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What’s Wrong With My Old Two-Prong Outlets?

outletWe urge all our customers to investigate ways to update their household electrical systems. This isn’t only about making sure you’ve got enough power for all your new appliances and the increasing number of charging stations. It’s also about safety. We specialize in updating old homes with modern wiring, electrical panels, and outlets.

One of the upgrades we recommend is replacing standard three-prong outlets with GFCI and AFCI outlets, which improve safety. But let’s go one step lower and take a look at two-prong outlets, which many homes in the area still have. (Two-prong is standard for homes built before 1960.) You can stick adaptors onto them so they work for three-prong plugs, but we don’t recommend this. We’ll explain why it’s best to change out those old two-prongers.

Two-Prong Outlets Are Not Grounded

This is the big difference between two-prong and three-prong. A three-prong outlet adds a third wire to the “hot” and “neutral” wires that grounds the outlet.

What does it mean to be “grounded?” It means that if there is too much electricity send to the outlet, the excess electricity has somewhere to go. The third wire is there to take any excess electricity and drive it down into the ground outside your house. This is why adaptors plugged into two-prong outlets are not recommend: they do nothing to ground the old outlet.

You can probably already guess why it’s important to have grounding. Excess electricity that doesn’t have a quick exit route into the ground will seek somewhere else to go. This might be through a person, causing a high voltage shock. It might be through building material, potentially causing an electrical fire. Or it may try to move through the electrical system or the appliance attached to it, causing severe damage to either.

Experts Can Change Your Home to a Grounded One

If all the outlets in your home are two-prong, then it probably means your whole house is ungrounded and doesn’t have a wire to drive excess voltage into the ground. You can’t upgrade your two-prong outlets on your own by purchasing three-prong fixtures and then screwing them into place. There needs to be bigger changes to the electrical system to support the new outlets, and only a professional electrician is qualified and licensed to do this job. You don’t want bigger dangers of electrical fires or a code violation!

To ground a house and install three-prong outlets, the electrician will attach a ground wire to your main electrical panel (and you may also need the panel upgraded) and then run a ground wire to each of the outlets. Depending on your house size, the electrician may need to install more than one ground wire.

When you schedule this job, your electrician will also offer to put in GFCI and AFCI outlets in the appropriate rooms. By all means, let the electrician do this. Going to a grounded house with three-prong outlets is a great step, but the extra protection from high voltage shocks these newer outlets offer is tremendously valuable.

You can rely on our licensed experts for electrical upgrades and electrical repair in West Orange, NJ. We have extensive experience with working on older homes.

Anderson Electric Corp. serves Northern New Jersey. Find out more about upgrading your home’s electrical system from our licensed professionals.

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