Are Ungrounded Outlets Really Dangerous?

As local Indianapolis electricians, safety is a thing we talk about on our blog pretty often. Why? Well, for starters, electricity is, by nature, volatile. Sure, it’s been harnessed, but any amount of misuse can result in fires, property loss, and even fatalities. And secondly, misuse of electricity isn’t that uncommon. In fact, there is one very common problem we’re going to discuss today that you might just have lurking around your property: ungrounded electrical outlets.

What is an ungrounded outlet?

ungrounded outletsFor the most part, there are two types of electrical outlets: those with two slots, and those with two slots and a hole. In a standard home setup with safe ungrounded outlets, you’ll see these “three-prong configuration.” It’s that small hole on the bottom that is most important, because that’s what makes an outlet a “grounded” one.

The two vertical slots represent a “hot” wire and a “neutral” wire. The ground wire (the hole at the bottom) ties into the neutral vertical slot. When an outlet is grounded, it means that if something goes wrong with that outlet (say, an overload or current runs through the wrong channel), the grounding wire on the appliance would send that charge “to ground” or into the grounding wire. Without the ground wire, electricity would be allowed to travel wherever it could find a conductor (say, nearby drapes or even an unlucky person). However, thanks to the grounded outlet, this transient charge is sent harmlessly away with no troubles at all.

What are the dangers of an ungrounded outlet?

So how dangerous are we talking here? Should you stay awake at night worrying about stray electricity coming out from under your bed to get you? No. But should you be concerned enough to upgrade the outlets immediately? You bet. Not only are ungrounded electrical outlets not up to code, but they pose a few other major hazards.

Health hazards

Ungrounded outlets present a very real risk of shock to people who are using electronics and appliances plugged into the ungrounded outlet. This is especially important if the outlets are in rooms with running water, such as bathrooms and kitchens. (In this case, the outlets should be GFCI as well.)

Electrical fires

Without the ground present, any error that occurs with the outlet can allow electricity to travel outside the proper channel (called arcing), sparks, and electrical charges that can travel onto and ignite nearby material, such as carpet, furniture, or curtains. Typically, something homeowners want to avoid.

Property loss 

Ungrounded outlets can cause appliances and electrical equipment plugged into them to short out. Enough of this, and your favorite appliance or tool is now virtually useless.

Indication of other issues

In homes built before the 1960s, ungrounded outlets are very common. Also common during those decades were some other outdated electrical practices, such as knob-and-tube wiring. So, when you find ungrounded outlets, it is possible there are other electrical issues lurking behind the drywall as well.

Upgrading ungrounded electrical outlets in Indianapolis? Call White’s Electrical.

From an electrician’s perspective, upgrading ungrounded outlets is a very simple process, provided the wiring in your home is in good shape. It can often be done in a short amount of time and typically doesn’t rank high on a cost scale. Making electrical upgrades like this one can not only help get your home up to code and prevent electrical fire hazards, but it can increase your home’s resale value as well. Win-win-win!

For help identifying potential electrical issues, upgrading ungrounded outlets, or for a full electrical inspection, call the licensed electricians at White’s Electrical. We’ll get the job done quickly, efficiently, and most of all, safely. Send us a message or give us a call today to schedule an appointment!

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