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We just moved in to a newly built house (built in 2022). To my eye, the house is very well-built, so I'd like to think there's a reason for the weird way of powering the TV.

The outlet directly behind the TV has no power, it receives power from a male outlet about 3 feet below the TV, where a media center would go. The male outlet needs a short female-to-male extension cord plugged in to a nearby female outlet which has power. That's the only way to provide power to the TV.

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I asked an electrician friend and he said it's because someone is an idiot and they screwed up. His thought is that the outlet behind the TV was installed as an afterthought, and someone was extremely particular that it had to be in that exact spot (it is about 6 inches left of the lower outlet that has power). If there's a stud between them, then whoever did the install could not run a line straight up and over without drilling through the stud, which they didn't want to do. So they added a new outlet to the left, used the extension cord to give it power, and then ran a line from there straight up to the TV outlet.

However, I just used a stud finder and verified that there is no stud between the outlets, so that theory is shot. I didn't believe it in the first place, because why would someone be so particular about the TV outlet location, considering that the TV will be mounted there and cover it completely? (my tv is mounted a bit too high at the moment, which is why the outlet is visible, but I'm going to lower it). I also don't believe it was installed as an after-thought, the house has a lot of attention to detail, I think this is something they would have done at build-time.

So my question is, why not just run a normal power line straight up to the TV outlet and be done with it? Why the weird setup?

If it matters, this is all mounted on an exterior wall.

UPDATE

There are lots of good suggestions below as to why this was done. For anyone that reads this in the future, I feel the best fitting answer for this scenario, which has been suggested below by more than one person, is that this allows the owner to use a surge protector as a go-between, which protects the TV. If you run power directly to the outlet behind the TV, the TV is not protected (unless you install a whole-house surge protector). But with the method here, you can plug the lower inlet to a surge protector, and plug the protector into the outlet to the right, which protects the TV while preserving the clean look. This matches up with how the rest of the house is set up, which as I said is brand new construction with a lot of attention to detail. This would be another detail that someone thought about and provided a solution for at build-time, as opposed to an afterthought done weirdly and possibly incorrectly. Seems it's not that weird after all.

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    Probably they already had the part (recessed outlet kit) or bought it and just installed it because they didn't want to go back to the store and get something else
    – longneck
    Dec 25, 2023 at 18:32
  • Maybe a third party did the purchasing. If there's a proprietary cable carrying the power inside the wall, then there would have been no way for the the installer to route power to the receptacle behind the TV without the cord down low. I guess you could cut any proprietary cable and tap into the outlet with that (is that NEC conformant?), but mindlessly following instructions would be faster and result in your configuration. If I skipped the male inlet, then I would bust off the ground and two prongs to avoid confusing people.
    – popham
    Dec 25, 2023 at 18:52
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    That configuration is weird! Was there a UPS, or switching device between mains and male jack? E.G., when TV was turned on from its remote control (not on standby), a power strip with current sensing could have turned on a satellite dish, speakers or media center, or the converse? Dec 25, 2023 at 19:04
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    Yes, the purpose of this setup is to plug the TV into a power strip, along with other devices, and turn them on and off together at the power strip. The cord inside the wall is purely for aesthetic purposes, so that the TV's power cord is not hanging down in front of the wall. (And for anybody questioning the legality of it: I can't speak to OP's specific device, but there are legal and listed kits available for installing this setup.) Dec 25, 2023 at 20:49
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    Your electrical friend knows what he's talking about.
    – PeteCon
    Dec 26, 2023 at 18:49

4 Answers 4

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This is commonly done as a later add-on in order to provide a path for both low-voltage (HDMI, cable TV, antenna, etc.) and high voltage (120V). It has two advantages over a permanent hard-wired extension:

  • Assuming the product is designed/listed for use inside walls, it is effectively a specialized extension cord that would not (at least as I understand code in the US) require an electrician, permit, inspection, etc.
  • It allows for plugging the TV into a surge protector, battery backup or other device on (or near) the floor.

