Call JPS Electrical Icon

(410) 656-4311

Electricians Explain the Different Types of Residential Outlets

The different types of residential outlets are 15 and 20-amp outlets, USB outlets, GFCI outlets, and more. Understanding the difference in these outlets can help you decide what outlets you need for your home. 

Are you a new homeowner in Harford or Baltimore County and are unsure what outlets are needed for your home? Perhaps you’re a seasoned homeowner but want to understand your electrical system better. 

In this article, the expert electricians at JPS Electrical Services explain the different types of residential outlets and what they are generally used for. Keep reading to learn all about residential outlets and their varieties. 

Residential Electrical Outlets and the Different Types

Residential outlets come in different kinds, like 15 and 20-amp outlets, Ground Fault Circuit Interrupter (GFCI), Arc Fault Circuit Interrupter (AFCI), smart outlets, and tamper-resistant outlets. We will discuss each type of residential outlet in further detail below. 

15 Amp

15 amp outlets are among some of the most common outlets found in homes throughout the nation. These outlets typically have three slots: two long connection slots that provide the ungrounded connection, and the third slot is the grounding hole.

Some 15 amp outlets also come in a two-slot version with no grounding hole. 

These outlets are made for smaller appliances that require a less powerful energy draw, such as lamps, alarm clocks, and other devices of a smaller scale. 

20 Amp

20 amp outlets offer a stronger electrical supply draw than 15 amp outlets and are usually used for larger appliances such as refrigerators or washing machines. These outlets look different than 15 amp outlets, with a horizontal slot going through a vertical slot.

USB Outlets

These outlets look similar to traditional pronged outlets except they have a USB port built in. With this feature, you will be able to plug in your charging cable directly to the wall and have the ability to recharge your smartphone or tablet. 

These outlets can be especially useful for those who are prone to losing their phone charger or those who are simply tired of the inconvenience of charging bricks. 


GFCI (Ground Fault Circuit Interrupter) outlets protect users from shock hazards by turning off power to the outlet if it senses a dangerous surge of power. These outlets are crucial in high moisture areas like bathrooms, as water directly contacting an outlet can cause a surge. 

Many building codes make GFCI outlets mandatory for kitchens and bathrooms, so make sure you include them in those areas. You should include them in all spaces that are close to water.  

You will be able to tell these outlets apart from others easily due to their “TEST” and “RESET” buttons.


AFCI (Arc Fault Circuit Interrupter) outlets are similar to GFCI outlets due to the protection they offer homeowners from electrical accidents. Loose or damaged wiring is usually the cause of arc faults, which are a common source of electrical fires. 

These outlets offer protection by detecting arc faults and deactivating the outlet. AFCI outlets are usually labeled, and similarly to GFCI outlets, they have “RESET” and “TEST” buttons. 

Switch outlets

Switch outlets (also known as combination outlets) feature both a traditional electrical socket and a switch. Homeowners will use the switch to control the power to the connected appliance. 

This is convenient for appliances that you don’t want to bother unplugging when you aren’t running them. 

Smart outlets

These are outlets that you can control through your smart device, such as your phone, or even voice assistants like Google Home or other smart speakers. Smart outlets are a great option for homeowners looking to decrease their energy usage. 

Many of these outlets have built-in features like monitoring their power expenditure and switching the outlet on or off on a schedule. These outlets can be more expensive up front, but the energy savings can be worth the investment. 

Tamper-resistant outlets

These outlets are designed with a physical barrier to prevent anything other than the correct electrical plug from going inside the socket. By preventing foreign objects from entering the outlet, they prevent shock hazards. 

Tamper-resistant outlets are a great choice for homes with small children, as they protect them if they try to insert something inside the outlet. 


Residential outlets come in different varieties and with different features. Take the time to understand what each of these outlets do, and you will be better prepared to make the right choice for your home’s electrical wiring system. 

If you need help with your residential electrical system, the experts at JPS Electrical Services can help. With years of experience servicing the Greater Baltimore Area, JPS offers electrical repairs, installations, and comprehensive system upgrades.

We service those in Harford and Baltimore County, MD, offering local and professional electrical services. Reach out to us today on our website for a free estimate or through the phone at (410)656-431. 

Frequently Asked Questions

How do I know if I need a 20 amp or 15 amp outlet?

You will know what kind of outlet you need based on the appliance or device you are wanting powered; small appliances like lamps will require 15 amp outlets, and large appliances like washing machines, refrigerators, or stoves will require 20 amp outlets. 

20 amp outlets are required for what appliances?

Large appliances like refrigerators, stoves, and washing machines will require 20-amp outlets. They will require a greater energy draw, and 15 amp outlets are only able to power small appliances and devices. 

What residential outlet type is the safest? 

GFCI and AFCI outlets are among the safest types of residential outlets due to their protection against ground and arc faults. Tamper-resistant outlets also offer protection from electrical hazards, though on a smaller scale. GFCI and AFCI outlets can protect against electrical fires.