Receptacle Connectors: Everything You Must Know About

Just pressing a button turns on your lamp, switches on your TV, and starts your induction cooktop. Have you ever given a thought to what happens inside the walls that make these systems work? Electrical circuits transfer the AC power supply to the electrical equipment through a connection of plugs and sockets. All electrical connections depend entirely on plug, wire, and receptacle connectors. 

It is mainly the receptacle connectors or outlets that supply the power to your electrical appliances. Thus, you must always use high-quality receptacle connectors to ensure the trouble-free operation of your appliances. If you are confused about the terminologies of electrical connectors and receptacle connectors then this article is for you.

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Difference Between a Plug and a Receptacle? 

Image: A plug & a receptacle

Usually, using a special termination way, either a soldered or crimped connection, we reach electrical connections in the contact carrier, connectors.

A receptacle is a female-flange mounted device on a surface (flange with holes). It has conducting elements behind its mating surface. People generally know it as “outlet” or “wall female socket”. Normally the socket contacts remain in a live stage owing to their wiring to the main source of power. 

On the other hand, electrical plugs are male-cord-mounted wiring devices with conducting pins that protrude outside. Unlike receptacles, this device is not live when not in. So, electrical plugs are always dead until they connect to a power source with the help of the above-mentioned receptacle or outlet.

When the metal male prongs of plug connectors come in contact with the female mating socket of a receptacle, it results in a conductive electrical connection. The pins in plugs help the electric current travel, via insulated wires, to an electric appliance/machine.

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Different types of Electrical Outlets:

While plugging in an electrical device, you must have noticed that receptacles have either three holes or two holes. Based on that, they are known as three-pronged outlets or two-pronged outlets.  

In a three-pronged outlet, there are three socket holes. We call the first one a “Neutral”, the second one or the right one a “Hot”, and the third one is the “ground hole”.

Three-pronged & two-pronged outlets

Image: Three-pronged & two-pronged outlets

The “hot hole” is the main one that goes to the wire supplying the electrical current. The neutral hole brings back the current to the breaker box. When you plug an electrical device like a microwave, it turns on because the hot part of the outlet carries current to the microwave. The circuit becomes complete when the current comes back to the outlet through the neutral slot. When you unplug, this circuit breaks and the microwave turns off.

The grounded slot connects to the grounding wire that takes any dangerous electric currents to the ground where they are neutralized.

Like the three-pronged outlet, a two-pronged outlet also has a hot wire and a neutral wire. However, it does not have a grounding wire. This can be dangerous in some cases. In case if there is a high electrical current due to an earth fault, the current will not go to the ground and you may get a shock, or the device that you were trying to plug may get damaged with that large electric current.

Another type of outlet available is a GFCI outlet or a Ground Fault Circuit Interrupter outlet. You can use this outlet in electrical connections where the circuit can come in contact with water. It protects you from electric shocks and is great for use in bathrooms and kitchens. If there is a possibility of a mating socket coming in contact with water, you need to choose these outlets for the protection and safety of connected devices.

Apart from these, there are switched outlets, USB outlets, AFCI outlets, Smart Outlets, and Tamper-resistant outlets. You can use these different female electrical connectors for connecting devices in medical, residential, commercial, or industrial applications.

Mounting of Receptacle Connectors:

There are several mounting styles for electrical receptacles. Such as, 

  • Panel mount Receptacle: In this type of mounting, you can install the receptacle onto the surface of the electrical device. In a panel mount receptacle, you can plug connectors directly into a device wall. For this, make a cut in the electrical device and place the  receptacle through the hole. This type of receptacle can mount anywhere on the product and is suitable for products that need protection from dust.   

 Image: Receptacle mounted on the surface of an electrical device

  • Free-hanging Mount receptacle: In this type of connection, the receptacle mounts on a cable.
  • Board Mount receptacle: Here, the receptacle mounts onto a PCB i.e., Printed Circuit Board.

Before you buy a receptacle kit, it is essential to make sure of the nature of the application that you wish to use it for. 

NEMA configurations:

The configuration, appearance, and differences in receptacle connectors can vary from country to country. The following image illustrates the common NEMA configurations used for 125VAC and 250VAC single-phase systems in North America. 

220 Volt Plug Receptacles Configurations - AskmeDIY in 2021 | Electrical  plug wiring, Basic electrical wiring, Plugs

There are two types of electrical connectors, namely straight blade, and twist lock. These two types of connectors are available for various voltage ranges and current ratings. Twist-Lock type connectors have curved blades so that once electrical plugs get inside they twist themselves, and latch into the receptacle to create a twist-lock connection. If you are looking to buy receptacles for industrial applications or commercial settings, you must pick twist-lock ones over straight blade types. 

NEMA Nomenclature

If you have a NEMA code number for an electrical connector, say an AC port plug, you can determine its ratings and specifications using NEMA Nomenclature rules.

For example- say if a device has a code number as-  x6-20R


“X”- If “L” is in this position, it is a locking device (as some receptacles come with a twist lock). If no letter is there, the device has no locking feature and it is a straight blade type.

“6”- the number at this position indicates the voltage. The different number indicates different voltages. The number can be 2,5,6,7,8,9, 14, 15, 16, 17, 21, 22, 23.

“20”- the number here indicates the current ratings and the standard values can be 15, 20, 30, 50, and 60 Amps.

“R”- the letter “R” is used to indicate that it is a receptacle or a socket. In the case of electrical plugs, the letter “P” is there.

By now you would have understood the importance of receptacle connectors in ensuring a constant and safe power supply to all electrical devices. Flickering lights, a loose connection of plugs, or developments of cracks or corrosion over your receptacles are signs that you need to get them repaired or replaced. Whether you use it for residential, commercial, or industrial applications, you can get the best cable assemblies and other products online at the best price. Contact us for all your cable assembly needs. 

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