There is no fundamental reason you can't hard-wire this to chain the upper receptacle off of the lower receptacle. However, you may find that the upper receptacle (outlet) and the lower inlet are connected with some sort of cable that is not designed for reuse and, possibly, not up to spec. for proper permanent wiring methods. I would:

  • Open up the upper receptacle. See if it has any indication of UL or ETL listing. If it does, great, if not then replace it (all of $1 - $5 depending on type - I'd spend the extra money for screw-to-clamp connections).
  • See what kind of cable is going from the upper receptacle to the lower inlet. If it is normal Romex or similar - ideally marked to indicate what it is so that you can confirm it is fit for purpose, great. If not, replace it with NM cable (a.k.a., Romex). If it is a 15A circuit then 14/2 or 12/2. If it is a 20A circuit then 12/2. It is possible that the existing cable is legitimate, perfectly code-compliant 14 AWG cable but not permissible when permanently wired if it is a 20A circuit.
  • Instead of connecting the cable to the inlet, connect it to the lower outlet. Depending on what is already connected and the type of receptacle (regular screws vs. screw-to-clamp) you may need to use wire nuts and pigtails.
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    All makes sense to me, will follow your suggestions. So it sounds like the answer is that this most likely was done after build, and possibly by someone who wasn't too good with wiring so they came up with an odd setup that may be dodgy.. maybe the previous owner did this himself.. Dec 25, 2023 at 20:13
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    All correct. But this is not necessarily dodgy. There are actually kits for doing this exact thing, and done properly it has the advantage of arguably not needing any electrical permit/etc. (which the need for varies from place to place depending on the work to be done). Dec 25, 2023 at 20:15
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    I think the remark in your comment is the core of the answer: this device is technically (by its UL/ETL listing) a pair of extension cords (one in-wall and one exterior to the wall). This means it can be installed by a homeowner or AV specialist -- no electrician required.
    – Greg Hill
    Dec 26, 2023 at 17:56
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Speculation…
These days with eARC/wifi/bluetooth etc you can switch your entire media rig on & off from the AV receiver with one button-press on the remote.

If the previous occupant had an older rig, there's a possibility it needed mains switching rather than eARC, and this would have been an inventive way to be able to switch the TV power with the rest of the setup. Run that cable out in a loop to/from a switched unit. So the socket on the right powers the amp, which then can run a power bar out to all the other components - including one up the wall to the TV.

My last receiver - dating from 1995 or so - would do peripheral mains switching like this. My current one uses eARC, so this type of setup is no longer required.

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You have a setup designed for a wall-mounted TV, with the power receptacle concealed behind the TV.

So your logic is "Why not just directly feed it from in-wall wiring? Why surface and provide an inlet, and require the jumper?"

To give you some options.

  • You might want to have the TV powered off a "power strip" to allow you to turn off all of the AV equipment at a single switch. A real power saver when accessories are power-hungry, like infamously piggish cable TV boxes or modern 500+ watt game consoles. (all that high frame-rate 3D is not free).
  • That power strip might include respectable "surge suppression" such as the Belkin 3800 joule suppressor on ours. That's much more than will fit in a little plug sandwich type that would fit behind the TV.
  • That power strip might be automatically shut off accessories when the TV is turned off - for that to work, the TV's current must go through it. Easy with this type of arrangement.
  • The TV could more easily be put on UPS or a portable power station. Because, priorities :)
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What you have is obviously an individually desired and designed method to provide power.

It works, so changing it is also an individual decision.

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  • not concerned about changing it, just wondering what the reason(s) might be for doing it this way. Why might an individual have desired and designed it this way? Dec 25, 2023 at 18:35
  • Sounds like your answer to the question is that you don't have an answer Dec 25, 2023 at 20:09
  • There is no answer...there is only speculation. You are asking for the defining reason why some wiring set up in your home was done in a particular way. Since it is outside the realm of normal there is no way to be sure why it was done. Besides why is there such a need to know what was in the mind of the installer when they were doing the work. It is unnecessary and only speculative information.
    – RMDman
    Dec 25, 2023 at 20:42

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