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How Safe Is an Ungrounded Outlet?

Posted on: January 14, 2016

In some of our previous posts, you’ve likely seen our experts mention the presence of “ungrounded” outlets in homes and buildings. But what exactly makes an ungrounded outlet such a negative? Are they dangerous? Our certified electricians come to you today with answers to the real important questions regarding ungrounded outlets!

The DC electricians at Kolb Electric can help you tackle any electrical problems, large or small!

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

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What Qualifies As an Ungrounded Outlet?

Ungrounded outlets are easily identified by simply taking a look at the face of the outlet (where you plug things in). On nearly all modern homes, there should be three holes. Two are the vertical slits, and one roundish one located underneath the pair of vertical ones. That’s a grounded outlet, which have been required by electrical safety standards for all structures since the mid-1960s.

Ungrounded outlets lack the third hole, the roundish one on the lower portion where the, somewhat obviously, ground plug goes.

Why Are Grounded Outlets Important?

To understand the why, you kind of have to understand what a grounded outlet does. The two vertical slots represent both 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. Should anything go awry with your outlet, such as a short, the renegade electricity simply travels safely along the ground wire back to the panel. Without the ground wire, that electricity can channel into materials, such as fabrics located close to the outlet, or a very unlucky person.

Is an Ungrounded Outlet Dangerous?

Is it dangerous in that it might jump out and bite you? No. Is it dangerous in that it dramatically increases personal and property risk? Yes, absolutely. Ungrounded outlets increase the chance of:

  • Electrical fire. Without the ground present, errors that occur with your outlet may cause arcing, sparks and electrical charge that can spawn fire along walls, or on nearby furniture and fixtures.
  • Health hazard. Ungrounded outlets present a very real risk of shock to persons operating the electronics and appliances plugged into the outlet.
  • Property loss. Ungrounded outlets can short out equipement, rendering your favorite appliances and tools worthless.
  • Messy wiring. In many older homes, it’s not uncommon to find a mixture of grounded and ungrounded outlets. This indicates piecemeal electrical work has been done in the past, and can be a clear sign of serious electrical problems, or can 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 that has them hasn’t “burned down yet”, etc. Well, that’s just 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!

Safe Outlet Updating and Wiring with Kolb

So to conclude, are ungrounded outlets dangerous? Yes, they represent a very real potential risk. Worried that you may have ungrounded outlets in your home or business? Contact the certified master electricians at Kolb Electric today! We’ve been bringing our consumers the very best in electrical advice and service for years, and your complete satisfaction and safety are always our top priority!

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