When dealing with electrical and electronic appliances in your home or commercial space, you must have come across the terms hard wired and plug in. This usually comes up when an appliance needs replacement or repair.
For example, you may have been told by an appliance company that they are unable to replace the current appliance in your space because it is hardwired or fixed. In such a case, they would usually recommend that you contact an electrician.
It is important to know what the terms “hard wired” and “plug in” appliances mean so that you can take the right decisions when installing, repairing, or replacing your home or office appliances.
In this article, I have provided detailed definitions of each wiring method, with examples and recommendations on when best to use each of them.
In simple terms, an appliance is hardwired when it is not connected to any external socket or outlet. As you already know, every electrical and electronic appliance in building must be connected to a main power source within the building in order for it to operate.
When the appliance is not connected to an external outlet or socket but is instead connected directly into the main electric panel inside the walls of your building, it is called hard wiring.
This means that there is no way to simply unplug the appliance from the wall socket and move it to another position. That’s the reason why it is also called a Fixed Appliance. For this reason, due consideration has to be made when deciding whether to use a hard-wired method or not.
At this point, I should point out that hard wiring is no longer recommended for most appliances. Modern practice encourages having outlets were you can plug-in or remove your appliance from power supply.
However, if you have already installed or inherited a hardwired appliance, or you are looking to do so, there are still some benefits to it which I will discuss later in this article.
Common hard-wired appliances:
- Electric Range Hood
- Electric Stove Range
- Garbage Disposal
- Shower heaters
From this list, you will get the general idea that it is mostly large appliances, immobile appliances, or appliances that draw a lot of electric current that are usually hard-wired. Later in this article, I will discuss why this is so.
Generally, to fix or replace hardwired appliances, you would need the services of a skilled electrician to access the main power connection to the appliance.
Bottom line: In hard wiring, there is no physical outlet or socket where you can plug in the appliance to connect to electricity. Instead, the leads from the appliance are connected directly to the main electrical circuits in the building.
Plug in appliances are more prevalent for home and commercial appliances today. When an appliance is plug in, it means that there is an external socket or outlet where you can plug in or remove the appliance to and from electricity.
So, when you think plug in appliances, think wall outlets and extensions. Plug-in wiring is commonly used for smaller and more mobile appliances as listed below:
- Toast ovens
- Electric irons
Generally, appliances that use ratings of below 240V are usually plug in.
Plug in appliances are generally smaller and more mobile, so it’s easier to change their position or replace them entirely without the help of an electrician.
Difference Between Hard Wired and Plug In
|S/N||Hard wired||Plug In|
|1||There are no external outlets or plugs to connect or disconnect the appliance to and from power supply.
You only control power supply to them using switches.
|There are external outlets or plugs to connect or disconnect the appliance to and from power supply.
The appliances come with a power cable that you can plug into the wall socket or an extension.
|2||Usually used for appliances with voltage rating of 240V and above||Commonly used for appliances with voltage rating lower than 240V|
|3||Commonly used for less mobile appliances like dishwashers, stovetops, and so on||Commonly used for more mobiles appliances like smaller ovens and toasters|
|4||Usually have safety considerations such as avoiding contact of the power source with water. Or, connecting the leads to plugs and sockets that may not carry the power needs of the appliance.||Plugs and sockets that will carry the power needs of the appliances are readily available.|
|5||Typically more expensive and complex to install or move.
Requires services of an electrician
|Typically easier to install. All you need to do is plug into or unplug from socket or adapter.
Does not require expert services
Best Times to Use Hard Wired
Even though current recommendations are that most appliances should be plug in, hardwiring does still have its place and uses in your home or commercial space.
Below I have provided a detailed list of the scenarios where hard wiring is the best option for your home or office appliance.
1. Hard wiring is best for appliances that need huge amounts of electricity to operate.
Any appliance that uses 240V (voltage rating) and above is best suited for hard wiring.
Here’s why: Appliances with such high energy consumption require their own dedicated circuits to function properly and safely. And because hard wiring is usually done as part of the building process and is connected directly to the building’s electrical framework, it is almost certain to carry the large energy loads required by such appliances.
With plug in appliances, there is always a chance that the outlet may not support the huge energy demands of heavy appliances. This presents a big safety risk and more likelihood of fires.
2. Hard wiring is best for less movable appliances.
For large appliances such as garbage disposals, stove tops, and large ovens, hard wiring is arguably the best option to go for. Because they are mostly stationary, there is no need to use a plug in mechanism for them.
This is especially valuable when you are concerned about order and neatness. With the absence of outlets and plugs, your space will not look cluttered.
If you’re worried that a hardwired appliance may not give you enough room for cleaning, then ensure that enough cable allowance is provided during the installation of the hard wired appliance.
3. Hard wiring is best when avoiding contact with water is absolutely paramount.
Wall outlets may accidentally come in contact with water occasionally. And with appliances such as showers, this can be catastrophic . This is why hard wiring such appliances into the wall and into the mains is a better option than plug in.
And that’s why the NEC recommends that receptacles or outlets serving 250-volt appliances, such as stoves and clothes dryers, must have GFCI protection when located in bathrooms, crawl spaces, basements, laundry areas or within 6 feet of sinks, bathtubs or showers.
Hard also wiring makes electric shocks from wiring issues less likely.
Best Times to Use Plug In
Most appliances today use plug-in. As a matter of fact, the NEC recommends that all appliances in the home or office use plug-in rather than hard-wired. Let’s take a look at the best scenarios to use plug in for your home appliances.
1. Plug in is best for mobile appliances
If there is a chance that an appliance is going to be moved often or even occasionally, then it is best to go for plug-in rather than hard-wired.
This is because with a hard-wired connection, you would be unable to easily disconnect the appliance from the power supply and move it. With plug-in however, all you need to do is remove the power cable from the outlet and move the appliance to another position.
2. Plug in is best for better safety and repair access.
Say your dishwasher or washing machine malfunctions and refuses to turn off. With plug in, you can simply disconnect the head from the electricity outlet to break the circuit.
With hard wiring on the other hand, you would need to find your way to the junction box and turn it off in order to disconnect the appliance from electricity. And this, of course, would also mean disconnecting power from all the appliances that are connected to the junction box.
This can be a problem especially in the case of fires or electric shock.
Also, when a plug in appliance’s power system needs repair, it is easy to just unplug the appliance from the outlet and fix the problem. With hard wired, you would need to cut the wire that goes into the electric framework of the building before performing the repair. And for this, you would definitely need the services of a skilled electrician.
- Plug in is best for lighter-duty appliances
By this, I mean appliances with below 240V rating. Such light appliances can easily be supported by most standard electrical outlets and sockets. They do not require a dedicated circuit or considerations of the outlet being able to supply the energy needs of the appliance. Therefore, using hard wiring for such appliances would be overkill.
In conclusion, hard wiring and plug in each have their place in the electrical wiring of your building. Knowing the right method to use for each appliance is key to finding the right balance of safety, cost, ease-of-access, and aesthetics.