Wall outlets are responsible for 15% of injuries in children 12 years and younger. In 2008, the National Electrical Code (NEC) made tamper resistant outlets required in homes.
What is a tamper resistant (TR) outlet? It is also called a tamper resistant (TR) receptacle. It is an outlet in the wall that has a built-in safety mechanism and prevents anything that is inserted into it from being fed with electricity. This reduces injuries such as electric shocks and helps protect the family.
Let’s take a look at why this is important, how it works, where to find these outlets, how to install, issues putting the plugs in, why you need tamper resistant outlets, other things to be aware of, and when to contact a professional.
Why This is Important
Every year about 2,400 kids suffer shock and burns from outlets and between six and twelve children die. Outlets need to be safe as children often don’t think of the consequences of sticking something into an outlet.
Some people think that putting a plastic outlet cap in will fix the problem. Unfortunately, the findings in the study were that 100% of the children age two to four could remove the plastic outlet cap in 10 seconds! Children can also swallow the plastic outlet caps.
Childproofing the outlets is essential and can be done with a tamper resistant outlet.
The good thing is, if you have a new home, these are standard now with the home. If not, read on about how to install them in your home.
How Does a Tamper Resistant Outlet Work
The tamper-resistant outlet looks like a normal everyday outlet. However, when a child puts something into one of the slots, the shutters inside the outlet close up. If there is a two or three-prong/bladed or grounded plug is inserted, then the shutters open to let it in.
Where to Buy Tamper Resistant Outlets
These are not very expensive, adding possibly 50 cents to the cost of a regular receptacle. Clearly, the saving of a life outweighs the cost. They are easy to find and can be bought on Amazon or at your local hardware store.
How to Install a Tamper Resistant Outlet
- Turn off the power in the electrical panel
- Then, check there is no power source to the outlet
- Unscrew the screws holding the outlet in place.
- Pull the old outlet out of the box and disconnect the wires
- Set the old outlet aside.
- Connect the new wires to the new outlet:
The white (neutral) wire connects to a silver-colored terminal screw.
The black (hot) wire connects to a gold-colored terminal screw.
The bare wire connects to the green grounding screw.
Make sure the cable sheath remains secured inside the box
- Gently put the wires back into the box.
- Slide the new tamper-resistant outlet into the box.
- Insert screws to secure the outlet.
- Replace the outlet cover.
- Put the screw in to secure the cover.
- Finally, turn the power back on at the main service panel.
Issues Putting a Plug In a Tamper Resistant Outlet
The first time you put a plug into the tamper-resistant outlet, you may be able to feel the internal shutters open up. Then, it should also be fairly easy to put a plug in. However, if it is difficult, check the plug to make sure the blades or prongs are not bending.
Why You Need Tamper Resistant Outlets
- Easy to install
- Keep children safe
- In compliance with the NEC for new construction
- Inexpensive to switch over in your house or add to new construction
- No small pieces that children can put in their mouth
- Can be used with GFCI
- Need additional reasons?
If you don’t have children, it doesn’t mean that you should not have these in your home. You never know when you will have a visitor who has children and you could be saving their life.
Residential homes are not the only ones that require these now, but day cares, schools, childcare, businesses offices and more. Check out the list:
Additional Things to Think About
In addition, make sure the Metal box is grounded . Why? If there is a surge and the metal box is not grounded then there could be a fire or electrocution.
Do you know if your metal box is grounded? Well, there is a tester you can buy and follow the directions below:
- Shut off the power for that room
- Pull off the outlet faceplate and then pull the outlet out of the wall
- Unscrew the wires so they are not attached to the outlet anymore
- Also, check that the positive and neutral wires are exposed and not touching anything. Then, turn back on the electricity for that room
- Touch one end of the tester to the hot wire (black or red wire)
- Touch the other end of the tester to the metal box inside the wall
- If the tester shows voltage on the screen, then you know that it is grounded.
Check Your Electrical Panel: FPE
Was your house built in the 1950s-1980? If yes, when you turn off the power in the electrical panel to the room you are working in, check if there is a label in the electrical panel that says “FPE” or “Stab-Lok”, or “Federal Panel Electric Company.” Then, check for red-tips on the Federal Pacific Breakers. If you see any of this, then you have an FPE Panel and it needs replacing right away. You will need to call a professional for help. Why? They malfunction and can start a fire.
Check Your Electrical Panel: GFCI “Challenger” Recall
Look for the word, “Challenger” on the door or on the inside of the door/panel. If you find it, you may have the recalled Challenger GFCI breakers.
Therefore, look for the following:
a. The word “test” will be in yellow on one side.
b. Next, look at the other side on the handle for the numbers 15 or 20 in white.
c. If the numbers 15 and 20 are in white and they are located in between the “On” and “Off” buttons, then you have the recalled breaker.
AFCI Arc Fault Circuit Interrupter and Recalls
AFCI’s are in every part of the house where there is no water, unlike GFCI’s. They detect the size of power over time and if it detects there is a surge, then the power shuts off. The Square D button has been recalled so check here to see if it is the one you have on your electrical panel.
Check Your Electrical Panel: Do You Have a Bad Circuit Breaker
Are you finding that the breaker trips or doesn’t stay in reset mode? Maybe there is a burning smell, hot to the touch, or trips frequently? If so, then you might have a bad circuit breaker.
Electrical Fires Can Happen in Outlets
No matter what type of outlet you have if it is overloading or shorts out, a fire can start. Then, turn off the power to the house to stop the electrical current, get everyone out safely, and call 911.
How can you help prevent electrical fires? Hire a professional to see if your house is AFCI compliant. This can be done by using a device that can find electrical hazards and prevent 50-75% of electrical fires.
The dryer is plugged into an outlet and you want to make sure it stays clean. Moreover, if you don’t clean the lint that ends up near the outlet, a fire can start. You also need to make sure the vent stays clean on the back of the dryer and where it connects to the wall.
When to Contact a Professional
If you are not sure what kind of outlets you have in your home or need help switching them over, then contact a professional to help. Are you hesitant to mess with the electricity or change them yourself? Then reach out, as this is why there are professionals.
As mentioned earlier, the outlets are standard now in new homes. However, if you are unsure you have them, contact a professional to look at the outlets for you. You can also see if you can recognize them in a home, or check the paperwork for the home.
Ensuring your home is safe for children is the first step to take. Also being cognizant of other electrical hazards along with specific panels is important. Furthermore, electricity is scary to play with and you don’t have to do it alone. Contact us or reply below if you have questions or need help.