What are tamper-resistant outlets?

What are tamper-resistant outlets? Tamper-resistant outlets are a special electrical outlet, sold in North America, designed to prevent injury or death from toddlers or children inserting a foreign metal object into the outlet and causing electrical shock or electrocution. They have an embossed “TR” to distinguish them from earlier types of outlets. You can buy tamper resistant versions of various types of outlets, including standard duplex outlets, and ground fault circuit interrupter outlets (GFCIs).

Tamper resistant outlets vs standard electrical sockets

what are tamper-resistant outlets
You can buy tamper-resistant outlets in forms that replace standard outlets of many types. These include standard and GFCI. They also include 15 amp and 20 amp.

Tamper resistant outlets have spring-loaded shutters on the rectangular receptacles for the prongs. These replace the child safety receptacle covers we used in old outlets. The spring-loaded shutters automatically close when you pull the plug from the outlet. The shutters open in response to even pressure on both of them, such as the normal pressure from two metal prongs when plugging in a household electrical plug. The doors will not open when someone tries inserting foreign objects such as screwdrivers or butter knives into the slots.

Tamper resistant receptacles can sometimes be pretty stiff and difficult to operate. Here are some tips for opening tamper resistant outlets if you find them use-resistant, not just tamper-resistant.

Tamper resistant outlets and code

Since 2014, the National Electric Code, or NEC, has been steadily increasing when and where it requires tamper resistant outlets in buildings. Code doesn’t require every outlet to be tamper resistant in new homes. But as a general rule, if an outlet is somewhere that children can reach it, such as in guest suites and other living spaces in a home, code requires tamper resistant outlets. Code also requires tamper resistant outlets in child care facilities and hospitals. Your local code may vary, as not every municipality adopts the most recent National Electric Code right away.

Code generally requires tamper resistant outlets in new construction. But there is no mandate for replacing functioning electrical sockets with tamper resistant outlets. If you replace an outlet in your own home, no one will hassle you if you use a standard receptacle outlet. The only possible exception is when you sell your home. If your home was built with tamper resistant outlets installed and you replace them with conventional outlets, an inspector may require you to change them back. But that would only apply if your home was built after your local municipality updated the code to require tamper resistant outlets.

You are allowed to upgrade outlets yourself. Some people prefer to use a licensed electrician. But if you are familiar with the standard safety precautions and working on household voltage, you do not have to have a license to repair or replace outlets in your own home.

Where to buy tamper resistant outlets

You can buy tamper resistant outlets at any hardware store or big box home improvement store. Resist the urge to buy the least expensive one. The lower standard of quality control required to meet that price point is one of the reasons behind stiff tamper resistant outlets. If you have a choice of two models, buy the more expensive one.

A smaller hardware store may have a better selection of electrical outlets then the big box stores. Also, some DIY YouTubers advocate buying from electrical wholesalers, saying you get better quality that way. That’s only true if you buy one of their pricier models. But wholesalers are more likely to carry several grades of tamper-resistant outlets because they cater to electrical contractors who work on every price range of home.

Tamper resistant outlets are a worthwhile upgrade to protect your family from severe shock due to inserting foreign objects in the slots of electrical receptacles and they are more convenient than the earlier plastic outlet caps we used for decades.

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