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What are blank outlets for?

Blank outlets, sometimes called dummy outlets, are electrical boxes that are wired and installed like regular outlets but without the receptacle ports. They serve several important purposes in both residential and commercial buildings.

Protecting Wires

One main reason blank outlets are used is to protect any wires running through that location. Electrical codes require that wires inside walls and ceilings be run through protective conduits. An electrical box serves this purpose for places where you want to have an outlet accessible. But for wires that are just passing through, a blank covers the wires and meets the conduit requirement.

This is especially common for upstairs rooms where wires coming from the basement need to pass through the wall to reach upper-level outlets. The blank box gives those wires the necessary protection.

Future Expansion

Another major use of blank outlets is for future expansion and flexibility. Even if you don’t need an outlet in a certain spot when the house is built, putting in a blank allows you to easily add one later if needed. This makes it convenient for remodeling projects or changing needs over time.

For example, you may realize you need more outlets in a bedroom for lamps, phone chargers, etc. Or if you finish a basement, it’s easy to convert the existing blanks into usable outlets. The wires and boxes are already in place, saving a lot of time and money versus installing completely new outlets and electrical runs.

Aesthetic Consistency

In many homes and apartments, outlets are installed at regular intervals along a wall for visual consistency. This avoids having random gaps between usable outlets. The blanks fill in those gaps to maintain the pattern. This can be especially important in commercial buildings and upscale homes where aesthetic design is a priority.

The consistent outlet spacing also makes it easier when rearranging furniture. No matter where a dresser or bed is placed, there’s likely to be an outlet reasonably nearby that can be used.

Are Blank Outlets Safe?

Properly installed blank outlets present no safety hazard. The wires are safely inside the electrical box, and a blank cover plate encloses it the same as a regular outlet. Building codes require the blanks to be installed correctly by an electrician. As long as they are wired correctly, you can safely touch or use the wall area around a blank outlet.

One thing to be aware of is improperly used blanks. Sometimes previous homeowners may remove an outlet and just put a blank cover over the box without disconnecting anything. This creates a risk of touching live wires if you use that part of the wall. If in doubt, have an electrician inspect blanks to make sure unused outlets were correctly converted.

Can You Remove Blanks and Convert to Outlets?

In almost all cases, yes. As long as the wires are live and the blank box was originally installed in compliance with electrical codes, converting a blank to a functioning outlet is a straightforward job. The process involves:

  • Turning off the circuit breaker for that outlet to cut power.
  • Removing the blank cover plate.
  • Attaching the outlet to the wires (matching hot, neutral and ground wires).
  • Securing the outlet and installing a cover plate.

This is generally considered one of the easier DIY electrical projects for a homeowner. But if you are unfamiliar with electrical work, it’s best to hire an electrician to convert blanks into outlets. They can ensure proper wiring and grounding in a short amount of time.

What Type of Outlet Can a Blank Be Converted To?

The wiring inside a blank outlet box is normal 12 or 14 gauge electrical cable suitable for any standard residential outlet. That makes it possible to convert a blank into any of the following outlet types:

  • Standard electrical receptacle
  • GFCI (ground fault circuit interrupter) outlet
  • USB charging outlet
  • Smart/WiFi enabled outlet
  • Adjustable timer outlet
  • Light switch
  • Electrical junction box

Again, the key is that the blank box is wired the same as any outlet. So you can choose whichever type of outlet meets your needs, as long as the circuit has enough capacity.

Can You Install Low Voltage Items?

In some cases, blank outlets can accommodate low voltage wiring for things like ethernet, coax, or HDMI cables. This depends on the available space within the electrical box itself. Many modern “smart home” devices like virtual assistants and WiFi security cameras also use low voltage wiring.

To use a blank outlet for a low voltage application, you would need to run the additional wiring to that box (usually through basement or attic access). Then mount a low voltage bracket inside the box to hold those wires and their connectors. The blank cover gets replaced with a “low voltage mud ring” specifically designed for low power cables.

Using blank outlets this way avoids making additional drywall holes or visible cable runs. All wiring stays neatly within the existing electrical boxes. Just take care not to overload the box capacity when adding additional low power wiring.

Key Takeaways

The main points to understand about blank outlets are:

  • They protect wires and meet electrical code for unused sections of wire.
  • Blanks allow easy future expansion of new outlets.
  • Consistent outlet spacing promotes good aesthetic design.
  • Properly installed, blanks present no safety issues.
  • Blanks can be converted to standard outlets with basic electrical skills.
  • Low voltage wiring can sometimes be added using blank outlets.

So in summary, blank outlets provide wire protection, flexibility, and visual consistency. While not usable as-is, they can easily be converted to functional outlets or low voltage connections. Next time you see an outlet with no ports, remember it serves a valuable purpose!

Frequently Asked Questions

Why are some outlets blank?

The most common reasons for blank outlets are to protect wires, allow future expansion, and maintain aesthetic outlet spacing consistency along walls.

Are blank outlets the same as dead outlets?

No, blanks and dead outlets are different. Blanks have no receptacle but are wired correctly. Dead outlets are wired incorrectly or don’t work, making them unsafe.

Can I plug something into a blank outlet?

No, because blanks have no receptacle ports. You would need to convert it to a proper outlet by installing the receptacle and cover plate.

Is it safe to remove the cover plate from a blank outlet?

Generally yes, assuming the blank box itself was installed properly. Just be sure to turn off the circuit breaker first.

Do blank outlets need GFCI protection?

No, because blanks have no exposed ports there is no need for GFCI protection. But standard outlets converted from blanks should have GFCI if required by code.

Can I leave some outlets blank when finishing a basement?

Yes, this is common practice to allow for future expansion. Just be sure any covered wires meet electrical codes.

How can you tell if a blank outlet is live?

Use a non-contact voltage tester. Turn off the circuit breaker, remove the blank cover, and probe the wires with the tester to see if they are live.

Why are hospital outlets sometimes blanks?

In patient rooms, blanks allow equipment to be easily moved around while maintaining consistent outlet spacing for aesthetics and functionality.


Blank electrical outlets play an important role, even if they don’t function like normal receptacles. Protecting wires, facilitating expansions, and keeping aesthetic outlet spacing are just some of the key benefits. While blank outlets themselves don’t provide power, they offer long-term flexibility and safety.