Why Are Outlets Upside Down?

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When I first moved into my current home, I quickly noticed that all of the outlets were opposite of what I had been used to in the past. Rather than the ground hole being on the bottom, it was on the top in all of the outlets throughout the house. I wondered why they were all installed this way when I had never seen it before.

The issue arose once we began plugging things into the outlets and noticed that some items would not plug in correctly because of the opposite orientation of the plugs. After speaking with electricians and learning from additional research, I realized that they weren’t really upside down at all.

Outlets are installed with the ground hole at the top primarily for safety reasons. This helps avoid a short in case a metal object falls onto the plug. It’s usually done as a matter of preference of the electricians who have installed the outlets along with local codes that must be adhered to.

Electrical outlet installed upside down

Having outlets installed this way has taken a long time to get used to. In reality, I’m still not used to it as I nearly always plug something in the wrong way the first time. I always have to reposition the plug to allow for the larger prong to be on the right rather than the left. Old habits are hard to break and it can sometimes be frustrating.

Not only that but a lot of 3-prong plugs create an ugly sight when they are plugged into an outlet with the ground hole on top.

I can totally understand the safety reason for doing this but why is this not a standard and done across the board? One would think that since this is a safer way to install outlets, cords and other devices would be made to be plugged in this orientation rather than assuming the ground hole should be on the bottom.

Should the Ground Plug Be On Top or Bottom?

There is no right side up or upside down with an electrical outlet. Besides codes dictating this in some areas, some installers just prefer them with the ground hole up. Personally, I’m more used to the ground hole being on the bottom. It just makes more sense to me from a consumer standpoint as far as plugging things in.

In most cases, it doesn’t really matter if it’s on top or bottom. To say it should be one way or the other is dependent on local codes. If there aren’t any local codes that dictate the outlet orientation, the electricians generally have their preferred way of doing it.

Having spoken with electricians where I live, there is no standard for this, and it is left up to the electricians to do it as long as it is consistent throughout a home. Most homes that I have been in and lived in have the outlets installed with the ground hole on the bottom.

In hospitals, you are more likely to see the ground hole installed at the top. This goes back to the safety concern mentioned above. It is more imperative that there is a safety precaution when dealing with this type of environment.

Reasons to Have the Ground Hole on Top


The number one reason for having the ground hole situated at the top is for safety concerns. If the ground wire were at the top and something metal was to fall onto the plug, it would not create a short.

From the image below, you can see that a metal object could do some potential damage and maybe even start a fire if the ground wire is on the bottom.

Electrical outlet with ground hole on bottom

However, once the ground hole is moved to the top and the outlet is installed “upside-down,” it becomes safer.

Outlet with ground socket on top

Signal a Switched Outlet

Electricians often change the orientation of a plug when it is a switched outlet. If all the other outlets in a house are installed “right side up” then the switched outlet may be installed “upside down.” This allows an electrician to instantly know that they are dealing with a switched outlet when they come upon it.

Reasons to Have the Ground Plug on Bottom

Plugs Are Made for It

It is a standard orientation with equipment that you purchase. As you can see from the image below, this is an example of one of my surge protectors at home. It’s designed for an outlet that has the ground hole at the bottom of the outlet. Since all of my outlets have it on top, this creates an unsightly mess that is visible in my living room.

Upside down outlet with cord plugged in

The cord would look much better if it could be plugged in the way it was meant to be. I have run into this for years throughout my house. Things that I have purchased that were designed to plug in the opposite way from the way my plugs are situated.

We have to deal with having an unsightly connection as seen in the picture rather than a neat configuration that I would be used to otherwise.

As mentioned earlier, this seems to me like it should be a common standard. I’m not sure why there is such confusion with it at this point in the game. If there was a standard that said that plugs must be installed with the ground hole on top, companies would manufacture their equipment knowing that this is the correct orientation. As it is now, most companies orient their plugs so that they fit in an outlet having the ground hole at the bottom.

This isn’t a big deal if it’s something that is plugged in out of sight. However, if it’s something that is out in the open and can be seen, it causes an ugly sight on the wall.


There really isn’t an upside-down or right side up with home electrical outlets. However, the most common way is to have the ground hole on the bottom.

I can certainly appreciate the reasoning with the outlet being installed “upside down” since it creates a safer solution. It is less prone to dangerous situations that could create a real safety hazard. I can appreciate the safety concern but the annoyance is that the safer way of doing it isn’t the required way of doing it.

It would be nice if there was one standard and all products were manufactured with this standard in mind. Either way, no matter how your outlets are installed, you’ll get used to it over time. I have lived in my home now for over 10 years and have dealt with the ground hole being on top and it now seems normal to me. I only notice it when I purchase a product that is difficult to plug in because of it.