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Why are some electric receptacle outlets upside down (ground slot up) in a house?
Monday, July 9, 2018
While it is standard to have the ground slot on the bottom, there is no code requirement for it. There are three possible reasons for an upside down receptacle:
- Some electricians install a receptacle that is controlled by a switch upside down, as an easy way to indicate which receptacles in a room are switched. But this is not a standard and not all electricians do it.
- It is the right way to do it, according some contrary thinkers, and there is a somewhat logical explanation for putting the ground slot on top. If a piece of metal drops down onto a slightly-loose cord plugged into an upside down receptacle, the metal will only contact the ground slot. But it will cause a short, with possible arcing and sparks, when the hot and neutral are on top. Hospitals install receptacles upside down, likely to avoid any arcing in a room with oxygen in use.
Conversely, the argument against an upside down receptacle is that if the the cord is tugged out and downward (the usual way it happens), the ground can become disconnected with the cord still “live,” resulting in an ungrounded appliance that is still working.
- The person installing the receptacle wasn’t paying attention or didn’t care that the standard installation puts the ground slot down.
There is no NEC (National Electric Code) violation either way. So have it flipped if it bothers you but, otherwise, you can just leave it alone.
Also see our our blog post Why are electrical outlets and plugs polarized?
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To learn more about electrical wiring, devices, and receptacles, see these other blog posts:
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