Introduction: The Anywhere Outlet
One wall of our living room is the virtual nerve center of our small apartment. I would venture that 80% of our electronics are either permanently located along this wall or are charged there. Power is supplied by two outlets in the wall. However, access to these outlets is limited by the furniture (cabinet, TV stand, printer stand, and desk) placed in front of them. Since permanently-placed items (such as the TV) are plugged in continuously, limited access to the outlets is not an issue. However, for portable devices I find that easy outlet access is essential if you need to take the charging cable with you on a trip. I recently purchased a drone and have acquired some other camera gear, which needs to be charged often. While I could simply use a power strip to provide "outlets" for these devices, I prefer the more permanent and elegant solution presented here.
Step 1: What I Used
I decided to create a dual-gang outlet, which would be placed in the cabinet where I store all of my camera gear. Power would be supplied to this new outlet via a 10' 14 gauge replacement cord. Since I am connecting this outlet to an existing 15 Amp circuit (protected by a 15 Amp circuit breaker), the 14 gauge wire is appropriate. If you were to connect this new outlet to a circuit protected by a 20 or 30 Amp breaker, a larger diameter cord should be used. Instead of using two standard outlets, I purchased an outlet replacement from Leviton, which has 4 USB ports built into it. This would allow me to charge up to 4 USB devices without the need for wall warts. A two-gang metal conduit box was purchased to house the outlets. I like these metal conduit boxes as they are finished nicely and can be easily painted to match the decor where they will be placed. Finally, I decided I would create a small stand for the outlets using 1/2" black pipe. Since the metal conduit box has 1/2" npt (national pipe thread) fittings in it, the black pipe could be simply screwed into it.
Step 2: Prepare the Cord
Several short pigtail wires were cut from the end of the 10' replacement cord. After cutting the cord, the individual green, white, and black wires were pulled out of the housing before being stripped on both ends. In total, this project required two green, one white, and one black pigtail. Once the pigtails were cut from the cord, around 2" of housing was removed from the end of the cord and the ends of the wires were stripped back.
Step 3: Assemble the Stand
Before assembling the stand, a hole was drilled through the street elbow to allow the cord to pass through it. I was careful to remove the sharp edges from this hole as I didn't want the metal to cut into the cord's insulation over time. Wigging the drill bit around the in hole followed by some light sanding did the trick. The stand was assembled as seen in the picture above. Finally, the conduit box was threaded onto the male end of the elbow until tight.
Step 4: Wiring the Outlets
The outlets were wired according to the wiring diagram shown. Since the USB outlet had the green, white, and black leads already wired into it, the prepared pigtails were only required for connecting the standard outlet and for grounding the box. Yellow wire nuts were used to tie the wires together. Someday I'll have to try some lever-type wire nuts as they would make these connections easier. Once both outlets were wired, the second green pigtail was attached to the box using the included grounding screw.
Step 5: Finishing
Before plugging the cord in, I made sure to securely mount the outlets and affix the cover plate. I really like how simply adding a cover plate to a conduit box can make it look much more finished and professional.
Step 6: Test It
After plugging the cord into an existing outlet, the new outlets were tested by plugging my Snapchat Spectacles into one of the USB ports. Everything worked as expected!
Step 7: Putting It to Use
The original plan was to place the stand-mounted outlet on the shelf where I store my camera gear. However, after I finished the outlet, I realized that I could save shelf space by mounting the outlet above the shelf. This would allow for charging of all of my devices without sacrificing precious shelf space. So I removed the black pipe stand, drilled two small holes in the back of the box, and screwed it to the bottom of the shelf above the camera gear shelf.
I am very pleased with how this outlet came out and I can now easily charge all of my camera gear. This concept could be adapted to many different uses. If you are planning to use an outlet like this for high current applications, care should be taken to ensure you are not overloading the existing circuits.