Best wall outlets

Charging & Power

The main reason an outlet has one slot larger than the other is to make sure the plug is always inserted the same way: the smaller slot connects to the hot wire (black) and the larger slot connects to the neutral wire (white).

BestReviews is reader-supported and may earn an affiliate commission. Details.

Which wall outlets are best?

As technology changes, the role of the wall outlet changes as well. Besides being merely a place to plug in for power, many receptacles also include ports for charging your devices. This has led to several designs, which can make it hard to determine which outlet is best for your needs.

If you have children, you may want to look for an outlet with safety features. Besides offering two USB charging ports and two receptacles for power, the TOPGREENER Electrical Outlet has a tamper-resistant feature that can help guard against electrocution.

What to know before you buy a wall outlet

How do wall outlets work?

While some wall outlets only have two prongs, the recommended outlet layout has three: two vertical slots with a hole above or below, depending on how you choose to install your wall outlet. One slot (the smaller slot on polarized outlets) connects to a hot wire, which supplies the power. The electricity then flows into the prong and through the appliance, then out the other prong that is inserted in the larger vertical slot of the wall outlet, to travel back to the breaker panel. The round prong is a ground, which protects you in the event of a short circuit. For more information, visit the wall outlet buying guide on the BestReviews website.

Wall outlets wear out

Every time you insert or remove a plug from an outlet, you are sliding metal against metal. Eventually, the metal in the wall outlet will wear away enough to cause problems. If your plugs have trouble staying in, the outlet doesn’t work consistently, there are scorch marks on the outlet or any part of the outlet is chipped or cracked, you should replace your old wall outlet immediately. Other signs you should replace your outlet are if it feels hot to the touch or you smell smoke when you plug in anything.

What to look for in a quality wall outlet

Tamper-resistant

A tamper-resistant outlet has an interior cover that will only open when both prongs of a plug are inserted simultaneously. This greatly reduces the possibility of a child sticking something they shouldn’t into an outlet.

USB ports

Many wall outlets now feature built-in USB ports. These ports allow you to directly insert a cord to charge it without the need for an adapter.

Rotating receptacles

Some wall outlets offer the convenience of rotating receptacles. These models allow you to more easily insert large, oddly shaped or angled plugs.

LED night light

If you’d like the convenience of having a built-in night light, you can purchase a wall outlet with an LED night light. These come in handy when you don’t want to waste a receptacle on a nightlight.

Circuit breaker

In some locations, such as in the kitchen, the bathroom or outside, you must have an outlet that has a built-in circuit breaker. A GFCI breaker, for instance, will protect people against a fatal electric shock while an AFCI breaker will protect against electrical fires.

Included wall outlet cover

If you will be upgrading your outlet covers as well as your outlets, look for a wall outlet that comes with an outlet cover.

How much you can expect to spend on a wall outlet

Wall outlets can cost as little as $1 for a basic model to roughly $30 for a tamper-resistant outlet that includes features such as USB ports and LED night lights.

Wall outlet FAQ

Is it hard to install a wall outlet?

A. No, replacing a wall outlet isn’t hard, but it can be very dangerous if you do not know what you are doing. Typically, you’ll need to unscrew one screw to remove the outlet cover and two screws to remove the outlet itself. The wires may either be wrapped around small screws or simply inserted directly into the back of the outlet. It is very important to remember to not only shut off the power to the outlet that you will be working on but to verify that it is actually off. Working on a wall outlet that hasn’t been shut off at the circuit breaker can lead to electrocution. 

How do I know if I got the wiring right?

A. When you are upgrading your outlets, you will probably just need to follow the wiring pattern on the old outlet. However, there is a possibility that the previous wiring was done incorrectly. To check if the wiring is correct after you have finished replacing a wall outlet, plug in a receptacle tester.

Do I need special wiring in my home to use an outlet that also has USB ports?

A. No. One of the best things about wall outlets is they all connect to your home wiring the same way. It doesn’t matter if you have USB ports and LED lights or just a basic outlet, they will all connect to a ground wire, a neutral wire and a hot wire. If your outlet is wired in a series, however, there will be two neutral wires and two hot wires to connect.

What’s the best wall outlet to buy?

Top wall outlet

TOPGREENER Electrical Outlet with USB Ports

TOPGREENER Electrical Outlet with USB Ports 

What you need to know: This is a solid wall outlet that offers the ability to charge two USB devices without the need for adapters.

What you’ll love: The tamper-resistant feature on this side-wired outlet provides additional safety to keep children from getting injured. The 5-volt, 2.4-amp USB ports offer fast-charging convenience for your USB devices.

What you should consider: A few users noted that the USB inputs weren’t as durable as they would have liked.

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon.

Top wall outlet for the money

ENERLITES Tamper-Resistant Receptacle Outlet

ENERLITES Tamper-Resistant Receptacle Outlet

What you need to know: If you need many outlets, this 10-pack of tamper-resistant receptacles is an affordable option.

What you’ll love: These outlets are tamper-resistant, heat-resistant and impact-resistant. The slim design gives the outlet an elegant look, and they have back-insert and side terminal wiring for convenience.

What you should consider: The ground-screw mounting on these outlets is not as durable as the rest of the unit.

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon.

Worth checking out

Leviton Tamper-Resistant Duplex Receptacle

Leviton Tamper-Resistant Duplex Receptacle

What you need to know: This well-designed, reliable and versatile outlet model will likely suit your needs.

What you’ll love: This outlet features a built-in smart chip that automatically identifies and adapts to your device’s charging needs. It offers high-speed, 3.6-amp charging and it is designed to replace standard outlets for ease of installation.

What you should consider: While this wall outlet is highly popular, it does come with a higher price tag.

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon, Home Depot and Wayfair.

 

Sign up here to receive the BestReviews weekly newsletter for useful advice on new products and noteworthy deals.

Allen Foster writes for BestReviews. BestReviews has helped millions of consumers simplify their purchasing decisions, saving them time and money.

Copyright 2021 BestReviews, a Nexstar company. All rights reserved.