How to Upgrade a 2-Prong to a 3-Prong Outlet
A common question in the field I have is how to upgrade a 2-prong to a 3-prong outlet. The third prong on an electrical plug is an important safety feature – it provides a ground that allows electricity a clear path to flow in the case of a fault. The United States National Electrical Code mandated that new homes be built with grounded 3-prong outlets only in 1962. However, in older homes, you may still encounter outlets that lack a receptacle for this third grounding prong, which can be frustrating to encounter when you need to plug in a device and can’t.
The process involves removal of the old outlet and rewiring the connections, and the installation of a ground screw. This process should be done by a certified electrician only. Simply removing a 2-prong outlet and installing a 3-prong outlet will only give the appearance of safety if the connection is not properly grounded in the process. If a ground is not available, then the entire room may need to be rewired or a ground fault circuit interrupter (GFCI) outlet may need to be installed.
Are 2-prong to 3-prong Adapters Safe?
These adapters known as “cheater plugs” have a spot to accept the ground pin from the device, but only two prongs on the opposite side, so the device can fit into the outlet. The overwhelming consensus is that no, these adapters are not safe. While some modern devices do only have two prongs on their plugs, that is because the device itself is designed with sufficient insulation against the electricity-conducting components of the device.
While using such an adapter, the connection is not grounded and in the event of a fault a dangerous electric shock can occur. The presence of the third prong is the device’s manufacturer telling you that that grounding prong is necessary for safe operation, and using an adapter defeats this important safety mechanism.
Can I change a 2-prong plug to a 3-prong plug?
There’s no easy answer when it comes to changing a 2-prong plug to a 3-prong plug. It really depends on the outlet and the electrical system in your home. If the outlet is grounded, then it’s relatively simple to change the plug. However, if the outlet is not grounded, then it’s much more complicated and you’ll likely need to hire an electrician to do the work for you. In most cases, it’s simply not worth the hassle or the risk to try to change a 2-prong plug to a 3-prong plug on your own. It’s always best to consult with a professional before undertaking any electrical work in your home.
Final thoughts on 2-prong to 3-prong outlets
While it can be inconvenient at times, the third grounding prong on an electric plug is an innocuous-appearing but extremely vital safety feature designed to protect you in the case of device malfunction, and its presence should always be respected. If you run into an older 2-prong outlet, you should always encourage the building owner to have a trained electrician upgrade the system rather than risk using a device unsafely.
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