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I was prepping for a little electrical work around the homestead recently, and I had to run to the local hardware store. There I saw a curious outlet on display that looked obviously broken. But on closer inspection I realized it wasn’t broken — it was a 360-degree rotating socket outlet.

This outlet will accept any weird plug format, at just about any angle — other than the rotating sockets it appears to be a regular 15A unit in all respects. After considering it for a bit, we think this might be a pretty slick idea. It costs a lot more than the standard cheapo outlet, but it looks worthwhile if you value flexibility.

Are we missing something here, or is this a “why didn’t I think of this before” type of thing? Let us know in comments.

360 Electrical Outlet [360 Electrical]
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19 Responses to Hot or Not? 360-Degree Rotating Outlet

  1. mhig9000 says:

    2 words – AC Adapters. Anyone who has a computer (and i assume thats everyone who is reading this), knows the frustration of those big plastic bricks covering the 2nd outlet, this would seem to alleviate that problem.

    Of course since most outlets used by a computer have more than 2 of those bricks going into is, an “octopus”-type powerstrip solves both problems.

  2. AGLU3000 says:

    Definitely hot. Lets you plug “wall wart” AC adapters into both top and bottom sockets. Especially useful if you wire the top one switched (for lights) and the bottom one unswitched (for computers, vacuum cleaners, etc).

    And by the way, why the heck do so many of those AC adapters polarize their plug connections? Makes absolutely no sense when there’s no ground, and millions of volts of isolation between inputs and outputs.

  3. Fred says:

    Hot. I’ve wondered why the wall wart makers never allowed for twisting the plug. This solves THER problem.

  4. Peter Mueller says:

    Isn’t it code (at least for public buildings) to have the ground on top of the other two. Like this:

    U
    | |

    As I understand it this is to avoid shorting the two wires when dropping something between outlet and plug (say your tape measure).

    It actually did happen to me with a tape measure and a standard outlet mounted the usual way (ground down). Burned a nice hole in the tape and sparked very impressively.

    Most European outlets are constructed much differently: Nothing of that kind could ever happen to a SHUKO connection, as the outlet is recessed.

    Cheers,

    Peter

  5. Dan says:

    I’m a little skeptical I have seen rotating head on a cord (not on the outlet) that some how had a melt down from the way the contact are made. I’m a bit worried after allot of use and heavy amperage, (not exceeding 15 amps). I’m not so sure it can withstand the test of time. I doubt you will ever see this in a school, hospital, commercial or industrial setting.

  6. Frank Townend says:

    I wonder about electrical noise with a rotating socket. Like the “good old days” when our ‘dirty’ rheostat controlled volume knobs would cause interference in the form of RFI.

  7. Sheldon says:

    The polarization of the plug is to protect you. Basically, one side is the “hot side” and the other in the neutral. Say you have a vacuum plugged in. If the hot side is known, the switch to turn the vacuum on will be on the hot side wire and not the neutral wire. If you reverse the plug, the switch is on the neutral wire which means electricity is being applied to the motor and then through the switch back to the wall and if you ground the motor somehow while it’s plugged in that way you could get a shock even though the vacuum is turned off.

    My guess is keeping them fixed on the wall in one direction is a safety issue. I’ve seen in some houses the outlets are turned around for situations where you have a switch for one of the outlets. Not sure if this is code or not but it provides handy information.

    I would suspect the plug design in other countries are recessed for safety. The fact that 220 V (instead of 110 V) is running though means the are probably more amps available and shorting those prongs would cause not just a shock but maybe death.

    Even though it seems cool I’m not sure I like the rotating plug idea because there are brushes in the plug that allow the rotation and it’s just one more place for the plug to fail and end up with a loose connection that can lead to sparks and a fire!

    Sheldon

  8. Waylan says:

    Others have mentioned wall-warts, but what about those “right angle” plugs [1] that have the wire coming out of the side/bottom. I’ve been in a situation where I want to plug two in at the same outlet. As the wire comes out the bottom of both, that’s not possible – unless of course, I had this swiveling outlet. Handy!

