Tamper-Resistant Outlets Help Keep Kids Safe
LESLIE: So one of the first things that new parents do is childproof their home. You make sure that those curious little ones can’t get into your cleaning supplies or injure themselves at home. And one of the most important areas to childproof are your electrical outlets. More than 2,400 children are treated in emergency rooms due to electrical shocks and burns every year as a result of tampering with electrical outlets.
TOM: True. But the old way of plugging in a piece of plastic is not only easy to figure out for little ones, it can be inconvenient for adults. There are much better ways to tamper-proof outlets. Here to tell us about them is This Old House electrical contractor Scott Caron.
SCOTT: Hi, Tom. Hi, Leslie. Thanks for having me here today.
TOM: So those little plastic plug-ins don’t just cut it. There are tamper-resistant outlets that can not only be safer, they’re more convenient and they can really be a permanent part of the home, right?
SCOTT: Yeah. Boy, those things are a pain in the neck. Pull them out, set them on the floor, that’s a choking hazard right there. So it’s not a great idea. And then you forget to plug them back in once you unplug your outlet.
TOM: So how do these new, tamper-resistant outlets work?
SCOTT: So these new outlets, they’re really neat. They look the same. You can’t really tell the difference except if you really look closely, you can see they have these little shields over – they’re hot in the neutral. What happens – you need to plug that plug in at the exact same time so that both of those shields come in contact with the actual brass contacts on the plug. So basically, you cannot stick a paper clip or a little bobby pin – you can’t stick it in that outlet individually. They have to both be pressed simultaneously.
TOM: So you can’t do one side or the other.
SCOTT: That’s right.
TOM: You have to connect at the same time. And then they release themselves and you can actually install the plug into the outlet.
SCOTT: Yep. They’re basically preventing anyone from accessing the hot portion of that outlet.
LESLIE: Yeah. You know, that actually sounds really convenient and it seems like something that you’ll actually use because those plastic ones? I feel like every time I pull one out of an outlet and then I vacuum or something, I almost always forget to put it back in.
SCOTT: Yeah, they’re really great. They do offer some retrofitting plates that almost do the same thing, where you put the outlet up – you put the plug up to the outlet, you slide it over and plug it in. But as far as a tamper-resistant outlet, which by the way is code now since 2008, we have put them in every single house. Whether it’s a new outlet or whether it’s a complete rewire, we always use them.
TOM: Do you put them in every single outlet?
SCOTT: We do. There’s really no way around it. It is required by code.
TOM: So, Scott, this sounds like a fantastic innovation. But if I don’t have kids and say I need a new outlet or two, do I still need to use tamper-resistant?
SCOTT: Yes. We still put tamper-resistant outlets where we’re adding an outlet. However, if you have existing, non-TR outlets in your home, it’s fine. No problems.
TOM: I think you can’t go wrong by installing these outlets. And let’s face it: even many of us that don’t have kids, we certainly have children that are going to visit. Let’s keep them safe, as well.
SCOTT: Tom and Leslie, thank you for having me again.
TOM: And This Old House is brought to you on PBS by Lumber Liquidators. Hardwood floors for less.