Grounding of electrical receptacles (which some people refer to as outlets) is an important electrical safety feature that has been required in new construction since 1962, as it minimizes the risk of electric shock and protects electrical equipment from damage.
Modern, grounded 120-volt receptacles in the United States have a small, round ground slot centered below two vertical hot and neutral slots, and it provides an alternate path for electricity that may stray from an appliance. Older homes often have un-grounded, two-slot receptacles that are outdated and potentially dangerous.
Some Ocean Isle homeowners attempt to perform dangerous modifications to un-grounded receptacles themselves, and A+ Heating, Cooling and Electrical urges you to call us and let professionals take care of this risky task for you.
Practices Which Are Not Safe
Some people think the use of an adapter, also known as a “cheater plug” all of a sudden makes things safe. Adapters permit the un-grounded operation of appliances designed for grounded operation. These are a cheaper alternative to replacing un-grounded receptacles, but are less safe than properly grounding the connected appliance. This is not a recommended practice.
Another common risk some homeowners take and thereby lower the electrical safety of their home is by replacing a two-slot receptacle with a three-slot receptacle without re-wiring the electrical system so a path to ground is provided to the receptacle. While this may serve as a seemingly proper receptacle for three-pronged appliances, this “upgrade” is potentially more dangerous than the use of an adapter because the receptacle will appear to be grounded and future owners might never be aware their system is not grounded. If a building still uses knob-and-tube wiring, it is likely that any three-slot receptacles are un-grounded. To be sure, InterNACHI inspectors may test suspicious receptacles for grounding.
Removal of the ground pin from an appliance is also something we see from time to time. This common procedure not only prevents grounding but also bypasses the appliance’s polarizing feature, since a de-pinned plug can be inserted into the receptacle upside-down.
Upgrading Un-grounded Electrical Receptacles
- Install three-slot receptacles and wire them so that they’re correctly grounded.
- Install ground-fault circuit interrupters (GFCIs). These can be installed upstream or at the receptacle itself. GFCIs are an accepted replacement because they will protect against electric shocks even in the absence of grounding, but they may not protect the powered appliance. Also, GFCI-protected un-grounded receptacles may not work effectively with surge protectors. Un-grounded GFCI-protected receptacles should be identified with labels that come with the new receptacles that state: “No Equipment Ground.”
- Replace three-slot receptacles with two-slot receptacles. Two-slot receptacles correctly represent that the system is un-grounded, lessening the chance they will be used improperly.
Homeowners and non-qualified professionals should never attempt to modify a building’s electrical components. Misguided attempts to ground receptacles to a metallic water line or ground rod may be dangerous. Inspectors at A+ Heating, Cooling and Electrical, always recommend that our qualified electricians evaluate electrical receptacles and wiring in your home.
Meeting Modern Electrical Safety Standards
Call A+ Heating, Cooling & Electrical in Ocean Isle NC today at 910-754-2200, or contact us now and someone will contact you as quickly as possible to answer any questions you may have about your Ocean Isle home’s electrical system.