    [1]: http://www.amazon.com/Foot-Indoor-Extension-GRAY-1-Outlet/dp/B00066GNWW

  9. Zathrus says:

    why the heck do so many of those AC adapters polarize their plug connections

    As Sheldon says, it’s predominantly for your own safety. Which is why hot-neutral reverses are extremely dangerous if the ground is disconnected (or not connected properly). A doubly insulated tool loses its second safeguard in such a situation.

    There are also circuits that simply cannot operate if polarity is reversed. Most LEDs are classic examples of this (and hey… funny thing… there’s a LED on most transformers…)

  10. almurph says:

    peter is correct. in the past few years the bulding code has changed, as electrical sockets are now to be placed what we would call upside down.
    so instead of looking like what we are used to, l l it now looks like this, U
    U l l
    this is for the exact reasons that peter stated

  11. Nate says:

    Seems like you could get the same functionality from just turning the top socket upside down, since the vast, vast majority of wall wart adaptors only extend downwards. How often is it going to come in handy to have the socket turned, say, 90 degrees sideways? Just about never, I’d wager.

  12. Mike lee says:

    I think that this is a great ideal. In my shop when I have to recharge batteries. I sometimes have to move them to different outlets because of the AC adapters.

  13. Bill says:

    Guys, for a wall wart, which transforms/rectifies the ac down to low-voltage dc, it doesn’t matter in the least which way it is plugged in. I suspect they still have to polarize the plugs because of some arcane requirement, but since the hot/ground is all within the wall wart, the argument about the possibility of touching the “hot” side doesn’t apply.

  14. Sheldon says:

    You are right that transformers will work no matter which direction the polarity . . . in fact, I can’t think of one devise that won’t “work”. The issue is of safety. The “upside down” plug as a safety issue sounds good to me. A friend of mine was trying to hook up a home-made (i.e. a cloths hanger) HD antenna and it fell behind the tv and shorted the plug and ended up frying his TV. If the plug was turned around (or in Europe, where the plugs are ressesed) that wouldn’t have happened.

    I think the problem with “codes” is that a) no one really knows what the codes are b) it’s hard to look up what the codes are and c) even when you do find out what the codes are there is rarely an explanation to them. Upside down plugs look strange and maybe it’s not code in *your* city but it’s probably not a bad idea and it certainly doesn’t cost anything. Safety is a cost tradeoff and polarizing plugs and flipping them sure doesn’t cost much but it can prevent fires.

  15. Chris says:

    As stated earlier, these are just asking for problems. There is no permanent contact. These outlets rely on brushes which will corrode and possibly arc. They used to make these same things for phone cords to keep them from tangling (exact same concept). Those things had a 100% fail rate and made me quite a bit of money when I’d have to go in to fix the static on a receptionist’s phone. I’d pull off the brush based anti-tangler and charge them for the hour’s labor.

  16. Dan says:

    Talking about weird and unique outlet check this one out
    http://www.coolest-gadgets.com/20080521/replace-your-old-outlets-with-bocci-22-flush-mounted-ones/
    this outlet is flush mounted and sweet looking

  17. rob says:

    home computer users would be thrilled with the top socket especially.

  18. Steve says:

    360 degree electrical outlet comes with only one Neg. Pos. and Ground terminal each. So unless the outlet your replacing is the LAST outlet on the line, you can’t use it.

  19. Zathrus says:

    Steve — no it doesn’t. There are two each for common and hot on the back of the outlet, and each side has a screw for tightening down the plate to keep them from coming out like can happen with the cheapo terminals.

    As for ground — I’ve never seen a switch, receptacle, dimmer, or any other common device with more than one ground terminal, largely because you’re supposed to make really sure that ground is uniform for the entire house, so twisting together is heavily encouraged.

    Besides, even if it did have a single set of terminals for hot/neutral, have you never heard of pigtails?

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