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Difference Between Outlet, Socket, and Receptacle


Your home’s electrical system can be quite complex in the way that it operates. You won’t know every term that an electrician does, but it can be helpful to understand basic terms. That way, you can describe any problem that you’re having with a licensed electrician.

Outlets vs. Receptacles

The average homeowner often believes these two electrical terms are interchangeable. In reality, they actually aren’t the same thing. The term outlet refers to the actual box where receptacles are present. Receptacles are openings in the box into which you can plug your electronics. The average box will have two three-prong receptacles, one over the other. It’s helpful to know the difference between these terms for when you’re having an issue with a single plug. You may have an outlet where the top receptacle works, but the bottom one doesn’t.


The term socket is often misused when it comes to describing electrical systems. It’s meant to be a location where you insert something . Sockets are often associated with lights and outlets. You can insert a cord or lightbulb into one. Many electricians use the word outlet to describe the box where a cord is instead of calling it a socket. This is because it keeps things simple. You can only plug cords into outlets or receptacles. You can’t screw a lightbulb into an outlet. It’s easiest to reserve the term socket as a location where you can screw lightbulbs into.

How to Test For a Problem

An issue that you may run into at one point or another as a homeowner is a receptacle that isn’t working. A simple receptacle tester can be a great, inexpensive way to determine if there’s an issue with your home. You can pick up a tester at your local hardware store for about $10. You’ll plug the tester in and see if it lights up. If so, it has power. But, you’ll want to see the reading next to the lights on the tester to see what the reading is. Some common readings include open ground, open neutral, open hot, and correct. Others include hot/neutral reversed and hot/ground reversed. These tools make sure your electrical system’s wires are correct at the plug.

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If you’re experiencing a problem with your electrical system, then it’s time to give us a call. Let our helpful electricians assess the issue and get it fixed. We want you to get back to enjoying all the benefits that come along with indoor power.

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