You probably haven’t realized it, but there is a product that has been on the market for a few years now which combines the convenience of a USB charger with a traditional wall receptacle. This allows you to charge iPods, iPads, MP3 players, cameras, and smart phones without using the standard charger pack or your USB port on your computer. These USB/AC receptacles draw very little power when charging and no power when the ports are not used. Most USB chargers draw 5.2Volts DC. You can find these receptacles for between $15 and $30.
The new receptacle is about the size of a standard GFCI receptacle so it can be a tight fit in outdated outlet boxes. These USB receptacles need a volume of at least 16 cubic inches or a box that is about 3" deep. There are several types on the market, so make sure that your device is UL listed.
Power2U AC/USB Wall Outlet
Tools and Materials
4 in 1 Screwdriver
Voltage Tester or Receptacle Tester
Wire Nuts, if installing pigtails
Warning - Only replace a standard outlet; USB outlets do not have a GFCI function. Replacing a GFCI receptacle with a standard receptacle will increase the risks for electrical shock.
Currently the receptacles are only in 15A models and the circuit should have at least 14 Gauge wire.
If your outlet box is too small for the new USB receptacle, you will need to replace it with an old work box of an adequate size.
- Shut off the power to the circuit feeding the receptacle, preferably at the circuit breaker.
- Unscrew the existing wall plate.
- Remove the existing receptacle from the outlet box.
- Disconnect the existing wiring from the receptacle. Take note of the wires coming into the box. The wires may be directly wired to the terminal screws on the receptacle or there may be pigtails coming off of the wiring into the receptacle. There is no difference in the wiring of a USB/AC receptacle so you can re-wire the device the same way as the original unit. Some units may only have one neutral screw so you will have to add a pigtail. Some units include a wiring pigtail in the kit.
5. Connect the wiring to the USB receptacle with the correct polarity. Black wire on the brass terminal screw, white wire on the silver terminal screw, and the ground wire on the green screw.
6. Carefully fold the wires back into the outlet box and secure the receptacle into the box with the mounting screws.
7. Install the cover on the receptacle. Most units have an integrated safety feature where the USB ports are not powered unless they are in use.
8. Restore power to the circuit and test the receptacle for proper polarity with a receptacle tester if necessary.
While USB receptacles may never be a code requirement for new homes, they may become a convenience that is included in every room of the house at some point in the future. A USB receptacle can be installed in the kitchen, by night stands in bedrooms, family rooms, and even the garage.