Since 1969, all major appliances have been required to a have a three-pronged plug. Now, most appliances have three-pronged plugs, and most homes also have three-slot grounded outlets for them. But not all homes do. There are many older houses in our area built before the grounded outlet became the standard.
What can you do when you have a three-pronged plug you need to connect to power, but the outlet doesn’t have the third slot? This is where most people turn to a three-prong adapter, which fits into the outlet and allows the three-pronged plug to then fit into it. These adapted are sometimes called “cheaters.” They aren’t making the outlet grounded, they’re just rerouting the power to allow the plug to work in the older outlet.
Is this safe to do?
Three-prong adapters present several problems
First, if you’re asking the question because the two-prong outlets are in your house, what you need to do is put away those adapters and call our electricians for an upgrade on your electrical system. Your house probably has antiquated wiring and an older fuse box along with an ungrounded electrical system. We can replace the old outlets with grounded ones as well as GFCI and AFCI outlets that improve household safety. Start with an electrical inspection: our electricians will find out what needs to be replaced for a home that is safe and makes the best use of electricity.
As for using that adapter right now… the issue of safety has more to do with the appliance you want to plug into that adapter than the adapter itself. An old two-slot outlet may have cloth-insulated wiring connected to it, and these wires are not rated for the amperage needed to power modern appliances. When you plug in an appliance with a greater amperage than this, the three-prong adapter creates a risk. In general, we don’t recommend you plug any large appliance (refrigerator, window AC, monitor) into a three-pronged adapter.
If the electrical panel in the house is grounded, the outlets may be grounded through the center screw. In this case, you can use a three-prong adapter with the outlet, provided the adapter also a has a screw tab on it that contacts the screw on the outlet. An adapter used on grounded outlets is usually safe, but it’s not a long-term solution—and you shouldn’t plug in power strips to the adapter to attempt to expand electrical use. If the outlet isn’t grounded, or you aren’t sure if it is, don’t use the adapter at all.
Your homeowner’s insurance may not cover electrical fires caused by a three-pronged adapter, so that’s something else to look into. But on the whole, you’re just better off with calling us to upgrade the system.
Call us when you need a great electrician in West Orange, NJ or elsewhere in Northern Jersey. We handle all types of electrical upgrades: panel replacements, knob and tube elimination, AFCI and GFCI outlet installation, and much more.
Anderson Electric Corp. is you Montclair, NJ electrician. Call us today to schedule electrical upgrade services. We offer free estimates.