Whether you are planning decorations for a newly renovated home or are just updating your outlets, one of the questions you’ll need to answer is whether you want to use decora-style switches and outlets or standard outlets.
It’s easy to run into confusion about what the differences even are. Is it just an aesthetic difference? And will I need to change all my wiring to use decora outlets?
To answer this, it’s essential to understand that when we refer to Decora, we’re referring to the brand Decora® – Leviton.
This brand, much like the Sony Walkman or the Xerox, was so influential in setting the industry standard for this outlet style that it’s now just a generic term we use for anything that uses the decora style – even if it’s from another brand.
The main difference between decora outlets and standard outlets is in their appearance. Standard outlets have rounded plugs with a recessed center that screws into the wall, whereas a decora-style outlet has square plugs with no center screw hole.
In addition, outlets are often accompanied by a wall plate which helps hide some of the unsightly screws and framing accompanying an outlet. These are also shaped differently, where the standard outlet faceplate has two circular(ish) cutouts into which the outlets will fit. In contrast, the decora-style faceplate has a neat rectangle cutout in the middle, which perfectly fits decora outlets into.
Ultimately these differences are only aesthetic, but it is still a choice that should be taken seriously as they can dramatically affect the look and feel of your home.
What is a Decora outlet?
Decora, as a brand, popularised a particular design style that was simple, clean, and highly accessible. They would offer a range of products that all shared this aesthetic, including outlets, rocker switches for lights, timers, sensors, and dimmer switches.
These days you can even get things like a decora-style wall-mounted USB outlet.
Because of how popular these products were, they became an industry standard. So now many companies offer similarly themed products, and we still refer to them as ‘Decora,’ even though it’s from another company.
Their core design philosophy is creating a contemporary and elegant look that will fit in with any decoration style you can imagine.
Other companies have adopted this same fitting/sizing style but started offering these same Decora products in various finishes and colors, further increasing your options.
What is a standard outlet?
When we refer to a ‘standard electrical outlet,’ we refer to your standard, 2-3 pronged outlet that you will most commonly see in homes and businesses to power all electrical devices.
Now it’s essential to understand this refers more to the shape and fitting. The actual amps of the receptible can be 15A or 20A and still be referred to as a standard outlet.
They consist of a circular shape with a flattened top and bottom and are usually accompanied by a wall plate with corresponding holes cut out to fit the receptacle in neatly and create a nice, flush finish.
These can come in either a single round outlet or a duplex receptacle with two receptacles placed on top of the other.
What are the differences between decora and standard outlets?
So while outlets can be purchased in either decora or standard designs, what would want to make me pick one over the other?
Ultimately this is purely an aesthetic choice, but there are other factors to consider that may make you want to pick one outlet type over another.
1. The style and look
Your most significant consideration when deciding if you want to swap your standard outlets with decora ones is its’ visual look and style.
Standard outlets are a nice and safe choice, appropriate for almost any decoration style, and are so commonplace in households that no one’s ever really going to notice them.
Decora, on the other hand, has a bit more of a contemporary and cleaner look. Because it’s less common, it’s more likely to draw some attention and can enhance the look of your home with a more blocky visual style.
2. How it pairs with your switches
When thinking about your outlets, you also need to factor in other kinds of electrical switches around your home. This might include things like a light switch, a dimmer switch, and sensors.
If your home is already kitted out with a decora rocker or dimmer switch, then adding in some decora outlets can tie the visual style of the room together.
But if you are using regular light switches and have no intention of swapping them out, is there much point to using decora outlets?
Ultimately this is your personal choice, but being mindful of the other decora products you have as part of your decor will help you make a decision here.
3. Alternative brands
While both decora (in terms of the style, not the brand) and standard outlets are sold by many companies, most standard outlets look the same, so you’d never need to consider one brand over another. You can find the cheapest and it’s going to look fine.
On the other hand, Decora has been picked up by many companies that offer outlets in unique finishes and colors, giving you a much wider choice of products.
It’s worth shopping around to see if there are decora-style outlets around that you prefer the look of.
4. Single and duplex outlets
One of the big benefits of using decora style outlets is if you purchase a single decora outlet, it comes in a rectangle frame in which you can fit the same faceplate over as you would a duplex outlet.
If you want to change this in the future, you won’t need to purchase another faceplate as they are universal.
On the other hand, standard outlets have their faceplates tightly around their circular shape. This means you need to purchase separate faceplates for single or duplex outlets.
Likewise, if you want to update a single outlet to a duplex, later on, you will not be able to re-use the single outlet faceplate.
Because standard outlets are produced in high quantities, they are a little cheaper than the more stylized decora outlets.
Now for most home applications where you may only need a half dozen of these outlets, it’s not such a big deal. But as you move onto larger building projects, that cost can start to add up and is something to keep in mind.
Decora vs standard outlets: Are they the same?
In terms of their functionality and purpose within the home, decora and standard outlets do the same thing. They can even use the same wiring. Their main differences are visual, which is essential when deciding which one to purchase.
- Standard outlets are a nice and safe option as they are found everywhere. At the same time, decora outlets are a little bit more stylized and contemporary. Ultimately it comes down to which fits your home’s decor style best.
- Decora outlets make a lot of sense if you also use things like decora light switches or dimmers in your home. It helps tie the look together and keep things uniform. However, if you are not using anything else from decora, there is little need to use their outlets.
- Standard outlets’ shapes and sizes are universal across brands. But decora-style outlets can vary hugely across brands, coming in different materials and colors for you to consider.
- Decora outlets can use the same faceplate on a single outlet or duplex. Standard outlet faceplates are molded directly to the outlet shape, meaning you need separate ones for single or duplex outlets.
- Standard outlets are cheaper than Decora outlets, but not by much.