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Electrical Outlets: Height?


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By Steven in Colorado Springs, CO on 4/19/2010


Recently I've started to think about where the outlets, switches, etc., in the house we're building will go and something cropped up that I thought I'd put out to the community.

I honestly had given no particular thought to the height off the floor of the bulk of the outlets in the house. The house we're in now has them centered at 14" from the floor, and I've seen other offsets that are near that same height--anywhere between 12" and 15" seems common. Obviously, this doesn't apply to some specialty outlets such as those above countertops and whatnot.

However, Colleen suggested that we might consider putting most of the wall outlets considerably higher than this, at 24" or even 36" off the floor.  This would make plugging/unplugging appliances much simpler.

On the other hand, it would also make those outlets much more visible. At the "normal" heights, outlets are generally hidden behind and beneath stuff you've got along the walls.

So I put it forth to the community: What height did you put your outlets at, and what height do you wish you'd put them at? Any regrets?


Steven in Colorado Springs

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By Faye in Marseilles, IL on 4/19/2010


Steven,


I put mine at 30" from the floor. My husband just commented the other day that he was happy we installed them higher. It is so much easier to plug things in, and we don't really notice them because mostly they are behind furniture. I personally think 36" may be more noticeable, because they would almost line up with door handles. 30" seemed to be a good height for us - good luck, whichever way you go. Faye

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By Steven in Colorado Springs, CO on 4/20/2010


Cool... thank you, Faye!

That's two votes for and one vote against at present...


Steven in Colorado Springs

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By Mark in APO, AE on 4/22/2010


Prior to my engineering days, I worked in the electrical trade. We used to install them 16" from floor to the center of the junction box. So now, when I hear your question I have to ask myself, "what was the reason for installing them at 16 inches?" Obviously, you don't have to bend over as far to plug and unplug items. (We could probably use the exercise!) Maybe the idea is that by keeping them closer to the floor the excess cord wouldn't look so bad. Think of a radio on a table about four feet away from and outlet 36" above the floor. Since most small appliances (excluding kitchen appliances) have a six-foot cord, the cord would be an unsightly drooping "U" across the wall.  If the outlet were installed 16" above the floor, most of the horizontal laying of the cord would be along the floor where it wouldn't look as bad.

Another way to look at it is to consider how you will use particular outlets. Maybe only the outlets that are expected to see a lot of activity (such as in a hallway for vacuuming, etc) would be installed higher. Do you plan to have a work bench? I would certainly put them up where I could use them when working at the bench. Are you going to have exercise machines requiring power? I would keep those outlets low to keep the cords on the floor and as much out of sight as possible. Is your office desk going to be up against a wall or more in the middle of the room? If in the middle, I would install a floor outlet.

I can't wait until I'm ready to build (still a few years away). This stuff is exciting to me and I've enjoyed watching your progress.


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By Michael in Cave Creek, AZ on 4/22/2010


In residential construction, the National Electrical Code requires typical convenience outlets to be spaced no more than six feet from a door and no more than 12 feet apart. This requirement is driven by the 6' cord typically found on lamps, computers, home electronics, etc.

If you raise all of your outlets some significant distance above the floor, some of the cord is likely to be used running vertically on the wall and it will not be possible to place a lamp at any location along the wall that you may wish to in the future without the use of extension cords. 

Depending on how particular your inspector is, he may also question why the outlets are so far off the floor.

I believe that most people who work in the residential electrical trade have been trained to rough-in boxes so that the on-center measurement is 16", which is also 18" to the top of a typical box.

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By Steven in Colorado Springs, CO on 4/22/2010


Thanks Mark; very interesting!

With regards to items in the middle of the room, I am indeed already planning on some floor outlets for the living room to accommodate lamps and such. In fact, I'll need to start nailing down where I want those relatively soon, since the first floor will be a concrete pour, and of necessity we'll have some conduit and outlet boxes there before we pour. In my computer room, I'm planning on a desk in the near center of the room, and planned on putting two or three four-way outlets in that floor as well.

