How To Look At A House
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When did arc fault circuit interrupter (AFCI) breakers first become required?
Friday, June 22, 2018
Although all three terms are often used interchangeably to mean “that thing in the wall that you plug a cord into,” each has a different, specific meaning:
Outlet - The National Electrical Code (NEC) defines it as “a point on the wiring system at which current is taken to supply utilization equipment.” This would include a receptacle, but also could be a light fixture, appliance, ceiling fan, or smoke alarm.
Receptacle - “A contact device installed at the outlet for connection of an attachment plug,” according to the NEC. So, essentially, a receptacle is one type of outlet.
Receptacle Outlet - “An outlet where one or more receptacles are installed.” This is the technically correct name for what is pictured at the top of this page.
Attachment Plug - Usually referred to as simply a plug, it more formally described as an Attachment Plug by the NEC, and defined as “a device that, by insertion into a receptacle, establishes a connection between the conductors of the attached flexible cord and the conductors connected permanently to the receptacle.”
None of this is going to stop people from using the words receptacle, outlet, and plug to mean the same thing; but the difference is worth remembering when each one is used in the context of a building code.
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