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Are Ungrounded Outlets Safe?

In some of our posts, you’ve likely seen our experts mention “ungrounded” outlets in homes and buildings. But what makes an ungrounded outlet such a negative? Are they dangerous? Our certified electricians are here with answers to your questions about ungrounded outlets.

underground wiring

If you have ungrounded outlets and need an outlet upgrade, contact us today!

What Is an Ungrounded Outlet?

Ungrounded outlets can be identified by looking at the face of the outlet (where you plug things in).  Grounded outlets have been required by electrical safety standards for all structures since the mid-1960s. Modern North American, grounded 120-volt receptacles, also referred to as outlets, have a small, round ground slot centered below two vertical hot and neutral slots. On nearly all modern homes, there should be three holes. A grounded outlet provides an alternate path for electricity that may stray from the appliance.

Ungrounded outlets lack the third hole, the roundish one on the lower portion where the ground plug goes. If you have ungrounded receptacles or outlets in your home, you will need the ungrounded open outlets fixed.

Why Are Grounded Outlets Important?

To understand why, you have to understand what a grounded outlet does. The two vertical slots represent a “hot” wire and a “neutral” wire. The ground wire in a grounded outlet ties into the neutral vertical slot.

Why the redundancy? Well, it acts like a failsafe. If anything goes wrong with your outlet, such as a short, the renegade electricity travels safely along the ground wire back to the panel. Without the ground wire, that electricity can channel into materials, such as fabrics located near the outlet, or an unlucky person.

Is an Ungrounded Outlet Dangerous For My Home?

Ungrounded outlets dramatically increase personal and property risk. Ungrounded outlets increase the chance of:

  • Electrical fire. Without the ground present, problems with your outlet may cause arcing, sparks, and an electrical charge that can spawn fire along walls or on nearby furniture and fixtures.
  • Health hazard. Ungrounded outlets pose the risk of shock to people operating the electronics and appliances plugged into the outlet.
  • Property loss. Ungrounded outlets can short out equipment, rendering your favorite appliances and tools worthless.
  • Messy wiring. In many older homes, it’s common to find a mixture of grounded and ungrounded outlets. This indicates piecemeal electrical work has been done and can be a clear sign of serious electrical problems or cause many in the future.

We’ve encountered a few arguments over the years about the safety of ungrounded outlets. Like how they were used just fine in the past, or how the home with ungrounded outlets hasn’t “burned down yet,” etc. Well, that’s the thing. Yet.

We haven’t been hit by a car, but that doesn’t mean we should go walking down the center of a busy highway at midnight. Grounded outlets became a standard in electrical code for a reason. They prevent possible problems that homes consistently encountered in the past. It’s all about preparedness and prevention.


Electrical outlet

Update Your Ungrounded Outlets At Your DC or Virginia Home With Kolb Electric

So, are ungrounded outlets dangerous? Yes, they represent a real risk. Worried you may have ungrounded outlets in your home or business?

Contact the certified master electricians at Kolb Electric today and learn more about our outlet wiring services offered throughout the DC, Maryland, and Northern Virginia areas! 

We’ve been bringing our consumers the best in electrical advice and service for years, and your complete satisfaction and safety are always our top priority.

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