A power receptacle is a point of connection between electrical devices such as lamps, computers, and stoves, and the electricity entering a structure. Often referred to simply as a “receptacle,” a power receptacle is a vital part of the wiring of a structure, and most structures have a multitude of receptacles to provide numerous points of connection. The use of multiple receptacles also allows for the use of different dedicated circuits; for example, a receptacle designed for use with a hot water heater can be put on its own circuit to prevent an overload.
Many lay people know a power receptacle as a power outlet or wall socket. The receptacle consists of a female connector which is designed to interface with male connectors. When something is plugged into the power receptacle, power can enter the device which is plugged in. When unplugged, the receptacle is open again, and may be used to connect another device, or left open.
Because the power receptacle acts as an interface point for the electrical system, it can pose a safety risk. Most have a number of safety features which are designed to address shorts, power overloads, and other problems which could pose a risk of fire or injury. For example, many power receptacles are grounded, and the receptacle is designed to make it difficult for people or pets to insert extremities into the receptacle. Specific building codes may address the installation of receptacles and the safety requirements for electrical systems to reduce the risk of shocks and electrical fires.
Open power receptacles may be covered with plastic caps for additional safety. The caps are designed to plug into the socket much like the male connector on a lamp, preventing people from coming into contact with the electricity inside the receptacle. Capping is often recommended as a childproofing measure, and they can also be useful in a household with curious and adventurous pets who could be injured or frightened in the course of exploring the inner mysteries of an electrical socket.
Different nations use different types of power receptacles, which can cause problems for travelers. In addition to having different arrangements of plugs, nations may use differing voltage, which can damage equipment from another country. Travelers have access to a number of converter plugs which they can use to plug into receptacles in other nations, along with transformers to handle differences in voltage; these supplies are readily available from hardware stores and travel shops.