Q. What can I do about ungrounded, converted outlets?

Q. Hey Mark, What can I do about two prong outlets that have been converted to three prong outlets but are ungrounded? I was told this is a shock hazard, and I don’t want to rewire my entire home.

Rob R.

A. Hey Rob,

Thanks for the question. This particular problem can be handled a couple of different ways. And each of these solutions should be addressed by a qualified electrical professional. (There may be other issues involved such as knob and tube wiring or solid aluminum wiring, which make this issue more complex.)

You already mentioned the best way to solve this problem in your question. That is, rewiring the circuits in question to use a 3-conductor cable (hot, neutral, & ground). This would be considered an upgrade for your electrical system, and would probably be a positive selling point when you are ready to place the home on the market.

Another option would be to simply replace the 3-prong ungrounded receptacles with the original type, 2-prong receptacles (AKA Polarized two-slot). One problem with this solution is that you are still living with ungrounded circuits, and may not be able to use certain appliances requiring a 3 prong outlet. (Important Note: The 2-prong to 3-prong adapters found at hardware stores do not provide a ground for your appliance unless they are grounded another way. They simply allow you to plug in a 3-prong plug into a 2-slot receptacle. The appliance may work, but is unprotected. If there is a short, whoever is touching the appliance may become the “ground” which could result in a serious electrical shock. This is the current condition of your receptacles.)

There is a third option, which could be a good “compromise” solution. National code states that these outlets can be replaced with GFCI (Ground Fault Circuit Interrupter) receptacles. The receptacles are still not grounded but are supposed to protect against electrocution. This may prove to be a less expensive repair. Note you may want to check your local code to determine that this can be done in your area. Building codes differ from location to location. If you choose this option, each of these outlets should also be labeled “GFCI protected / NO equipment ground”.

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