What Are Ungrounded Outlets & Why Are They Dangerous?

Posted on: April 24, 2018

Safety is a topic you’ll see electricians covering on a very regular basis. Why is this? Well for one, electricity is, by its nature, volatile. We’ve harnessed it, sure. But nearly any amount of misuse can result in dangers, fires that cause property loss, and even potentially fatalities. And for two, this misuse we’re talking about is unfortunately pretty darn common. It’s one of those very common complications we would like to talk to you about today: ungrounded electrical outlets.

Not sure what an ungrounded outlet is? Don’t worry, because the experts at Hoffman Electrical are here to bring you the basics right now.

What Are Ungrounded Outlets?

You’ve probably seen lots of ungrounded outlets and never really known it or thought about it. In a standard home setup with currently safe outlets you’ll see a “three prong configuration.” Two of these are longer openings and run up and down, while the last creates an almost circle under the top two. It’s that small one on the bottom that is important, because that is what makes the outlet a “grounded” one.

If anything were to go wrong with that outlet, say a transient charge (overload), the grounding wire on the appliance would send that charge “to ground” or into the grounding wire. Here it is simply shrugged off by the outlet and sent harmlessly away, no troubles at all.

In the case of an ungrounded outlet, or a “two prong configuration” that grounding wire is not present, and thus an overload would have nowhere to go except the closest current it could follow, that being the appliance itself, a nearby organic object (your hand), or into the atmosphere in your home—which can result in a fire.

Ungrounded outlets were the standard until the mid 60s and you could find them in nearly any home. But since they didn’t handle the growing electrical needs of homeowners, and they represented a dangerous hazard, they were phased out in favor of the now standard grounded outlets. And in case you were wondering, ungrounded outlets are not considered up to code. That’s why we strongly recommend updating or upgrading outlets on your current home, or a new home you’re looking to purchase.

Is it Hard to Replace Ungrounded Outlets?

From the perspective of an electrician it’s actually very simple, provided the wiring in your home is in good shape. You can expect it to be a project that needs to be handled by a professional electrician, since it requires direct contact with potentially dangerous wiring, but the process can be handled and done with in a surprisingly short amount of time, and it doesn’t typically rank high on a cost scale.

Outlet Upgrades & NEC Code Corrections in Tampa, FL

Do you have ungrounded outlets in your home, or is it time for an NEC code inspection? If so, call on the specialists at Hoffman Electrical! We’ve been helping Tampa and Clearwater homeowners stay safely plugged in for generations, so contact us online today for your consultation!