Making the switch to USB outlets

If your home seems to be running out of outlet space, maybe it’s time to give your outlets a reboot.

“USB outlets are a new trend and they have been available for about a year now,” said Angie’s List founder Angie Hicks. “Electricians expect that they will continue to become more popular, but remember, this is probably not a do-it-yourself project. Because you’re getting into electrical work, it’s best to hire a professional.”

By adding one or two USB ports right alongside the standard plugs in your electrical outlet, you can plug your devices straight into the wall and eliminate the need for bulky USB adapters that typically hog valuable outlet space.

“As people’s countertops get more busy, their islands in their house get more busy, it’s a convenient spot beside your bed because you got two outlets there,” electrical contractor Greg Wells said. “One of them is usually a switch plug, which is half hot, so you need a place to plug in your USB or your phone to charge it while your alarm clock and all that’s still working.”

While this may seem like a swap you could do yourself, electrician Greg Wells has a word of warning for homeowners.

“There are a lot of do–it–yourselfers out there these days that normally end up calling us to come fix it, but I always say stick with what you know and call somebody that knows what they know, so you don’t lose your phone, wire it up wrong, lose your phone, your laptop, what have you,” Wells added.

If you do decide to make the switch, Angie’s List says it’s a smart idea to pick a few spots in your house.

“An electrician typically charges an hourly rate,” added Hicks. “You can expect that you are going to pay about $100 an hour, and they can typically install about 4 USB ports in an hour. Don’t call them out for just one. If you are going to install, install four. You will also pay for the parts they have as well, which might be about $15–$30 per outlet.”

Angie’s List says you don’t have to worry about damaging your gadgets as long as you’re using manufacturer–approved cords or cables. The USB port delivers the same amount of power you can expect from any computer.