into the unit. It works by automatically shutting off its own internal circuit if a short circuit of any kind is detected. You should have some sort of circuit-breaker protection (GFCI or AFCI) in kitchens, bathrooms, garages, all outdoor outlets, bedrooms, and any outlets near a water source.

AFCI: an arc-fault circuit interrupter is similar to GFCI, but rather than protect the user from electrocution, it protects the outlet from a dangerous power overload. An overload in the outlet can cause a fire, and an AFCI outlet drastically reduces that risk. When the outlet is overloaded, the AFCI automatically cuts off access to the circuit, stopping the flow of electricity. As mentioned above, you need circuit-breaker protection in kitchens, bathrooms, garages, outdoor outlets, bedrooms, and outlets near water. Bedrooms should always have at least one AFCI port per industry standards.


USB: In addition to the standard ports, many of the new generation of wall outlets come with additional USB ports used for charging smartphones and other electronic peripherals. Keep in mind that these ports draw electricity from the same port, so be mindful of how many items you have plugged into an outlet at any given time. More ports means more opportunity to trip the circuit breaker.  If you need extra charging capacity, consider getting an outlet with these extra ports.

Rotating: Some wall outlets have circular ports that rotate within the faceplate. These outlets are a relatively new innovation and not common, but they’re available to those who may have a specific need. Rotating ports are a convenient feature for any items that have diagonal cords, or if you need to place the outlet in an awkward location.

Staff Tip
Electrical devices from other countries have different requirements. Never try to plug a foreign appliance into an American outlet without a proper adapter.

Wall outlet prices

Inexpensive: In the $1 to $15 range, you’ll find the simplest wall outlets. They are fine for basic use, though they don’t usually have most of the additional features available on other models.

Mid-range: Between $15 and $25, you’ll find a cross section of wall outlets that span feature options. Some have surge protection and peripheral ports. You can find a good selection in this range.

Expensive: The sturdiest and most feature-laden wall outlets are in the $25 to $35 range. If you want a wall outlet with all the possible bells and whistles, look in this price range.

Be mindful of how you use your wall outlets. Every year, approximately 5,300 fires occur from overloaded wall outlets.


  • Prepare. If you aren’t a trained electrician, consult all of the available literature on where and how to install your new wall outlet.
  • Choose the right outlet for the appliance. Make sure to install a high-capacity/high-voltage outlet where you’ll be using large appliances. Items like clothes dryers and ovens utilize a heavy-duty 240-volt outlet.
  • Make a room chart. It should show where you already have wall outlets and where you would like them positioned. Add to the chart the power already being run through the circuit you’ll be using.
  • Turn off the power. Always make sure the power is turned off before doing any electrical work in your home or office. Electrocution is a real risk whenever you do any electrical work yourself.
  • Wear protective gloves when installing any electrical outlet.
  • Never overload a wall outlet. Do not add more items that push the outlet beyond the stated amp capacity. This can cause a fire.
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For your safety
Don’t overload your outlets and trust that your circuit breaker will always protect you. Circuit breakers can sometimes malfunction.

Other products we considered

There are so many wall outlets available online and in stores that we thought we’d share a few of the others that we like. An inexpensive unit worth a look is the ELECTECK GFCI Outlet. The GFCI circuit breaker, easy-to-use buttons, and LED indicator light make this outlet both useful and safe. The LIVOLO Duplex Receptacle is a mid-range product that will look as good as it works. The white tempered glass is so sleek and modern that you might forget that it’s an electrical outlet. The Topgreener Ultra-High-Speed USB Charger Wall Outlet offers the most port diversity of any wall outlet on the market. In addition to the standard electrical port, it also has a standard USB port and a less-common USB-C outlet. It’s pricey, but if you need the functionality, it may be worth it.

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Make sure you know how many amps an outlet can handle before installing it.


Q. Do wall outlets ever go bad?
Yes. Just like any other electrical component, a wall outlet suffers wear and tear over its lifetime. Replacing wall outlets periodically will make sure you’re safe from electrical mishaps.

Q. What is the right height for a lower wall outlet?
A recommended height for a lower wall outlet is approximately 12 to 18 inches above a finished floor. This is low enough for items on the floor but high enough for a cord to a lamp or other item on a desk, table, or dresser.

Q. Is it safe for me to install my own wall outlet?
Yes, as long as you adhere to all of the suggested safety precautions when working with electrical current. Do as much research and planning as possible before attempting to install your outlet.

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