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Convert Two-Prong Electrical Outlets to Three-Prong

  • Transcript

    LESLIE: Nancy in New Mexico is calling in with an electrical question. What can we do for you?

    NANCY: I was wondering – I’m considering buying a home and the plugs throughout everywhere in the house – except for the laundry room which was apparently added on, remodeled, whatever – the rest of the house has only two-prong plugs.

    TOM: Right.

    NANCY: Do you have to pull off the sheetrock and completely rewire in order to convert those to three-prong?

    TOM: Well, I mean you may not need three-prong outlets. You can certainly use an adapter. I mean a two-prong outlet is a grounded outlet. It’s not quite as modern as a three-prong but there is actually a trick of the trade where, in areas that you’re concerned – like, for example, in the bathroom or the kitchen – you can actually add a ground fault circuit interrupter, which is a three-prong type of an outlet that has a ground fault built into it that will turn off if someone is receiving a shock. It’s possible to wire that into the existing outlets.

    If it’s done correctly, what it’ll do is it’ll turn off the outlet if there’s a diversion occurring to a ground source, so it has the same effect. Even though it’s not a three-prong system, it basically has the same effect as it. Does that make sense?

    NANCY: OK. So it could be done easier and cheaper than I was thinking.

    LESLIE: Right. I mean you don’t have to tear out the walls. Generally, you want to add this ground fault circuit interrupter, that type of outlet, anywhere where it could possibly become in contact with water; so, like Tom said, in the bathroom, on the backsplash in the kitchen. You know, sometimes people put them on the outside since, generally, if you’re plugging in holiday lights or something and rain, et cetera. So it can be done without tearing apart everything.

    TOM: Does this house have a basement?

    NANCY: No basement.

    TOM: Does it have an attic where you can access across the ceiling area?

    NANCY: It’s a pitched roof but, otherwise, no. I’m in the southwest and they don’t believe in attics or basements.

    TOM: Yeah, you don’t have much room to get any wiring in there, so you’re going to have to do the best you can with what you have to work with.

    NANCY: OK. Alright. Well, I appreciate your taking my call.

    TOM: You’re welcome, Nancy. Thanks so much for calling us at 1-888-MONEY-PIT.

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