In many of the old houses built before 1965 you can only find 2-prong wall outlets, while most of the modern appliances have a 3-prong plug, meaning they need a proper grounding to be used safely. So what is electrical grounding and how to ground a 2-prong outlet?
In electrical engineering, ground or earth is the reference point in an electrical circuit from which voltages are measured, a common return path for electric current, or a direct physical connection to the earth. Exposed conductive parts of electrical equipment are connected to ground, so that failures of internal insulation which create dangerous voltages on the parts which could be a shock hazard will trigger protective mechanisms in the circuit such as fuses or circuit breakers which turn off the power.
Can you remove the third prong (ground prong) on a 3-prong plug?
NO! You cannot do that. If there’s something wrong with your appliance, the grounding prong creates a new, low-resistance grounding path down to the main electrical panel. This trips the breaker, stopping the electrical current and preventing damage to your appliance, a house fire, or an electrical shock.
Install 3-Prong to 2-Prong Adapters
These plug adapters are often called cheater plugs, but not all of them can achieve a proper grounding. You need to look for those with a grounding tab that’s connected to the metal contacts inside its ground receptacle.
Before you install the 3-prong to 2-prong adapters, you need an inexpensive pigtail electrical tester to make sure your outlet junction box is grounded. With the circuit energized, touch one end of the tester to the hot wire (the smaller slot on the outlet) and one end of the tester to the middle screw. If the tester lights up, the box is grounded. If you get no light, then there is no ground and this method won’t work for you.
Here’s how to properly install a cheater plug to a grounded 2-prong outlet:
- Unscrew the middle screw on the outlet plate between the two outlets.
- Plug in the adapter without your device.
- Replace the screw, threading it through the little tab on the adapter.
- Plug in your device to the adapter.
Install GFCI Outlets
If your 2-prong wall outlet is not grounded, all is not lost. You can swap out the standard outlet to a GFCI outlet that provides protection from shocks and surges.
A GFCI will “sense” the difference in the amount of electricity flowing into the circuit to that flowing out, even in amounts of current as small as 4 or 5 milliamps. The GFCI reacts quickly (less than one-tenth of a second) to trip or shut off the circuit.
GFCI outlets are more expensive than cheater plugs, but compared to retrofitting your entire wiring system to 3-prong outlets, they save much more.
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