How to Tell Hot and Neutral Side of Electrical Outlet Easily
Outlets in the home can have the hot, neutral, and ground terminals easily identified from looking at the front of the outlet. The smaller blade terminal is hot, the larger is neutral, and the round (or tunnel-shaped) middle terminal is the ground. I know, some people are thinking that’s way too simple. I agree.
Description of Outlet Front
- Hot terminal – The National Electrical Manufacturers Association’s (NEMA) standard for 125v outlets and grounded plugs is the hot terminal must have a smaller prong size than the neutral prong.
- Neutral terminal- NEMA’s standard for 125v outlets and grounded plugs is the neutral terminal must have a larger prong size than the hot prong.
- Ground terminal- NEMA’s standard is a ground terminal will always accept a round or u-shaped prong which is ⅛” longer than the hot or neutral prongs. This allows for the ground prong on a plug to make contact before the other prongs, and to keep contact after the other prongs have been disconnected.
Little Known Fact: NEMA’s standards for grounding of outlets calls for the ground terminal on the outlet to be higher than the hot or neutral prongs, so if an object falls and makes contact with a plug while inserted into an outlet, it makes contact with the ground first. Then no matter which way the object continues falling and makes contact with the other prongs, it will safely short to ground.
Having the ground on the top of the outlet is not common in the home for aesthetic reasons, but is a safer configuration for outlets. A good example of where properly installed outlets can be seen are in hospitals.
Continue to the next page to learn how to properly wire outlets.