Plug sockets – What installers need to know

There’s a quiet revolution is underway, one that has the humble plug socket at its heart. USB device charging, anti-bacterial and easy to install, there’s a plug socket for everyone.

Beyond powering appliances, today’s plug sockets are becoming sophisticated hubs of connectivity and convenience. In homes and businesses, the demand for multi-functional outlets has surged, with people expecting sockets to charge smartphones and tablets directly via USB ports. In healthcare settings, there’s a critical need for sockets that not only power medical devices but also combat microbial contamination. And for the electricians installing them, the emphasis has shifted toward designs that simplify installation, ensuring that modern electrical systems can be set up efficiently and safely.

With the average household owning several devices per person, consumers are looking for more from their electrical accessories than a simple plug socket; they need sockets that can serve multiple purposes without the clutter of numerous adaptors and extenders. This demand has been further exacerbated by the number of portable devices that require USB charging but come only with a charging cable and no plug adaptor.

Many new socket designs now incorporate multiple USB-A and USB-C ports to cater for the wide range of devices in many homes. A USB-A socket is the rectangular-shaped port often seen as the traditional USB port, but USB-C is rapidly becoming the universal standard for charging and data transfer for a wide array of devices. USB-C supports USB Power Delivery, a charging standard that allows for faster power transfer which means devices can be charged quicker than with older USB types. As newer devices are increasingly adopting USB-C, having sockets equipped with this port future-proofs homes and businesses, making them compatible with current and upcoming gadgets.

Plug sockets with integrated USB chargers also contribute to sustainability. With an integrated charger you don’t need a separate adaptor, reducing the number of plastic and electronic components manufactured and lowering the environmental impact from production and disposal. Many sockets that incorporate USB chargers detect when a device is fully charged and cut off power, which conserves electricity and reduces unnecessary power consumption. Built-in USB sockets are also designed to be more durable than standalone chargers, which means they don’t have to be replaced as often, reducing waste and the demand for new materials.

The market is teeming with innovations to meet evolving consumer demands. MK Electric for instance, offers 30W power delivery (PD) USB Type A+C versions of its Logic Plus wiring devices. Incorporating advanced GaN technology, which enables power transistors to operate more efficiently at higher voltages, resulting in smaller and faster-charging power adapters, these USB ports charge devices rapidly achieving 50% battery in just 30 minutes. They are also easy to install and produce less heat, a significant plus for quick-charging solutions. BG Electrical’s latest USB-C sockets also offer a versatile charging solution for both homes and businesses, with dual ports, USB-C and USB-A, and 45W fast charging capability, they are great for charging high-powered devices like laptops and cameras, as well as smartphones, only delivering the power the device needs when it needs it.

There are other considerations when it comes to installing sockets, depending on the environment. The demand for antibacterial plug sockets has grown as awareness of hospital acquired infections has increased – with COVID-19 further accelerating their adoption. When it comes to installing in hospitals for instance, sockets need to be suited to conditions they will be exposed to such as moisture, dust and chemicals. Cleanliness and infection control must also be considered. Sockets should have smooth, wipeable surfaces and designs that minimise dust accumulation. Antimicrobial materials can also be used to reduce the risk of infection.

Hospitals also require power systems that are highly reliable. Medical-grade outlets and isolated power systems (IPS) in critical areas reduce the risk of power surges and interruptions that could affect life-supporting equipment. Scolmore Group company Click® has a range of socket solutions, ideal for medical settings. The range is manufactured using Urea Formaldehyde which has similar properties to antimicrobial additives that inhibit the growth of infectious diseases. They also manufacture Blue Medical sockets which helps to ensure medical equipment is plugged into IPS sockets and non-medical equipment is plugged into non-IPS sockets.

But the installer themselves haven’t been forgotten in all this – there have been major innovations in sockets designed to make the working life of an electrician much easier. Screwless plug sockets offer distinct advantages during installation and for the end-user. They are quicker to install than traditional screwed sockets, often using a clip or snap mechanism that can significantly reduce the time needed to secure them in place – a particularly useful feature when used in large projects where many sockets need to be installed. As there is no need to use a screwdriver to fix the faceplate to the wall, it reduces the risk of damaging the wall or the faceplate itself, which can happen with over-tightening screws in traditional sockets. Screwless sockets give a sleek, modern look as they don’t have visible screws on the faceplate – this also makes it easier to change the look or upgrade the sockets without significant disruption. The MK Rapid Fix Switched Sockets are a good option. Screwless, with colour coded terminal levers and a handy cable strip length ruler, these sockets simple and quick to install as in line spring operated terminal levers simply clamp the cables in place.

As electrical needs evolve, plug sockets are no longer simple fixtures but important elements in a building’s infrastructure. Multi-functional, with integrated USB charging and smart energy-saving features, they cater to an eco-aware, device-laden lifestyle. The rise of antimicrobial materials and reliability-focused designs underscores a commitment to health and safety while innovations like screwless sockets streamline installation. Collectively, these advancements have transformed sockets into indispensable hubs that power our daily lives.