Are Ungrounded Outlets Dangerous?

An Electrician fixing an outlet

The Ins and Outs of Ungrounded Outlets: What to Do if Your Home Outlets Aren’t Grounded

Are you buying a house with ungrounded outlets, or does your current home have an older two-prong system that you want to update? Indianapolis was founded over 200 years ago, meaning there are plenty of historic homes without modern grounded outlets. We’ve put together this guide for recognizing ungrounded outlets, the danger they may pose to your home, and what you can do about it.

Grounded vs. Ungrounded Outlets: What’s the Difference?

Grounding is a safety feature that emerged in the early 1960s. By 1962 the National Electrical Code (NEC) required grounding for all new constructions. What are the differences between grounded and ungrounded outlets?

Understanding Grounded Outlets

By appearance, grounded outlets have three-prong openings: two thin slots and a half-moon slot. The third opening connects to a ground wire, designed to handle excess electricity when an outlet is overloaded by lightning, electrical surges, or any other unexpected contact with high energy. Grounded outlets:

  • Are the safety standard since 1962 and are required in all modern construction in the US.

  • Look like a face with two long rectangular eyes and a half-moon mouth.

  • Increase safety by creating a path for extra electricity to run harmlessly back to the ground.


What Is an Ungrounded Outlet?

Put simply, an ungrounded outlet doesn’t have a ground wire. It only has hot and neutral wires connecting to two-prong slots. Because there aren’t safety features to redirect excess electricity, ungrounded outlets are no longer installed in new homes. However, a home with two-prong outlets can still pass a safety inspection, as long as there are no three-prong plates installed that make your electrical system look like it’s grounded when it isn’t. Ungrounded outlets:

  • Were the electrical standard before 1962.

  • Contain two slit-like slots for the hot and neutral wires.

  • Can be hidden behind a three-pronged plate, which isn’t up to code and could cause your home to fail an electrical safety inspection.

  • Increase risk of fire and shock hazards.


Are Ungrounded Outlets Dangerous?

Although they may not seem immediately dangerous, ungrounded outlets open the door to several electrical hazards that could cause harm to you or your property:

  • Shock hazard. Because excess electricity has nowhere to flow safely in the event of a power surge, it passes into the surfaces around the outlet. The next time you reach to plug in an appliance, it could jolt through you, causing severe electrical shock.

  • Damage to appliances. Extra current can also flood into your appliances or electrical devices, short-circuiting them and causing permanent damage.

  • Fire hazard. Without the grounding wire to safely channel the electricity, extra electric flow can arc and spark flame onto nearby material, such as the carpet, curtains, or insulation.


How to Protect Your Home from Ungrounded Outlets

What are your options when your home has ungrounded outlets? While you’re not required to update two-prong outlets in your home, making changes can help increase your home’s electrical safety. Here are some things to know about adding protection to your outlets:

  • Surge protectors are no substitute for grounding. Unfortunately, you can’t fix your wiring issue by adding surge protection for ungrounded outlets. Surge protectors protect devices from electrical faults by directing excess electricity safely through the ground wire. Because an ungrounded outlet has nowhere for the surge protector to send the electricity, installing it doesn’t increase the safety of your outlet.

  • Can GFCI replace ungrounded outlets? Ground fault circuit interrupters (GFCIs) monitor the electrical flow and cut power within a fraction of a second if the flow fluctuates too much. Connecting a GFCI breaker can protect the whole circuit from electrical faults, or you can replace ungrounded outlets with GFCIs to protect the individual outlets. However, even these safety features must include a sticker disclaimer stating there is “no equipment ground.”

  • Replacing ungrounded outlets. It may sound like a massive project, but adding a ground wire is the most effective option to keep your home safe from electrical faults. Hire the pros to rewire your house and ensure everything is up to code.


Grounding Ungrounded Outlets in Indianapolis

While you have a few options for dealing with ungrounded outlets, there is no way to ground them completely without rewiring. If you have outlets that need to be rewired, the technicians at Mister Sparky of Indianapolis can quickly and efficiently update your home wiring. To set up service, call (317) 342-0959 or book an appointment online.