For obvious areas like around kitchen countertops, along the workbenches in the garage, etc. I planned on having them at height. That's the way they are at this house and I've loved that.

I know one lady who has several at 24" and she doesn't care for that at all.  Most of the outlets I've seen hover around the 14" mark, so your 16" would be slightly higher than many I've seen. I'm going to keep measuring though...


Steven in Colorado Springs

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By Kenneth in Lees Summit, MO on 4/25/2010


There are a lot of interesting ideas here; let me present one that's a bit more creative.

When my Sparky set the outlet junction boxes, he put the bottom of the handle of his hammer on the floor, and then he used the "claw" to scribe a mark on the adjoining stud. That scribe mark served as the mark for where to mount the bottom of the box. Every Sparky I have seen mounts outlet boxes the same way. The ones with bigger hammers mount them slightly higher. Easy to measure and be consistent, perhaps a different reason than most realize..


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By Kenneth in Lees Summit, MO on 4/26/2010


One other thing to consider here is your garage. Around here, a typical garage gets one outlet on a wall (with a couple of outlets on the ceiling to support garage-door openers).

For garage outlets, I installed a bunch. If you think you might like to upgrade to jackshaft openers, this clearly means electrical outlets in a different location than standard garage-door openers. Also, for the wall outlets, I measured them down from the ceiling instead of up from the floor; the reason being that garage floors are rarely flat (unless you specify). They are sloped 1/8-1/4 inch per foot toward the door so the snow melt, etc., drains to the outside. If you measure up from the floor, the outlets will appear to be not level. If you measure down from the ceiling, the outlets will appear to be level. And as they are garage outlets, they are probably subject to much more plugging and unplugging (and less aesthetics), so mount them at convenient height (mine are at the same height as the switches). Also, bring some heavy 220V into your garage ;-).


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By Steven in Colorado Springs, CO on 4/27/2010


Oh yes absolutely, though I consider this to be a somewhat different critter than what I was mentioning above.

Anywhere there's a counter (kitchen, bathroom) or a workbench area, such as in a garage, I'll have higher outlets. In my garage here in town, the previous owner installed a long (4') outlet strip that must  have around a dozen outlets or so on it, and it's fantastically useful. The new garage will be significantly larger (36' long) and will probably have several workbenches and cabinets along the back wall, together with a bunch of power strips. I think I've got to dedicate two more circuits just for the garage. And definitely some 220V is a goodly idea, no doubt... can't think of what I would use it for now, but I'm sure something will come up.

Thanks for the suggestions, Kenneth--good ideas all.


Steven in Colorado Springs

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By Mark in APO, AE on 4/28/2010


Another really good place to have a couple of outlets (with a switch in the house/garage) are under the eaves for any potential Christmas lights.
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By Faye in Marseilles, IL on 4/28/2010


Yes, we did that, and our electrician put the switch for those outlets in our walk-in coat closet next to the front door. I am really looking forward to having that next Christmas. 
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By Steven in Colorado Springs, CO on 4/29/2010


Heh... yes, that was quite the subject of discussion between myself and some of the solar PV guys.

I have electrical outlets in the overhangs and whatnot for just such a purpose (though there's some debate over the actual practicality, since the nearest neighbor is two miles away through a dense pine forest). The switches (I think they require two circuits; not sure about that) will be in the garage. Some of the solar PV guys providing estimates wanted to know "what's this for?" and "was this going to be on all the time?". The explanation that these were for holiday use didn't seem to go over too well, but since I plan to have a backup generator, their presence was grudgingly accepted.

Given the height of these eaves I might well leave the lights up there, mind you, but that's another issue.


Steven in Colorado Springs

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By Ann Mathews in Toronto, ON on 11/13/2019


Hey guys, 


I think what you suggested the height off the floor anywhere between 12" and 15" is most commonly seen measurement. However, this doesn't apply to some specialty outlets like counter tops...

What I have experienced is at the time of floods the water level rises and our rooms will be flooded. At this time when the electrical outlets will be covered with water which is very dangerous.

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