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TR outlet

TR outlet

The 2008 NEC (National Electrical Code) required electricians to install TR or Tamper Resistant outlets in areas that could be abused by children. As the code was adopted gradually from township to township, the little devices were put on the market and the rules started to be enforced.

The code reads that if a child could possibly stick something in the outlet it must have an integrated locking system inside the outlet that inhibits unilateral insertion of anything. They come in GFIC protected and are common place in hospitals as well. (Must have been a rash of kids sticking things in hospital outlets too).

This means that if you do not apply even pressure simultaneously to both prongs that you will be “Locked out” no amount of pressure or wiggling is going to let you in. Thus the “Totally Ruined” outlet. To determine if yours are tamper resistant, look for a “TR” imprinted in small letters on the face of the outlet.

This problem may be yet another example where being “Made anywhere but in America” rather than “Made in America” is contributing to poorly manufactured tolerances that these little devices demand.

Tamper Resistant background

The electrical industry has provided background information that it started in Europe where most outlets are 220 volt and was adopted on this side of the pond in an effort to prevent nearly 2500 inadvertent electrocutions of children per year in this country where we have 110 volt outlets primarily.

That is about 7 kids per day who will not be learning a valuable lesson. I learned my valuable lesson without being electrocuted, when my big brother Mike melted a screwdriver working on an electrical panel. The recidivism rate is likely zero for those who have been zapped. Are we contributing to future generations of kids that like those stricken with Pica disorder, will be chronic outlet abusers?

No worries, we Americans have systematized the process for dealing with these sort of things.

  1. The AMA will quickly come up with a syndrome that sounds serious.
  2. Then a diagnosis with a unique ICD9 code.
  3. Followed by a well named disability that will not sound too discriminatory.
  4. It will be a legitimate Social Security disability allowing for a lifetime of paid benefits.
  5. Some celebrity will come out of the closet and admit he/she is one, then create a telethon to raise funds and awareness.
  6. It will eventually lead to a legitimate legal defense against all sorts of socially unacceptable behavior
  7. Then The NTSB or NTHSA will authorize a colored car placard so they can park up front in a designated spot, or be first in line.
  8. The psychiatric community will have endless conferences debating the diagnosis and publish articles in their journals.
  9. Finally, the pharmaceutical companies will create an expensive pill for it (Just to take the edge off).

What is this world coming to?

I say we are losing perspective. The problems with TR outlets are just beginning to surface as they are required to be installed in new homes. The conspiracy theory folks cite yet another example of big government ruling and ruining our lives. Others believe some manufacturers are cornering the market and making a killing on them. Regardless, let’s bash the political party in power!

Electrical caps

Electrical caps

Seriously folks, is this sort of protection from inadvertent electrocution really necessary? What ever happened to those little plastic prongs that worrisome parents would insert? There is risk in just being alive, deal with it, be careful and teach your kids.

Charles Darwin is likely rolling over in his grave as we continue to mess with natural selection and evolution.

It is not just a hassle for seniors

Many able bodied adults are being locked out completely. This is the worst example of a Universal Design nightmare I have seen. Wait till the AARP folks realize that it is a conspiracy against them. Next you’ll see TR proof plug in adapters to override the TR outlets sold on QVC and the testosterone sales jump when they mention. Are you having trouble plugging in outlets?  ask your doctor if testosterone is right for you…

Let’s beat these things!

There is no good knowledge base yet on how to overcome the lockout situation.  My painter and I have both had to give up on several occasions because of being locked out. (Neither of us are seniors or disabled yet) I must say it crossed my mind to get a screwdriver and mess with the little gizmos that prevent insertion. If I thought about it… there is likely going to be a far larger number than 2500 adult electrocutions annually from attempting to beat the lockout.

Ideas to overcome being locked out

  1. Adjust the spades on your plug to be absolutely straight
  2. Insert the prongs at precisely the same time straight on, no wiggling
  3. Angle them in towards the center slightly
  4. Michael E. says rock the plug in from top to bottom or bottom to top
  5. Put some anti oxidizing lubricant on the spades to make the outlet permit the plug easier

There are several schools of thought about how to deal with them in the long run

  1. One conventional wisdom that residential TR outlets will get easier to use as they break in, (however if you can’t use it how in the hell will it ever break in)
  2. Get rid of them and install the old fashion ones. (odds of being electrocuted are greatly enhanced during the DIY swap out)
  3. Eventually these newfangled devices will be improved and the bad ones will be taken off the market
  4. My prediction is that there will be such an uproar that the NEC will remove the devices from the code.

Your comments are welcome. To ask questions or get more information about remodeling, click here to email me directly, or call 208-947-7261

If you or someone you know is considering remodeling or just wants to speak to a trustworthy remodeling contractor please contact me, you’ll be glad you did.

Disclaimer: Some of these images came from the WEB. If they are yours, and you object to them being used, please claim them and I will gladly remove and replace them at once.

4 Comments
  • Wayne Mayo

    Great blog Joe! I have had at least 3 customers inquire as to why they are so difficult to use and what to do about replacing outlets. I have given up on more than one occasion and searched out an old style outlet as I would have broken my power tool plug or power cord trying to access power. How did we live so long with no government oversight until recently? Like many regulations governing builders, remodelers and my profession painting, the rules are put in effect to make sure the small amount of people who have no common sense are protected and the large majority who know better are inconvenienced in some cases to the point of not being able to use the device for it’s intended purpose. I have to go now as there are several children showing up at my job site and I have to keep them from grazing on peeling paint.

    • Joe Levitch

      Well said Wayne, sounds like we are battling the same issues on a regular basis. Your insight into creating this article was priceless. Keep up the good work.

  • Sherwood Botsford

    My answer for wiring my garage as a shop: I’m putting all my outlets at 5.5 feet abvoe grade. This allows me to use the older style plug.

    • admin

      Good Idea, I had not thought of that.

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