You may have heard of ungrounded and grounded outlets without realizing what makes these two outlets different. Clearly, one is “grounded,” and one isn’t, but what does that mean? And more importantly, what does it mean for the effectiveness of your electrical outlets and protection from electrical dangers? If you are concerned about whether ungrounded or grounded outlets are best for specific locations or uses in your home, read on to learn the most important differences between these two electrical outlets.
The Different Appearances of Ungrounded and Grounded Outlets
You can quickly determine which outlet you have based on how they look. Grounded outlets contain three holes: two vertical slits and one roundish hole beneath the slits. Electrical safety standards have required the grounded outlet since the mid-1960s. Ungrounded outlets, then, lack the third roundish hole and only contain the two vertical slits for basic plugs.
What Does a Grounded Outlet Do?
So why does one outlet have that extra hole? The two vertical holes represent a “hot” wire and a “neutral” wire. The ground wire in a grounded outlet actually ties into the neutral vertical hole.
This may seem redundant, but that third hole is acting as a failsafe. If your outlet shorts or anything else happens, the renegade electricity is safely sent along the ground wire back to the panel. Without that ground wire, the electricity can travel into materials near the outlet or one very unlucky person.
The Dangers of an Ungrounded Outlet
Ungrounded outlets then present a greater risk of personal and property damage. When you rely on ungrounded outlets, you increase the risk of:
- Electrical fire: without the grounding component, outlet problems may cause arcing, sparks, or electric charges that spark fires along the walls or nearby furniture.
- Electric shocks: Ungrounded outlets can shock people operating any electronics or appliances plugged into the outlet.
- Property loss: These outlets can short out equipment, suddenly rendering your favorite appliances or tools worthless.
- Messy wiring: In older homes, it’s common to find a mixture of grounded and ungrounded outlets. This may indicate piecemeal electric work that could cause serious electrical problems in the future.
Even if the ungrounded outlets in your home have not caused you trouble yet, they still pose a greater risk than grounded outlets. If you want to ensure your safety, contact your TriStar electrician to upgrade to grounded outlets.
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