Charging a mobile device from a wall outlet usually requires a 110v cord with a fat wall wart (converter) or a dongle that delivers reduced amperage to a USB cable that doubles as a computer sync/charging cord. Now you can replace an ordinary receptacle with one that accepts slender, adaptor-free USB cables directly. It’s like having an airport charging station in your kitchen or office. You’ll love it as much as your guests!
These sexy USB/AC outlets are sleek and easy, but they’re not always a compatible. Considerations include:
1. Is the electrical box big and deep enough?
2. Are there too many wires inside?
3. Is the wall surface around the box flat (tile can be uneven)?
4. Is the box installed flush with the wall?
5. Is the box a remodeling type with surface flanges?
The built-in USB ports take up additional space, so the device won’t fit safely into a shallow or undersized electrical box. The installation also requires a flat wall and flush box that’s free from surface flanges that can hold the faceplate away from the wall. What’s more, the receptacle body and faceplate must align perfectly on some units for the USB cover/switch to work properly. If box is recessed or tilted, insert shims behind the receptacle tabs to make it plum and flush.
Before buying a USB receptacle, turn off power to the outlet circuit, count the existing cables inside and measure the volume of the box. It shouldn’t contain more than four leads (not counting bare ground wires). NewerTech’s new patented 20A Power2U features two USB slots and two AC slots. It needs 16 cu. in. (height x width x depth). Leviton’s more compact 15A USB charging receptacle has two USB slots and a single AC slot. It needs 15 cu. in. Both are tamper-resistant and UL listed. So safe charging, kids.
Using a USB/AC receptacle properly isn’t particularly obvious or intuitive. USB slots look alike but they’re not. High Power ports are for charging tablet computers and similar high-draw devices. Since both USB ports must share the available low-amp power, plug one high-power device into the 110v outlet if another is using a USB slot. Check the instructions to get the most from the device.
It’s wonderful and welcoming to install one of these dual-use receptacles in a kitchen where guests can recharge their devices while visiting. After all, USB sync cords fit discretely in pockets. But visitors won’t want to bring along a dongle or wall wart in their pants. Just be sure they flip their mobile device to silent if you sit for dinner.