The Anywhere Outlet

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Introduction: The Anywhere Outlet

About: As long as I can remember I've been building stuff. I think it's high time I shared these projects.

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.

6 People Made This Project!

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51 Discussions

This is AWESOME! Simple and fantastic. This is extremely useful. I can't wait to make a ton of these.

Great idea. I've built several of these without the stand and have even gone so far as to purchase the plugs to close off the open holes on the box. TIP FOR US BUILDERS: You can eliminate the wire nuts on white & black by connecting those wires from the USB outlet to the 2nd set of black (brass) & white (silver) screws on the AC outlet. Just be sure not to break off the small metal tab bridging the screws that makes each set "common".

Another “techie” thing is to use on the back of it or bottom putting on a Sonoff Bluetooth on off controller. Maybe you could show us how to do that as well. I understand how to put the controller on BUT, the stupid app will NOT remember my in formation and never will let me use the app... very frustrating.

1 reply

That's a great idea! I'm just getting into smart home stuff actually. I will have to do something like this in the future.

Pretty neat idea, unfortunately the usb outlet used here costs $35, and that's at Amazon. I'll just stick with the $2 USB cord that will plug into either my laptop or the wall

3 replies

Two ideas for anyone who wants to save money, on a tight budget.

1. Habitat for Humanity (Non Profit builds housing for those who are less affluent through volunteers) - has all sorts of construction materials, machinery, windows, hardwood flooring donated from average people and companies like Home Depot and contractors etc. etc. etc. Their prices will typically be 30% less expensive (sometimes more it depends) than buying new, and often they are in the original box/packaging and are new. When I have time I love to scavenge through the store and have purchased innumerable amounts of items I needed to decorate, improve, renovate or build. A current example was a brand new 5 ft low e vinyl patio door, closet doors, outdoor lawn furniture at about 60% of the normal price, vent covers, commercial door locks for my house and on an on.

2. Try a freecycle, trashnothing type of group. Instead of people selling items online they offer them to someone that needs the items. The names I mentions are those in Ontario, but you can search for a Yahoo group and locate a similar group. BTW --- no money whatsoever is transferred. There are a couple that try to monetize but it removes the benevolent aspect for me.

My personal experience has been positive both giving and receiving from the freecycle type groups. I have both contributed, requested and claimed items people have offered. It was particularly helpful during my first year or so after my separation.

Good luck with your projects!

Scott

I agree; this isn't the cheapest option, but I did it this way because I think it looks nicer and is custom fit to by needs.

Although it's out of my price range, I do admit it's pretty cool. Maybe demand and competition will bring the price down soon

Really nice. Will definitely be using this in place of a traditional power strip as it looks amazing and provides both standard outlets and USB. Let's be honest, the USB ports are what we need most, these days.

Question: Why not pass the cord through the flange and nipple? This would keep it hidden from view and prevent access to the cord directly. Is it just a matter of not wanting to add yet another hole to the mounting surface, or am I missing something else?

4 replies

That's an excellent idea! I hadn't actually thought of that. That being said, I still wouldn't have done that for my application as I didn't want a hole down through the shelf I was planning on mounting it to.

Instead of a 90 you could have used a tee and not had to drill a hole. I would have used some black silicone around the wire at the hole or a rubber grommet to help protect the wire insulation from getting damaged over time. I realize you didn't even use the metal pipe after you cabinet mounted the box but s warning probably should go into your ible in case some wiring novices give this a shot.

I really like how smooth this ible reads and your wiring diagram image is very nice. Also those lever type wago connectors loo great. I use the wago push type connector instead of wire nuts for most all electrical work I do an they are great.

Thanks for the comment. I have added a small sentence mentioning how I made sure the metal edges of the hole were very smooth. I like the grommet idea though. A piece of shrink tubing around the cord where it passes through the metal might hel as well.

wago's look pretty expensive. I wired hundreds of offices in 10 years plus fixtures switches etc etc. They indeed look pretty cool, I may buy a bag for experimenting, but for general electrical work. I wonder. I agree on the tee as opposed to the grinder concept.

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laskof

1 year ago

What did this cost you to make? Pricing out each item seems to be more expensive than buying one of these already made.

1 reply

I'm sure it is. The box and cover plate are quite inexpensive; around $10 for both I believe. You can pick up a regular outlet for around $2-$3. If you choose to use a USB outlet you'll be looking at $20-$30 depending on the outlet. The cord I used was around $14. So the total price of what I made was approaching $60, which really isn't a good deal; assuming cost is your deciding factor. Obviously, you could make something for much less if you didn't use the USB outlet and reused a cord from a broken or unused piece of equipment.

Excellent I'ble! Clear, concise, and extremely well documented. The pictures are clear and focused and leave nothing to question.

I've been thinking of doing something similar for a small behind-the-couch table I want to build. I was just going to flush mount the panel, but then the outlets would be face up and dirt and drinks (let's face it, I'm going to spill my beer at least once!) would get in there. This solves that 100%.

While others have correctly brought up the concern of pulling too much current through the circuit breaker, I wouldn't worry about maxing the circuit if you use this plug only for charging small devices. My concern would come from how many devices you have on and/or charging, connected to all outlets on the circuit, all at the same time. You've stated that it is the main hub, and while electronics engineers are pretty good at minimizing power consumption, having them all on at once could definitely pose a problem. But that's considering all wall outlets connected to the main circuit breaker, not just this outlet box.

It really comes down to common sense, and when in your life have you ever had the curling iron, toaster, space heaters, clothes iron, vacuum cleaner, blender, and pocket arc reactor all plugged in to the same circuit and running at the same time? Yeah, never.

1 reply

Thank you! I'm glad I've given you some ideas for your project. That's what I was going for. Also, thank you for your comments on "common sense." It really does come down to that anytime you are dealing with electricity - even when using commercially available products such as power strips.

Nice. It would be better to route the power cord through one of the other ports and use a strain relief. You could alternatively use a plastic grommet in the hole you drilled.

1 reply

Agreed. I like the grommet idea. I hadn't thought of that.

This is one of the best In'ables if not the best one in all my years of reading these. I'll bet this inspires more builds then any other. Great safe and build-able instructions. I plan on building 2 this weekend.