Risks of Ungrounded Vs. Grounded Electrical Outlets

At Orange Electric, our top priority when performing any residential or commercial electrical service or installation will always be safety. Electrical repairs and installations involve dealing with a volatile and potentially dangerous element if not handled correctly, and the results here can be highly risky and also costly.

Not only do we take great care with several safety areas when working on any area of your home or business, we can also provide expertise to help you out with the areas you deal with on a daily basis. One common issue in this world is dealing with ungrounded electrical outlets – what are grounded versus ungrounded outlets, what are the risks of the latter, and how can you go about replacing them?

Basic Configuration

Many people have heard of grounded and ungrounded outlets, though they may know them by a different name: Three-prong and two-prong. Have you ever noticed these two configuration types and wondered what the purpose was for the third, rounded opening was at the bottom of three-pronged outlets?

These are called grounded outlets, and it’s that bottom opening that makes the difference. This hole is connected to what’s known as a grounding wire, and it has some specific purposes we’ll get into below. In addition, be aware that this third prong also increases electrical capacity and improves other non-safety areas as well.

Purpose of Grounding Wire

Grounding wires are primarily in place to protect the outlet and surrounding area in case of an overload or power surge. If a transient charge (the technical term for an overload) happens to pass through that outlet, the grounding wire is there to redirect the charge into itself, or “to ground.” The outlet is able to send the electricity harmlessly away without it presenting any safety hazard or damaging other wires.

Risks of Ungrounded Outlets

Ungrounded outlets, then, are those that only contain two prongs sitting across from each other. These outlets were the standard for many years, but in the 1960s and 1970s, they began being phased out for grounded outlets that were both safer and better for electrical capacity.

The risk of an ungrounded outlet is simple: Without the grounding wire present, overloads or other surges are free to follow their current wherever it takes them. This might be the appliance you’re plugging into the wall, or it could be your hand as you go to plug said appliance in. In some cases, the current may even make its way into the air in your home or building and trigger a fire.

Replacing Ungrounded Outlets

For the reasons we listed above, ungrounded outlets are generally not considered up to code. We strongly recommend replacing them or upgrading them as soon as possible – a process that’s very simple as long as the wiring in your building isn’t worn down or too old. We can replace any ungrounded outlets with grounded options quickly and for a more affordable price than you may have anticipated.

For more on grounded and ungrounded outlets, or to learn about any of our electrical services, speak to the electricians at Orange Electric today.