What Exactly is Tamper Resistant?

Lighting and Cabinets

Licensed #electricians in Texas and probably most states in the United States are required to follow the code. It is basically standards that must be adhered to during the installation. Any reputable electrician believes in the importance of following the #NEC Code Book. Every three years the code is updated, based on lab studies and general recommendations from the public. Currently we are following #NEC 2017, but before was #NEC 2014. In between those periods meetings are held and studies are conducted to make electricity safer for everyone. Anyone can suggest codes or code changes, and some people take pride in making recommendations. Sometimes its as simple as changing a word or phrase to clarify the meaning of an old code. But sometimes it’s a major change.

Back in 2008 the code was updated and one of the new requirements is #TamperResistant receptacles. But what is a tamper resistant receptacle? I’m not sure people really understand what they are. Usually the only time a customer says anything is because they are having problems plugging things in.

So, what are they and why is it so hard to plug in a cord all of a sudden? In short, they are a generally safer electrical #outlet. Generally, the NEC pushes codes that involve making the home safer. In this case they are safer from #electrical shock. I know as a kid I received a few electrical shocks by accident. One was from trying to plug in something where I couldn’t see. My finger came in contact with the “hot” side of the receptacle and I received a jolt. It didn’t hurt me as far as I know, but I was definitely surprised.

These new #TamperResistant receptacles are designed to limit situations exactly like this. I say limit, because it is not a full-proof method. It is definitely a step in the right direction, but if a child is determined enough they could most certainly be shocked. The way they work is they have two spring loaded flaps that cover the openings. In order for the flaps to open the prongs must be inserted at the same time. If you attempt to insert an object into only one prong the flaps will not open. Therefore, a child running his finger or inserting a piece of metal into a receptacle will prevent #electrical shock.

Since this is not a new code I have personally installed thousands of the receptacles in the #DFW area. All new homes have these receptacles, but how do you tell if your home has them? First, there will be a “TR” symbol located on the face of the receptacle. Obviously “TR” stands for “Tamper Resistant”. Also, when you look inside of the holes where you insert the prongs you will see flaps that cover the holes. If you see both of those you know for sure they are in your home. Last, if you have problems inserting a cord into the receptacle, it is most likely because it is “tamper resistant”. Do not be alarmed by this, because this is normal. If you push just a littler harder the flaps will adhere and allow the device to be plugged in. If you are still having problems, it is likely the prongs on the cord are damaged.

So, can I and should I have these installed in my home? The answer is “well it depends”. If you have no children and don’t plan on having children, you will most likely be just fine. They are not designed to prevent #electrical fire only #electrical shock. There is probably very little benefit, other than maybe a small uptick in resale value. Although, I wouldn’t count on that value rise. On the other hand, if you do have small children, you might want to consider changing some or all of the receptacles. You could just change the ones in their bedroom, or even think about where the kids are able to reach. Although we all know kids have a way in getting to the unexpected. My point is kids are completely unpredictable and if it’s possible they will make it happen. I think all parents understand what I mean by that.

Lastly, I believe its important to state that we should not rely on these as the end all be all of safety. These should most certainly be used in conjunction with any other safety device you can find. I believe it’s important to take all precautions to protect the children.

If you would like more information, watch this informative video with illustrations: