You might not pay much attention to the outlets in your home. We're so used to them, we don't really consider them unless they aren't working correctly.
But having the right outlet is essential for keeping your home and family safe. When it comes to ungrounded outlets, there's some speculation about their compliance with modern safety standards. Here's what you need to know.
What Does Grounded Mean
When you plug a cord into an outlet, electricity flows through a hot wire and neutral wire to complete the energy circuit. In the event the charge becomes overloaded, most outlets have a third port slot that accepts the excess charge and sends it to the ground wire to expel it. These are known as grounded outlets.
Ungrounded outlets don't have a third, ground-connected port. Because of this, they're poorly equipped to handle overloaded charges. Ungrounded outlets were most common in older homes before grounding became standard practice.
Recognizing Ungrounded Outlets
Spotting an ungrounded outlet is as simple as taking a quick glance. Grounded outlets have the typical two vertical slits with a round hole just underneath them. This rounded notch is what grounds the outlet and prevents unwanted electricity transfers.
Ungrounded outlets lack the third port that provides the ground. So, to identify one, check to see how many openings the receptacle has. If your outlets are ungrounded, they'll have the two vertical slits but not the third, round one.
Why Grounded Outlets Matter
The extra slot in a grounded outlet essentially acts as a safety net. If an electrical charge doesn't run correctly, it could travel outside the intended circuit and into other materials near the receptacle — including an unlucky person.
With a grounded outlet, the risk of a faulty electricity flow is much lower. Rather than channeling into nearby materials, excess energy will flow safely to the ground wire.
Are Ungrounded Outlets Dangerous
Unfortunately, ungrounded outlets dramatically increase the risk of damage to both your family and your home. Such damage can include:
- Electrical fires: An electricity overload may cause sparks or a charge that connects to nearby materials, both of which may lead to dangerous electrical fires.
- Electric shock: Plugging things into an ungrounded outlet poses a higher risk of electric shock to the user.
- Faulty wiring: Some older homes have both grounded and ungrounded outlets. In many cases, this is an indication of poor wiring, which could lead to other electrical issues in the future.
How To Upgrade Your Outlets
States like Washington require homeowners to follow electrical safety guidelines, and this means swapping ungrounded outlets for grounded ones. The best — and safest — way to upgrade your home's electricity for both performance and safety is to turn to a professional like the ones at Fischer Electric.