There is a various assortment of electrical outlets for both industrial and residential purposes. If you are making electrical upgrades in your home, you have a lot to choose from. Depending on their function, selecting the right outlets for different rooms in your home can be confusing.

Let’s take a look at some common outlets and their functions so that you are upgrading your outlets and equipping your home correctly.

Three-Prong Outlets

Three-prong outlets are the most easily recognizable and the most common outlet found in a home. Taking over from the older two-prong outlets, which are considered less safe and are now becoming obsolete due to those safety reasons as well as building code restrictions, three prong outlets have a ground wire that the two-prong design lacked.

The ground wire is a safety addition that takes any excess surge of electricity to your outlet and anything plugged into it and directs it to the ground where it dissipates. This redirection of current can save your appliances from becoming damaged, but more importantly it also prevents wiring and appliances from heating up and potentially causing a fire.


GFCI stands for ground fault circuit interrupter. GFCI outlets are mostly found in areas where an outlet may be subjected to moisture, such as in your basement or bathrooms. GFCI outlets are easily distinguishable from the two buttons which are normally in between the two outlets with one having the word “test” and the other “reset”. These outlets are constantly monitoring the electrical current on the neutral, hot, and ground line and can detect and automatically stop the current if it shows an abnormality at a speed of 30 milliseconds. GFCI outlets protect against electric shock in environments where things like water can pose a serious threat, such as dropping a hair dryer in a full sink, or extension cables on a wet garage or basement floor.

Switch/Outlet Combo

The switch/outlet combo has a switch at the top instead of an actual plug-in outlet. Switch outlets are great for turning off the power to the bottom outlet when it’s not in use and you don’t want any power to be available, and switching it on when you wish to use whatever is plugged into it. Switch/outlet combos like the 3-prong outlets do have a ground, so you have the same safety features that having a ground wire provides.

Other Outlet Types

Over the years new outlet types have become more common in homes, and some are capable of doing things that 30 years ago most people would never have imagined. Let’s take a look at some of the other types of outlets that are growing in popularity.

USB outlets

USB outlets can come in a variety of ways and are used for plugging in things like charging cables for cell phones or other electronics. The most popular USB outlet is a standard three-prong outlet that’s standard in all modern homes but with two USB chargers squeezed in between them, allowing you to have the same plug in with the added benefit of two USB ports as well. You can also get USB ports with up to four USB ports and eliminate the three-prong setup entirely.

Smart Outlets

Smart outlets while being much more expensive than a standard outlet, can wirelessly connect to your phone, allowing you to turn appliances like lamps, fans or anything else from the other end of the room or house without ever having to get off the couch. Smart outlets have some other great features, did you leave the house and forget to turn a light or space heater off? Some smart outlets can connect to your home’s internet and using an app on your smartphone you can turn off any outlet you choose while not even being there. You can also set schedules with certain outlets, allowing you to use power through a chosen outlet at the same time every day.

Recessed Outlets

Recessed outlets have a face that is set deeper into the walls or your home than a started outlet. The recessed face allows the plug of an electrical cord to be out of the way, Allowing you to safely plug in appliances in areas like behind a couch or other furniture, where there’s a chance of something jarring the plug and potentially causing a hazard. It’s also great for outlets around kitchen cupboards allowing you to put your appliances directly up against the wall.


The modern homeowner has more options than ever when it comes to outlets, this article lists some of the most common that you may already be familiar with, along with some that you may want to consider for your home that can really be convenient in the right locations and for specific needs.

Make sure to seek advice and services from a licensed electrician to make sure your home is up to code and well equipped.

Bratcher Electric can help with all electrical upgrades and services needed in your home. We are a full service electrical contracting firm that has been working with businesses and residents throughout Michigan for over 50 years. We take care of our customers by providing complete customer satisfaction for every job we perform; residential, commercial and industrial. Our electrical services include new home wiring, generator service and installation, electrical code and service upgrades, surge protection and much more! Contact us today for a Free Consultation!