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How to Convert Electrical Outlets from Two-Prong to Three-Prong

  • Transcript

    LESLIE: Bruce in North Carolina has an electrical question. What can we do for you?

    BRUCE: Well, I’ve got a question. I’ve got a home that was built in the early 60s and it’s got two-wire wiring in it.

    TOM: OK.

    BRUCE: You know, with neutral and hot?

    TOM: Yep.

    BRUCE: And one of the problems is that all the duplex outlets are old, which means they’ve only got two prongs in it.

    TOM: Yep.

    BRUCE: And what I’d like to do is to change those into an outlet that I can plug a three-prong into.

    TOM: Right.

    BRUCE. So my question is what would be the problem with tying the neutral and ground together at the outlet.

    TOM: Not a good idea because it’s not going to ground properly. There is one trick of the trade but I don’t recommend that an amateur do it and that is that you can actually install a ground fault circuit interrupter into an outlet like that and it won’t actually be grounded but it’ll be ground fault protected so if something shorts, the outlet itself would turn off. The best thing to do is to run a new three-wire line across that circuit.

    BRUCE: Well, it’s the whole house. (chuckles)

    TOM: Well, you know, the thing is that, for the most part, appliances can work fine on the two outlets if you use the appropriate adapter, but you have an older electrical system and it’s not a good idea to replace that with sort of a dummy ground system because you’re not getting any protection. It’s nice and convenient to be able to plug into three-prong plugs but it’s not really protected; it’s not connected to the ground in the way that it should be and that could be dangerous.

    Bruce, if that’s – you know, if you want to take this any further, you really need to have an electrician run the ground wire and I don’t think you have to do it throughout the whole house; just to the circuits that are most important.

    BRUCE: Yeah.

    TOM: Bruce, thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.

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