Are you still getting your electricity the “old school” way: from two-pronged outlets? If you live in an older home, there’s a pretty good chance you might be. Maybe it’s time to rethink that. If your home was built before 1960, it was initially built with these types of outlets. Chances are good that you probably still have at least a few of these types of outlets in various places you may or may not know about.
How Two-Pronged Outlets Work
Two-prong outlets are pretty easy to locate: they only have the two main slots in them without the third small hole located beneath and perfectly between them. These types of outlets have only two wires running through them: a hot and a neutral wire. However, because these types of outlets are not grounded, they are considerably more dangerous.
If a sudden stray current or a power surge pushes its way through your electrical system, you will likely not be protected. That includes not only your safety, but also the safety of your sensitive electronics and even your home as a whole. Power surges on non-grounded outlets have destroyed everything from televisions to heating and cooling systems to computers, servers, cell phones, and so much more.
How Three-Pronged Outlets Protect Your Home
Enter three-prong outlets. Three-prong outlets feature a third wire coming from them: a grounding wire. In the event of a surge, the excess current and voltage have a place to go that isn’t your body or your electronics. Thus, they are substantially safer for you physically and for everything else plugged in during the surge.
Three-prong plugs are the standard these days and homes built after 2008 are required to have them installed in all receptacles. However, if you’re living in an older home and haven’t done any electrical upgrading, you could still be using the older two-prong outlets. Do you have any plugs in your home where you can’t plug in something with a three-prong plug? If so, then you should consider upgrading this plug right away.
Can You Keep Two-Pronged Outlets?
This is a common question we get from many people when we tell them they are using these potentially unsafe outlets. Can you keep them? The short and simple answer: yes. The National Electrical Code allows you to replace an existing two-prong with another like it. If you’re replacing a faulty two-prong receptacle with another just like it, you’re not committing any code violations in the process by not upgrading.
But is it really the way to go in 2020? Most appliances and devices these days are three-pronged, so it’s both safer and much more convenient to have the upgraded outlets. And don’t get us started on plugging a three-prong adapter into a surge protector that is then plugged into a two-prong outlet. This is incredibly unsafe to do. There is still no grounding to protect the device or you from a surge—the grounding must be done at the electrical outlet itself or else it’s useless for protecting you. You also can’t even swap out a two-prong for a three-prong plug, as it can still create a potential appliance problem or situation where you or a loved one could be electrocuted.
So what can you do to move forward safely with electricity in your home? You have a few options to bring your outlets up to code. You can replace a two-pronged outlet with another two-prong outlet, but as we’ve stated this is still a risky solution. You could replace a two-pronged outlet with a GFCI-equipped (ground fault circuit interrupter) outlet, as these are considerably safer.
However, we strongly advise having a professional circuit test done to see if your box is grounded. If not, have your testing electrician rewire your panel with a three-wire circuit to get the necessary ground wire where it needs to be. If you have questions about your electrical system, Sylvester Electric can help. We can schedule a safety inspection and go through your home and needs to give you peace of mind.
Tackle the new decade with safety first for you & your home! Happy New Year from all of us at Sylvester Electric to you and your family. Give us a call at (978) 910-0021 today to request an appointment.