Kitchens throw up a unique set of problems when it comes to electrical sockets. There are two conflicting factors: the need for modern appliances and the presence of running water and above-average condensation levels. Let’s look at how to balance safety and convenience when getting your kitchen ready to work your culinary wonders.
Planning is everything
Planning the layout of your kitchen is an exciting yet challenging task, and electrical socket placement should be a priority on your list. The positioning of electrical outlets heavily influences kitchen design and usability, forming the backbone of your daily cooking, baking and brewing-up rituals.
If you’re lucky enough to be starting a kitchen from scratch, you’ve got endless options for planning a harmonious space. Most people would probably prioritise the look and feel of the kitchen, then find a way to stick the sockets in as an afterthought. But there’s a lot to be said for planning both at the same time.
You’ve really got to imagine yourself in the kitchen and how you’re going to use it. You probably don’t want wires trailing over your worktops, so it makes sense to have as many sockets as possible. But pay attention to the appliances you use the most, and leave a little leeway for future-proofing the room – that all-in-one roast dinner, pizza, coffee and cake maker is surely just around the corner!
If you’ve read our article on installing plug sockets, you’ll know we go to great lengths to emphasise the importance of only tackling electrical jobs if you’re competent around tools and electrics. And even then, you should only attempt a “like-for-like” swap of an existing socket. There are legal reasons for this, too, found in “Electrical safety: Approved Document P” of the Building Regulations.
However, as an amateur or DIYer, electrical work in kitchens is NOT advisable under the rules. Because it’s a high-risk location, all electrical work should be carried out by a qualified electrician. There’s a lot more safety information to take in than in a regular room. Check out the NICEIC’s guide to electrics in kitchens for a flavour of what you need to consider. For example, did you know that sockets should be 30 cm from sinks and 15 cm above worktops?
Talk to an NICEIC-approved contractor about your kitchen. They’ll be able to do tests on existing wiring and sockets, and make sure any plans you’ve got are viable. They’ll also be able to perform the actual installation once you get started.
Convenience in the kitchen
The kitchen is the heart of the home for many people, and convenient outlet placements make kitchen tasks simple and enjoyable. Having sockets dotted around the walls and island make it an easier and safer place to work.
Consider the “kitchen triangle”, the area between the cooker, fridge and sink, when planning socket placement. This space should be clear of obstacles so you can dart between the three. Meanwhile, sockets for worktop appliances like kettles, microwaves or toasters should be conveniently situated outside this area.
Additionally, consider placing sockets inside cupboards and drawers for hidden appliances. This maintains a clutter-free aesthetic whilst ensuring appliances are still ready to use. If you have your washing machine, fridge, washer-dryer and/or dishwasher in the kitchen, it’s likely that the socket will be hidden away behind the appliance or behind cabinets, so make sure any plans for the placement of such white goods is taken into account when you’re planning the electrics.
Also remember that if you like to charge your phone, tablet or Bluetooth speaker in the kitchen, you can free up a socket by getting a socket with a USB slot in it. It’s much better than wasting a socket on a standard charger. They’re now available in both A and C types.
Quantity matters: determining the right number of sockets
The number of sockets in a kitchen should correlate with the number of appliances in frequent use. Taking into account the average British kitchen, including both built-in and small appliances, approximately four to eight double sockets should suffice, enabling the use of multiple appliances simultaneously.
However, this depends on individual requirements. Some may favour a minimalist, tech-free kitchen, while others depend on a myriad array of devices. Whether you prefer just a coffee machine and toaster on your countertop or a kitchen festooned with digital wonders, ensure you have a sensible number of sockets. Only you can decide on that number, but it’s a balance between aesthetics and convenience. You probably won’t be using all your appliances at the same time, so take that into account.
Power requirements for kitchen appliances
Different kitchen appliances draw different amounts of power, as defined by their wattage.
- Kettles: 2200–3000 watts
- Microwaves 600–1200 watts
- Toasters: 800–1500 watts
- Toastie/panini makers: 700–1200
- Washing machines: 500–1500 watts
- Washer-dryers and tumble dryers: 1800–4500 watts
- Dishwashers: 1200–2400 watts
To avoid overloading, spread appliances across different sockets and circuits rather than using a single outlet. The greater the wattage, the heavier the load, the more the need for a dedicated socket. Again, this is probably something you, the householder, don’t need to know, but let your electrician know where you plan to have everything so you can ensure safe operation.
Smart placement for a functional kitchen
A balanced placement of plug sockets enables an efficient, seamless cooking and living experience. While safety is the prime concern, ergonomic convenience is also important – and can have safety implications if you’re stretching cables and having hot appliances near children or pets.
Ultimately, it’s your kitchen, and you have to live in it. Only the most minimalistic kitchen dweller ever complains that there are too many sockets in the room, though. We think that when it comes to kitchen sockets, more is definitely more – and that’s not just because we sell double sockets!