Ungrounded outlets are extremely dangerous. Globally, they are the leading cause of house fires. If your property has ungrounded outlets, the odds are high that you have other electrical issues: frayed wires, hidden bad wiring connections, and more.
4 Reasons Why Ungrounded Outlets Are Unsafe
Ungrounded outlets are susceptible to electrical shorts or arcing. (Electrical “arcing” is when an electrical current “jumps” or flashes from one connection to another. These electrical arcs can reach temperatures of 35,000°F and will burn insulation or wood framing.)
Ungrounded outlets can cause:
- Fire – Without grounding, arcs, sparks, and misdirected electrical charges can ignite nearby materials like furniture, carpet, curtains, or insulation.
- Fire risks – In the Maricopa County area there are still thousands of homes built before and during the 1960s. Many of these homes have ungrounded circuits. They also may have wiring materials that need to be upgraded.
- Shocks – If you’ve experienced a small electrical shock, it was quick and painful. It didn’t send you to the hospital, but it’s a red flag there is an electrical problem that needs fixing.
- Shorted-out appliances – Ungrounded outlets can immobilize electrical appliances. When they short-circuit, they are often destroyed. Before you replace your blender or hairdryer, you need to replace your ungrounded outlet.
Electricity is negatively charged, so it always tries to flow to the positively charged earth using whatever source is available. If the nearest source is you, you’ll receive a shock. Grounded outlets can prevent this from happening.
Do I Have Ungrounded Outlets? Can I Ground Them?
GFCI outlets are ground-fault circuit interrupters. They monitor the flow of electricity and alert you immediately if there’s a problem. We measure electrical flow in amperes and milliamperes. If there’s an inconsistency in electrical current that is more than 5 milliamperes, a GFCI will trip the power source.
Since 1962, the National Electrical Code (NEC) has required grounded outlets. Most older homes that have been bought and sold since then have been inspected and their ungrounded outlets replaced and rewired.
If your good old house has ungrounded outlets, you can’t simply buy a new 3-prong outlet and replace the old 2-prong outlet. The only safe way to ground an ungrounded outlet is to rewire the circuit following NEC standards.
To determine if your home has any ungrounded outlets, examine all electrical plug-ins. If it has only 2 prong holes, it is ungrounded. If a plug-in has three receptacles (prongs), it doesn’t mean it’s grounded. In fact, an ungrounded 3-prong outlet increases the risk of shock or electrocution. If you use this outlet for electronics, they can be power-surge damaged or destroyed.
Why Replace Ungrounded Outlets?
Speak with a qualified electrician to confirm if you should replace ungrounded 2-prong outlets that are working properly. You can still buy ungrounded outlets. But with today’s electronics, your home’s wiring won’t be able to keep up with the demand.
You are required to have GFCI outlets in:
- Laundry areas
- Patios/outdoors areas
- Pools/any water areas (water fountains, etc.)
- Unfinished basements
You can tell if GFCI outlets are working correctly by using the test button on them before you use an electrical device. The button should shut the power to the outlet off if it’s working correctly. If your GFCI doesn’t have the test button, that means it could be a spin-off of another, primary GFCI outlet.
For information about ungrounded outlets and replacements, contact Turn It On Electric.