What’s the Deal With Installing a USB Outlet?

For the past few years, the design world has been making a valiant effort to catch up to our obsession with our smartphones and tablets. One of the most exciting changes: electrical outlets have gotten a much-needed makeover, with USB sockets built right in. “Finally!!!” shouts everyone everywhere. Once the elation subsides, however, we’re left with so many questions, starting with the buying process and ending with how the heck it’s installed. Here to answer them all is Timothy Dahl, founder of home improvement blog Charles + Hudson. Like the rest of humanity, his family loves the new USB outlets. “We don’t have to chase down chargers around the house—just grab a cable and go—not to mention the fast and efficient charging these receptacles provide!”

Can you swap your regular electrical outlets with USB ones yourself, or should you hire it out?
“You can replace your standard electrical outlets yourself with Leviton’s $30 Type-A and Type-C USB charger/tamper-resistant receptacle. Leviton provides thorough installation instructions with each outlet and offers installation videos on their YouTube channel. It’s best to examine the wires in your wall box prior to performing a DIY installation; if your wires don’t match the description provided or if you don’t have the proper grounding wires, then you should definitely hire an electrician. Additionally, if you do not feel comfortable switching it out yourself, bringing in an electrician is always the best option.”

Do you have to buy a specific kind?
“What’s great about Leviton’s USB charging receptacles is that they work with both USB Type-A and the USB Type-C, so there is no need to upgrade later. Type-C is the newest charging port that the latest phones and tablets are equipped with for faster charging.”

If you want to DIY it, what’s the installation process?
“The DIY job starts with turning off the power to the outlet from your electrical panel. Use a multimeter or outlet tester to verify that there is no power to the outlet. Then, you can use a screwdriver to remove the exterior wall plate and remove the screws mounting the outlet to the wall box behind it. Remove the outlet and detach the neutral (typically white-colored), hot (typically black-colored), and ground (typically uncovered copper) wires. Lastly, reattach them to the proper screws on the back of the new USB outlet and install it back onto the wall. In my experience, this job doesn’t typically take more than 15 to 20 minutes. Again, you can learn more about how to install one here.

If you want to hire someone, who should you call?
“The USB charging receptacle installs the same as a standard outlet, so any electrician should be able to do it. If your super does electrical work, they should be able to install it easily, too. Just let them know that you would like to swap out an existing outlet with one that has USB charging capabilities built in.”

Will switching to a USB outlet affect your electricity bill?
No, USB receptacles do not affect electricity costs because they provide the same amount of power as the USB charging cord phone manufacturers include with a phone. In fact, Leviton USB receptacles have demonstrated faster charging on some devices versus the charging equipment provided by the manufacturer.”