DIY Project - Adding USB to Your Electrical Outlets

As I look around our home, it's hard to know just how many devices we have that use USB as its power source. iPhones, iPads, cameras, speakers... and those are just some of them. Each of these devices come with their own USB cable as well as a power brick. The idea is that you plug the power brick into a standard electrical outlet (which converts the power appropriately), then plug the USB cable into that. Sounds easy enough, but it usually means that you're left with a mess.

There's an easy way to remedy this and tidy things up. It requires the following:

  • $25 (per electrical outlet)
  • 15 minutes of time (per electrical outlet)
  • screwdriver

First, this is what one of of our many electrical outlets looked like before I started the project:

This is fairly typical, unfortunately. An add-on power expansion device is usually needed to easily convert the two outlets into six, so that I had enough room to fit everything. The power bricks are usually big and bulky.

When it came time to choosing the right hardware, I had to be picky (and careful). There are a lot of options to choose from, and some are very inexpensive. While low-cost may be appealing at first, you will inevitably realize that there are downsides to low-cost. These usually come in the form of poor build quality or low power output (or both). Low power output could mean that it won't charge larger devices (like iPads). When it comes to USB power, you want to look for a 2.1 Amp power supply. This is enough power to charge anything up to a full-size iPad with Retina (an iPhone, by comparison, requires 1 Amp). Keep reading for real-world charging times.

The outlet that I chose to use is the Cooper TR7745W-BOX. Amazon sells them for about $25/ea (with free shipping for Prime customers).

Replacing your existing power outlet with a USB combo box is pretty straight forward. Simply remove the cover plate, remove the existing outlet, connect black to black and white to white (don't forget ground!), and then assemble it all again. Total time to replace a single outlet for me was about 15 minutes.

Important: Don't forget to flip the circuit breaker before handling electrical wires!

The difference is amazing:

The area is cleaner and much nicer to look at. Not only can I connect up to two USB-based devices to the outlet at a time (this particular outlet is next to the bed and I use it to charge my iPhone and iPad Air), but I still have access to the two standard electrical plugs for other devices (a lamp, printer, computer, etc).

Now that the new outlets are in, it's time to test them out. The one question I wanted to answer was, how long will it take to charge my devices? I have three devices that I use on a regular basis. For this test, I drained each device completely (to the point where the device died), then charged it back to 100%. This is how long it took to do that:

  • iPhone 5S: 1 hour 28 minutes
  • iPad mini: 4 hours 52 minutes
  • iPad Air: 6 hours 47 minutes

Times may vary for you, but these were my results.

$25/device isn't that expensive but when you consider how many electrical outlets you have in your home, it can add up really fast! I wouldn't recommend replacing every single outlet in your home, but I would target specific areas. Some of those areas would include the following:

  • Next to the sides of the bed in the master suite
  • Next to a guest bed (for added convenience when visitors stay with you)
  • Kitchen area (where cell phones are generally charged)
  • Etc.
Posted on May 5, 2014 and filed under How To, Opinion.