Maybe you scored a new gadget or two on Black Friday, or maybe you’ll have some handy devices in your stocking over the holidays. But no matter how you acquire additional gadgets, you’ll need to charge them -- and that can make for some crowded outlet spaces.
If it’s starting to become a hassle to find an open outlet where you can plug in your USB adapter, one solution is to upgrade some of the wall outlets in your home to USB combo outlets. These outlets have USB ports in addition to standard AC ports, so you can keep other appliances (or even additional USB adapters) plugged in while plugging your USB devices directly into the wall.
There are several brands and models of USB combo outlets, and they’re not all created equal. One of the biggest differences you’ll encounter is the type and configuration of the USB ports. Some outlets have two USB-A ports -- those are the larger, rectangular ports of the type you commonly see on laptop computers. Others have two USB-C ports, which are the smaller, more oval-shaped ports that you see on newer smartphones. If you have devices that use both connectors, you may want outlets that have one port of each type.
The higher quality USB combo outlets also have chips that help them detect the energy needs of whatever device is connected, ensuring that they’ll charge at the safest and most efficient speed. If fast charging is a must, you should look carefully at the specifications of the outlets you’re comparing, as they may charge at slightly different speeds. Some outlets may charge devices slightly slower if there are two gadgets charging simultaneously in the same outlet.
It’s important to note that USB outlets are not surge protectors, so if you want to make sure your charging devices are safeguarded from surge damage, you should consider installing whole-home surge protection. This technology must be installed on your main electrical panel by a licensed electrician, but it turns your entire home into a surge protector and eliminates the need for surge protection adapters and power strips.
Take It Easy
Changing out one wall outlet for another is usually not a complex operation, but it does require working with electrical wiring, which carries serious safety risks. For that reason alone, we recommend that you leave these jobs up to the licensed professionals, but if you do go the DIY route, the most important step is to shut off the circuit breaker to the area you’re working on before performing any work. Test the outlet you’re replacing with a lamp or small appliance first to ensure that there’s no power flowing.
There are a couple of other reasons why an electrician is best suited to perform this upgrade, with the first being that USB combo outlets are a little larger than standard outlets. It may be that the electrical boxes holding your existing outlets are large enough to accommodate the new ones, but if not, you’ll need to swap out the electrical boxes as well.
Another important consideration is that USB combo outlets are not ground fault circuit interrupter (GFCI) outlets, which means they’re not suitable for every room in your home. GFCI outlets can instantly detect interruptions in the flow of electricity and shut down the circuit. This helps prevent accidental shock, especially in areas of the home where water and electricity are in close proximity, like the bathroom and kitchen. For this reason, installing USB combo outlets in these rooms is unsafe and a violation of building code in many areas. An electrician can help you make sure your upgrade is a safe and compliant one.
Considering upgrading a few of your outlets to USB combo outlets? Call the electricians at your local Mister Sparky and let us lend a hand!