Do you get as frustrated as I do when you buy a new electronic device and they don’t give you an AC adapter? I mean, c’mon! You pay hundreds of dollars for a phone, e-reader, iPod, etc and now you have to pay an extra $30 just to charge it from a normal outlet!
My friend from Hometalk (a great website for homeowners or renters) Becky Sue went to KBIS (Kitchen & Bath Industry Show) and posted a picture of a new AC outlet called the U-Socket. It has a traditional receptacle look but comes with 2 USB ports also. Waaaay cool and a much needed upgrade for anyone who has electronic devices like an iPod, iPhone, iPad, Kindle, or smart phone.
I installed one in my own kitchen because we use Vonage and all our home phones need to be plugged into an outlet. Thus, one receptacle is always in use because of the phone. Since the kitchen seems to be the location where all our devices get charged the U-Socket could be a tremendous help.
The cost is roughly $34 with shipping and handling from FastMac. I know it’s a bit steep considering you can buy a standard receptacle for under $1 but its super useful. First off, most electronic devices come with USB cords and not necessarily chargers for the wall. So you don’t have to run to Best Buy to purchase the extra charger for each device.
Secondly, if you need to plug in multiple items like me then this is a solution to your electrical needs. Just make sure you have the counter space to accommodate all the devices .
The installation is exactly the same as that for a normal receptacle except for a few minor checkpoints. You can read the rest of this post to see how to install the U-Socket or if you prefer videos I created a nice tutorial.
The initial step is to shut off the power to the electrical outlet you’ll be replacing.
Make sure the power is completely turned off by testing the receptacle with a voltage tester or something that plugs into the outlet and has a power indicator. In my case the phone has a charging indicator light and it was off when the circuit was flipped.
Remove the wall plate to the receptacle and set it aside. Undo the two screws that hold the old receptacle to the outlet box that sits in the wall. Quick tip-keep these screws and don’t throw them away.
I’ll tell you why. All too often the screws holding the original receptacle in the wall are a bit longer than the screws that come with the new outlet. Trust me, keep the original screws or you’ll be looking through the trash for them! In this picture the outlet screw is 1.5 inches but the screws you typically get with the outlet itself are only 1 inch.
Pull the receptacle from the box in the wall and look at the wiring configuration. You’ll need to determine if the wiring is at the end of an electrical run or in the middle of an electrical run.
An end of run configuration has one set of wires (1 black, 1 white, and 1 green) coming into the box. The black is the hot wire, the white is the neutral wire, and the green is the ground wire.
A middle of run configuration has two sets of wires coming into the box. My receptacle was an end of run configuration. In this case I only needed to connect the ground wire to the U-Socket’s green ground screw, the white wire to the U-Socket’s silver screw, and the black wire to the U-Socket’s gold screw.
Now that the power to the old outlet is off you can remove the hot (black wire), neutral (white wire), and ground (green wire) by using a phillips screwdriver. Simply turn each respective screw counter clockwise until the wires can be removed. Leave the wire loops intact as you can use them for the U-Socket installation. I always take a picture of the old outlet before doing this step to make sure I rewire the new outlet the same way.
The U-Socket can be installed by anyone who has the skill set to install a standard wall outlet. You can see in this picture that the U-Socket is just that-a standard grounded 15-amp 120-volt Leviton wall outlet with two USB ports attached to it. Thus, if you plug in 4 devices totaling more than 15-amps the U-Socket will overload and trip the breaker or blow a fuse.
The ground wire connection to the U-Socket was somewhat tricky. You’ll need to maneuver the ground wire through a slot created by a silver tab and the receptacle itself. I had a little trouble with this part at first but you’ll manage just fine. You can see the silver tab in the following photo and how it somewhat hinders the installation of the ground wire. I fed the ground wire through the slot created between the sliver tab and the green ground screw. Make sure you place the wire loop over the green ground screw such that the loop is running clockwise. Doing this will ensure the terminal screw will tighten the wire loop securely. If the wire loop is placed on the terminal screw in a counter clockwise fashion the wire will become loose when you tighten the terminal screw (not the safest situation!!)
I pinched the ground wire tight in the above photo with a pair of needle nose pliers-this makes a tighter more solid connection between the ground terminal screw and ground wire.
The next step was to install the neutral wire. The bulky USB packet makes this somewhat tough. The best tip I can give you is to unscrew the silver neutral screw as much as you can until it becomes hard to turn but be careful not to remove it. I wrapped the neutral white wire loop in a clockwise fashion around the silver terminal screw (just like in the above step with the ground wire).
I performed the same action with the black hot wire and the gold terminal screw on the U-Socket.
Once the U-Socket is wired use the old screws from the prior outlet to secure it to the outlet box in the wall.
At this point leave the U-Socket’s wall plate off and turn the power back on at the panel.
There is a tiny indicator light on the U-Socket that communicates if you wired it incorrectly. This picture shows the tiny light indicator but the light isn’t on because the U-Socket is wired correctly.
If the light is on you’ll need to determine how to wire the U-Socket the right way. One example of wiring the U-Socket incorrectly would be mistakenly swapping the neutral and hot wires (i.e. having the neutral white wire connected to the U-Socket gold terminal & the hot black wire connected to the white terminal). If this is the case make sure to turn off the power to the U-Socket and hookup the neutral wire and hot wires to the correct terminals. Fortunately my end of run wiring configuration made the installation easy and I didn’t have any issues.
If you wired the U-Socket correctly then go ahead and reward yourself by screwing the wall plate in place.
Voila! You’re done. Now you can have one dedicated location to install all your electronic devices. This is nice since you can keep all the other stuff that comes with iPods, iPhones, Kindles, Android phones in a centralized place, too.
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Thank you so much for your time and if you have any questions please feel free to add a comment below.
Make it a great day!!