Electrical socket buyers guide

Whether you’re buying a replacement socket for an existing plug or updating all the sockets in a property, it’s important to know the different types available and find the right one for the job. This electrical socket buyer guide covers everything from how a plug socket works and the styles on offer, to the colours and finishings. We sell double sockets, single sockets and so much more so browse our range and call us if you have any questions. 

How does a plug socket work?

The majority of us will be using a plug socket throughout the day, every day, but how many of us actually know how they work? Plug sockets are made of three main components including a backbox which can be recessed into a wall or surface, the electrical wiring found inside, and the faceplate which acts as a lid. 

The function of a socket is quite simple. The wires found within the socket are connected to a home or building's consumer unit utilising electrical cables which are typically hidden in the walls. The faceplate is then connected to the backbox, forming an electrical circuit and transferring power. Another feature you need to be aware of is gangs. This term is used to inform you of how many sockets there are on a single faceplate, with each gang providing space for one item/plug. This could range from a standard plug to an ethernet cable or USB port. 

Signs your sockets need replacing

Although they’re only small objects, a faulty or worn socket can lead to hazards and injury if not replaced in good time. A broken socket could lead to electrical shocks or even fires, so should be replaced if demonstrating any of the following:

  • Fuses blow when in use
  • Burn marks visible around the pinholes
  • Plugs aren't secure when taken in and out 
  • A burning smell 
  • Smoke is coming from the socket
  • Crackling or popping sound
  • Overheating or feeling too hot

Types of electrical sockets 

There are a number of different electrical sockets, all offering different benefits and features depending on the primary use, location and aesthetic preference. 

Plug sockets

Plug sockets are a style of socket that is used to plug in electrical appliances such as hairdryers, irons, lamps and monitors. You can find plug sockets with a range of different features including different gangs. For example, double plug sockets come with 2 gangs and a single plug socket with 1 gang. These socks may also come with a switch that allows the electrical supply to be turned on and off as well as added features including USB chargers.

Other types of plug socks include RCD sockets ( designed to cut the power if a fault was to occur and protect users) and metal-clad sockets (a heavy-duty option designed to withstand high usage. Mainly used within the industrial sector). 

Single sockets

Single sockets are often referred to as single gang sockets by professionals and electricians. The 'single gang' references the fact that there is only one switch on the plate. On a socket, you may hear them called rockers or switches but a single gand socket is a socket with one switch. You won't find a socket that has space for two plugs but only one switch so most people will simply refer to a single socket and a single gang.

Double sockets

Double sockets are equally as explanatory as the above, but a double socket (double gang socket) will have space for two plugs and will have two switches that operate each socket space independently. Just like a single gand, these double sockets are available in the standard white plastic look as well as more decorative styles and designs to help you modernise your space

Smart plug sockets

A more modern version of a classic plug socket, smart plugs provide the added benefit of internet connectivity. Utilising wifi, these sockets typically connect to a mobile app, allowing users to control the power, at any time, in any location! Other features include setting reminders and timers or creating your very own schedule in order to save money and reduce electricity usage. Due to this connectivity, smart plugs that are placed in less accessible areas of a home can still be accessed digitally and controlled either through mobile or voice commands. 

Wifi extenders

Crafted with built-in technology that boosts wifi within a home or commercial property, wifi extender plugs work using a WPS connection in order to connect to the home internet router. Acting as a super convenient way to boost wifi quality, these sockets mean you don’t need to invest in more expensive wifi or clutter your home with more wires. These sockets also sometimes come with USB chargers and are available in a range of styles and finishings. 

USB sockets

Made up of either a single or double plug socket, USB sockets provide an extra outlet of power for USB chargers, reducing the need for an added plug. These sockets are ideal for charging devices such as phones, tablets and power banks. 

When purchasing a USB socket, it’s also important to ensure you find the right outlet as these include type A and type C ( a new type found on Apple devices ), as well as the correct amp. 


Shaver sockets

Typically installed in bathrooms, shaver sockets are used to safely provide power and recharging features to electric shavers and other items such as toothbrushes which come with a 2-pin plug. These sockets are designed to keep the user away from the electrical circuit in order to minimise hazards. 

TV sockets

TV sockets, also referred to as aerial sockets provide a connection between a TV or signal receiver. These socket types can be installed in any room in which a TV is required and can use one aerial lead to TV usage. 


This socket type connects internet routers or modems to a local broadband network by bringing the external connection inside a home/office/workplace. An ethernet cable then runs from the socket into the router. 



Things to consider when buying an electric socket

Although new sockets are easily accessible and replaceable, it’s always important to do some prior research and ensure that the socket you’ve bought meets all your needs. When buying a new socket or replacing an old one, there are 4 major factors to consider.

Colour and finishing: For home decor especially, the way your sockets look will play a part in the final model. White plastic sockets are the most common choice as these complement the majority of interiors and are easy to pair with the surrounding environments. There are, however, a range of other colours and finishes available such as brushed or polished chrome, antique/vintage themes, wood and matte coating. 

Smart technology: If your home or workplace is equipped with other smart devices such as smart lights or security systems, there's an opportunity for automation. When choosing or buying your sockets, make sure to take these devices into consideration and utilise the connectivity. 

Amount of sockets needed: The number of sockets needed in one room or space will depend on what it’s been used for, how often and how many people will need it. For example, most living room areas need 4-8 plug sockets in order to supply power to all the electronics and entertainment systems. 

Positioning: The position of electric sockets must actually abide by building regulations. In new build homes, power sockets must be placed at least 450mm above the floor and 350mm away from the corner of the room. See more details on the placement of sockets below. 

Placements of electrical sockets

If you’re installing some new sockets, you might be considering where to position them around your home or office. This isn't as simple as just placing them anywhere as there are certain regulations in place to offer accessibility and safety. Here are some of the requirements for placing plug sockets in new builds. 

  • Sockets must be at least 450mm above the floor
  • TV and phone sockets must be maximum of 1200mm above the floor
  • All socket types must be at least 350mm from the corners of the room
  • New kitchen sockets must be a minimum of 100mm from the worktop

Sockets and switches by Alert Electrical

Supplying an extended range of different sockets and switches, Alert Electrical stock a broad selection of brands for home, office and commercial switches. From smart sockets to dry-lining boxes, we have the best quality products and household names. 

For some expert advice, get in touch with us on 03339 969999 or explore our range of products here