Q: Should electrical receptacles be installed with the ground facing up or down?
A: Ben Giles, licensed electrician and owner of South Shore Electrical Contractors, in Wakefield, R.I., responds: The electrical code does not address the direction that receptacles should be installed. You can put them in with the ground facing up, down, or sideways. Much more important is making sure the receptacles are wired and installed properly (see “Wiring Receptacles and Switches,” Sep/17).
Orienting receptacles a certain way seems like one of those things that folks get in the habit of doing just because their boss told them to do it that way. I’ve heard of electricians who install receptacles with the ground up (upside down in my book) so that if a plug isn’t fully engaged in the receptacle and something made of metal falls on the exposed male blades, the metal will hit the ground instead of bridging across the hot and neutral blades. That scenario seems highly unlikely to me. Similarly, I have heard of electricians orienting receptacles with the ground up when they are to be fitted with metal cover plates. The reasoning is that if something is plugged in loosely and the plate comes loose and falls, then it will land on the ground blade and not the hot. Again, the odds of that happening are pretty slim.
Even if the above events were more likely, with the properly-sized arc-fault breakers that we currently install in the main panels, the circuits trip so easily that the chances of harm or damage from occurrences like those are negligible at most. And finally, it should be noted that 90% of home appliances, as well as most lamps, vacuum cleaners, and the like, have two-prong male plugs. The orientation of the ground in the receptacle would make no difference for any appliance with this type of plug.