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With so many devices being powered or charged via USB connections, you might find yourself running out of available plugs or resorting to filling up the plugs with a multitude of charging adapters.
One solution to this problem is to upgrade your wall outlets to a dual AC plus USB option or to install an all-USB wall outlet. Before you run off to grab your tools to make it happen, there are a few things you might want to think about. Let’s look at some potential downsides and considerations before adding US outlets to your home’s electrical system.
What to Consider Before Installing USB Outlets
A quick word on safety here: we aren’t electrical engineers, contractors or installation experts. While many people can and install electrical accessories and even swap wall boxes as do-it-yourselfers, please make sure you know what you’re doing. You can be seriously shocked, both physically and emotionally, if you make a mistake. Always, at the least, ensure the power to the area you’re working on has been shut off and consider buying an inexpensive voltage tester pen so you can rewire with confidence. If you’re concerned, hiring a pro is never a bad idea. A multimeter is your best option; if you don’t have one, you can plug in a lamp or other device to confirm if the power is flowing.
USB Outlets Compatibility
When considering updating your electrical boxes, you might be concerned that the wiring in your home or the age of the electrical work might be an issue, but the good news is that USB devices draw power at a much lower rate than a standard outlet. In fact, USB chargers reduce the power going through them to such a degree that more devices can charge without overloading a circuit.
If your power plugs have only two prongs and no third hole (a ground), you’ll likely need to upgrade the wiring in the wall or even the breaker, and that could be a much bigger job — possibly a more expensive one.
Another aspect of upgrading to consider: the odds are good that a quality wall outlet with USB ports will be safer than some (particularly third party or discount) charging adapters since the in-wall electrical boxes must pass more stringent safety rules.
Proper Fit for USB Outlets
Another thing to know is that some USB-equipped wall outlets may be larger than your existing wall boxes, which might lead to more work than you were anticipating. You can turn off the power and remove the wall outlet cover to take a quick look, then unscrew the fasteners holding the box in place and pull it gently free of the wall to see if the swap-out will be problematic.
Another consideration is that if you’re having any electrical work or renovations done, that point in time would be good to make this kind of upgrade, but you must let your contractor know in advance. Because the wall boxes can be different sizes or depths, your contractor may need to allow for additional space, or even upgraded wiring as noted above. Have a chat with your contractor first and consider allowing the electrician to purchase the proper fixtures for you. It can be tempting to buy a box of one dozen wall outlets from Amazon, but if they’re not going to fit in your walls, that’s money down the drain.
Forward Thinking of Future USB Models
Technology is moving pretty fast, and if you go down the wall outlet route, you might find that the USB ports are underpowered when the next version of USB chargers shows up. Many existing USB wall outlets use original USB (or USB-A) models, meaning as we shift further to USB-C, these built-in plugs will probably be obsolete soon too. Plus, remember Micro-USB? It’s all but discontinued now, so if you don’t want to replace outlets and connections every decade, a wall-mounted USB outlet might not be for you.
Other Options: No Wiring Required
While it can seem tempting to want to jam as many possible connections into wall boxes as possible, permanently installing USB wall outlets may not be the smartest play. Particularly when there are so many great power bar and surge protector options that come with myriad ports and connections for charging almost every conceivable gadget. Investing in something like a Monster Power Center Vertex or Vertex XL would be a smart compromise that would serve your needs now and not cost so much you wouldn’t be able to upgrade when future technology advancements demand it.
The idea of built-in USB chargers is enticing, but make sure you do your homework and think about whether switching over will be the best choice for your own set-up. But if you like the idea of a wall outlet with USB power, there are some great options out there.
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