The majority of electrical receptacles run on alternating current, or AC power, and they consist of live or phase components, neutral components, and earth or ground components, each allowing the flow of electrical energy through the receptacle.
Made with insulating materials such as nickel, silver, plastic and galvanized steel, sockets are formed with two slots and an optional extra slot known as a grounding hole which is used in some electrical plugs for polarization.
Designed to receive a conventional electrical cord and plug, common electrical receptacles run on the United States standard 120-volt system. However, heavy-duty 240-volt receptacles can be designed for equipment that requires a higher voltage such as electric ranges or industrial machinery.
As with any component that is used in the transferring of electrical energy, there are important safety precautions to be considered. Electrical receptacles can cause shock and electrical hazards due to deterioration, damage, or misuse resulting in personal injury, death, and/or property damage from electrical fires.
Frequent usage is a common cause of deterioration in receptacles, especially in high-traffic areas such as kitchens and bathrooms. Therefore, high-quality materials and the consistent maintenance and upkeep of receptacles is important, especially in industrial and manufacturing settings.
The National Electrical Manufacturer’s Association (NEMA) sets stringent quality standards for power cords, sockets, and components in the US, and other countries around the world which use different voltages and electrical plug and receptacle structures set their own testing standards for general safety purposes.
There are, however, technologies in place to reduce the potential hazards of electrical receptacles. Polarization, for example, helps control the connection between the electrical plug and the socket. Other measures include tamper resistance components and corrosion resistant materials, especially in receptacles designed to be exposed to harsher environments.