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Computergenius's avatar

Why are electrical outlets installed upside down?

Asked by Computergenius (255 points ) November 28th, 2008 from iPhone

in a new, very large hospital we are in, every electrical outlet is installed upside down, with the ground plug at the top. I see that at schools also. It makes plugging in a large AC adapter a PITA. Can anyone (electricians?) tell me why that is the standard way of installing electrical outlets in new construction?

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17 Answers

PupnTaco's avatar

I thought that indicated which outlets were controlled by a nearby wall switch.

jtvoar16's avatar

My house of 80+ years of age also had them installed in that fashion, and I agree, it made plugging in a lot of crap a “PITA” as you would so phase it. I took mine out and flipped them with no problems… so far… but I keep smelling this like burning coming from the wall… whatever… Anyway, I don’t think it is a modern thing, I think electricians have been doing that since lightening first struck Ben.
Why? I have no idea. I think it is their way of slowly bringing about the apocalypse or some form of revolution.

buster's avatar

Its pretty much the preference of the electrician which way they install them. I do some electrical work and I agree the ground plug should always be on the bottom. Most things like glades plugins and certain chargers are designed with the ground on the bottom. The only time I flip them the other way is if Im working on a house or building that has already has outlets with the ground up and I want them to match what is already in the house. There is nothing in the electrical building codes that says you have to install them one way or the other

Jeruba's avatar

My husband is of the opinion that it makes the plug of the appliance (such as a hairdryer) less likely to fall out or pull out. So he did it that way in our bathroom. I hate it every single day and don’t see how it makes anything safer.

Tantigirl's avatar

jtvoar16 – Bloody Hell!!!! You smell burning from the wall and your reaction is whatever? Are you kidding us here?!!!!!

sndfreQ's avatar

Newer safety standards concerning shorting via objects falling on the connectors. With the ground on top, the object falling touches the ground and ground only (in most cases), greatly reducing the chance of a short (and fire). With “right side up” boxes, the hot and neutral pins rest on top, and an object falling on the connectors will touch these posts first, creating a short and electrical arc.

jtvoar16's avatar

@Tantigirl: Yes. I am usually very sarcastic in my posts. Sorry to cause confusion. I shall work harder to make it known that I am being sarcastic. By the way, that is not sarcasm. When I get really, really, tired, I get poetic and “wordy” with my writing.

Tantigirl's avatar

jtvoar16 – No prob hun, I was getting a little worried there, didn’t want you to end up homeless. I’ve not seen you much yet, so I didn’t realize it was sarcasm. I’ll get it next time.

;)

jtvoar16's avatar

:) I forget sometimes that what I hear in my head is not what other people hear when they read what I wrote. It’s always been a bad habit.

Tantigirl's avatar

I’m with you there, things never look like they sound. My dad used to tell me not to look at him in that tone of voice!!

jtvoar16's avatar

LOL. I have a new quote to use upon the young-ens’! Thank you again!

kwhull's avatar

Taintgirl! My dad use to say the same thing to me! He also said, shut your mouth wideopen. Never understood that one.

buzguy's avatar

Reason why ground down is BEST-safer:
I believe the ground pin should be down because if the plug starts to work its way out from weight on the cord, the first thing to disconnect will be the power and that all important ground will be last to go thereby providing its protection until no longer needed because the power has disconnected first. I was appalled the first time I saw outlets being installed with the ground pin upward and I can hardly believe this is routinely done in medical facility applications. WHERE ARE THE BRAINS OF THE CODE WRITERS?

rwobst's avatar

Upside down electrical outlets are just plain silly. The entire industry design starndard in this country is, and always has been, to put the ground post on the bottom. That’s the way power cords are designed. Whoever got the brainy idea to start mounting electrical outlet upside down ought to have all the faucets in their house turned upside down so that they can see better if the water is coming out and thus avoid flood.

Ron_C's avatar

I think that changes every time they revise the NEC (National Electrical Code). I work with industrial control and electrical systems. There was a recent change that said that if you work on a live electrical cabinet with 120 Volt or higher control circuits you have to wear rubber electrical gloves, and a face shield. I think the NEC is devised by engineers that never worked in the field and that the only way they can justify their pay is make trivial changes to the code without regard to the poor guy that is trying to install of fix something.

zavod's avatar

The electrical outlets look too much like a face with an astonished expression. My father asked the question to hospital staff and they told him they are installed upside down as in that position the “face” is not apparent and so they will not disturb the mental patients.

David_Brown's avatar

The reason is safety. As cords will do on occasion, they will begin to work themselves loose, pulling away from the receptacle. In this condition, half in-half out, the metal prongs are exposed to contact. Now picture this scenario; a thin metal tray, tool, clipboard, etc. falls from above and hits the prongs. The metal item will bridge the 2 prongs if the receptacle was installed with the 3rd prong on the bottom. This is the equivelant of touching the hot wire directly to the nuetral. You would have an arc, a large arc at that. Couple this with rooms that typically have oxygen present and you have a catastrophic explosion.
I say the hospital has installed these receptacles right side up and 99% of the homes today have their recetacles installed upside down.

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