How to Choose the Best USB Outlet for Your Home or Garage

Find out what you need to know about the different types and installation requirements of USB outlets for your home and garage before attempting this DIY electrical project.

FH17ONO_582_54_041 USB outlet installationFamily Handyman

Be a Smart Shopper When Looking for the Best USB Outlet

USB (universal serial bus) cables and ports began as a means to transfer data between a host, such as a computer, and an external device, such as a hard drive or printer. USB soon morphed into a power source, with USB wall outlets being specifically for charging. These charger outlets convert 120-volt AC power to 5-volt DC power. You’ll find USB outlets at home centers and online. Expect to pay anywhere from $15 to $30. Here are some things to consider before you buy.

More devices means slow charging

USB charger ports in a wall outlet share the total amperage output. Phones typically take 1 amp. A tablet might take up to 2.4 amps. With two charger ports sharing 3.6 amps, you’re covered for charging a phone and a tablet. If you have two devices each requiring 2.4 amps, however, charging will be a bit slower.

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Will it fit?

USB charger outlets are larger than a typical outlet. If your junction box is 2 in. deep or less, choose a USB outlet with wires on the side rather than on the back. That could save you having to replace your existing junction box.

Choose high amp output

After you decide on a configuration that suits your needs, the choice is simple: Get the one with the highest amperage output in that configuration. When you plug in your phone or device, the USB port will recognize it and deliver only the amount of amperage the device can handle. If that recognition doesn’t happen, the USB charging port will deliver only .5 amps, a safe amount for any device. So you don’t have to worry about wrecking your phone.

USB Outlet Options:

Most Versatile

usb and ac outlet

A combination outlet has two AC receptacle outlets with two vertical USB charging ports. The vertical orientation provides better space for plugging in AC power cords. These outlets typically deliver 3.6 amps of USB charging capacity.

Use this if you have 20-AMP circuits

20-amp outlet

This is the 20-amp version of the combination outlet. If you’re placing an outlet on a 20-amp circuit, install an outlet rated for a 20-amp circuit. Look at your breaker for the circuit in question. The circuit amperage is printed on the end of the switch.

If you only need one

Ac outlet plug with usb ports

If you only need one AC receptacle, this is a good configuration, as it has plenty of space for one large AC plug, and two USB charging ports.

USB outlet only

usb port outlet only

This is the obvious choice if you don’t need an AC outlet. A typical four-port USB charging outlet with no AC receptacle outlets delivers up to 5 amps of charging capacity.

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Brad Holden
Brad Holden, an associate editor at The Family Handyman, has been building cabinets and furniture for 30 years. In that time, he has absorbed so many slivers and ingested so much sawdust that he's practically made of wood.