Tamper-Resistant Receptacles: Why Your Home Needs Them
According to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), about 2,400 children every year suffer from shock and burn-related injuries from sticking objects in the slots of wall outlets. Out of that number, around six to twelve child-deaths occur every year from these electrocutions. Because of this, the 2008 National Electrical Code (NEC) has made it mandatory that all newly developed homes require tamper-resistant outlets, also known as tamper-resistant receptacles. Even if your home isn’t newly built, it is required by the NEC to replace broken receptacles with tamper-resistant receptacles.
As a licensed master electrician, I strongly believe that even if your home isn’t new and your receptacles are still in good-working condition, it’s best to consider replacing them anyway with tamper-resistant receptacles. These receptacles are more reliable than the alternative options, like plastic caps or sliding covers. The plastic caps are known for becoming lost when not plugged in, and may even be a choking hazard. The sliding covers are no match for children. If a child can see you slide it, a child can eventually learn to slide it themselves.
For over 20 years, tamper-resistant receptacles have been required in pediatric care units. With the amount of child shock-related injuries and deaths in homes each year, it’s no wonder that almost 8 years ago today, the NEC required tamper-resistant receptacles be installed in newly developed homes. And while your home may not be new or need receptacles, prevention is the solution. Prevention starts with updating your existing receptacles with tamper-resistant receptacles.
Here are some common questions regarding tamper-resistant receptacles:
What is a tamper-resistant receptacle?
A tamper-resistant receptacle is a receptacle that has a spring-loaded mechanism seen in the picture below, which allows the slots of the receptacle to be closed if a plug is not inserted. It is only when a plug is inserted into a tamper-resistant receptacle that the slots will open and allow the metal prongs of the plug to make contact with an electrical current. When there is no equal pressure inserted into the slots of the receptacle provided by a plug, the springs in the cover plate will not open; hence, when a child puts a foreign object in one of the slots, the springs will not compress because there is no simultaneous pressure, and the slots on the receptacle remain closed, with no contact to any electricity.
Why should my home have a tamper-resistant receptacle? I don’t have kids living with me.
Even if you don’t have children living in your house, who’s to say at some point you won’t have them in your home for a visit? Maybe they are grandchildren, or children of a friend you’ve invited to your home. You are one step away from preventing child shock and burn injuries, or even death when you have tamper-resistant receptacles throughout the house.
People sell their homes, and tenants come and go in rental properties. If no children are living presently, there could be some living there later down the road. Child electrocution can be prevented with the simple swap from regular receptacles to tamper-resistant receptacles.
Where in my home should tamper-resistant receptacles be installed?
- Wall spaces
- Counter-top spaces
- Outdoor areas
- Laundry rooms
In general, tamper-resistant receptacles are NOT NEEDED for wall spaces that are higher than 5.5 feet above the floor, dedicated places for appliances that cannot easily be moved such as your refrigerator, a receptacle that is a part of a lighting unit such as a lamp, or a receptacle that locks. All other areas where a receptacle is needed should have a tamper-resistant receptacle.
How much does a tamper-resistant receptacle cost?
A tamper-resistant receptacle is not expensive. According to NFPA, the price of a tamper-resistant receptacle is only $0.50 more than a regular, unprotected receptacle. Of course, there are many different brands and types of tamper-resistant receptacles to chose from, but there still isn’t much of a price difference compared to your standard, unprotected receptacle. One of our licensed master electricians at KB Electric LLC can recommend which brand and type is best for you, and install tamper-resistant receptacles throughout your home for prevention and safety.