An electrical outlet is the sort of thing that’s easy to take for granted. You plug devices and appliances into it for quick access to electricity and you go about the rest of your day. That is until you have a problem with that outlet. Then you suddenly find yourself without convenient power where and when you need it. Not to mention the very real fire risk that comes with a damaged or out-of-date electrical outlet.
Older homes and buildings are faced with even greater electrical safety challenges when it comes to outdated electrical outlets. Some still have two-prong outlets and wiring from decades ago when electrical safety codes were still in their infancy.
The Risks Of Outdated Electrical Outlets
There are a lot of risks that come with continuing to use outdated electrical outlets. Especially if you have an older home with severely outdated knob and tube wiring connected to two-prong outlets. If this sounds like your home or place of business you should consider the following risks associated with not having three-prong electrical outlets.
Total Lack Of Sufficient Grounding
Two prong outlets have a neutral and a hot wire without any sort of ground wire. You see, ground wires play a major role in preventing electrical faults and surges that can cause fires, short circuits, shocks, and even possible electrocution. Not to mention reducing the risk of an electrical fault damaging a high-value appliance or device.
They do this by providing an outlet for excess energy with a surge protection element. Anytime a surge or electrical fault occurs in a grounded circuit, the energy makes its way to your electrical panel through a ground wire. This in turn serves to overload and trip the connected circuit breakers, which effectively turns off the circuit to prevent potential damage.
The ground disperses the excess charge harmlessly into the surrounding earth. Hence the term “Ground.”
With a basic two-prong outlet there isn’t any sort of ground or surge protection in the circuit. When a surge or electrical fault occurs that excess charge has to be sent somewhere. This can damage an appliance, and device, burn out wires or even cause damage to a fuse box or circuit breaker panel. Not to mention posing a serious fire risk.
Failure To Meet Modern Electrical Safety Codes
Of course, with all the inherent dangers of overload and fire risk, it’s no wonder why two-prong electrical circuits don’t meet modern electrical and fire safety codes. This can be a major factor with the cost of home owner’s insurance premiums, as well as the real risk of an electrical fire caused by outdated outlets and wiring voiding certain homeowner insurance claims. It can also be a liability issue in rental properties and multi-family residential properties.
Two-Prong Outlets Hurt Your Home’s Resale Value
It might not seem like it at first glance, but a home with outdated two-prong outlets can suffer a 5 to 15% decrease in the resale value. Not to mention it is likely to fail an electrical inspection if one is called for in the real estate process. By upgrading your home to 3 prong outlets, connected to modern-day wiring, you raise your asking price, as well as increasing the chances of getting a higher offer. Not to mention that some prospective buyers will likely include a contingency in their offer stating that all two-prong electrical outlets need to be upgraded to three-prong outlets in order for the underwriters to approve the sale.
Two-Prong Outlets Deliver Insufficient Amperage
Most of the homes that were built before 1965 were equipped with fuse panels or “Fuse Boxes” that contained 30 or 60 amp fuses. This was sufficient for the low electrical demand of American homes at that time. Unfortunately, a fuse with 30 amps can only support 120-volt wiring. This is woefully inadequate for today’s electrical needs. It’s also worth noting that outdated electrical panels with 60 amps also tended to be problematic as they still can’t handle modern electrical system requirements, despite having the availability to support up to a 240-volt wire.
In terms of modern-day electrical demand homes with outdated 30 amp and 60 amp fuse panels with two-prong outlets end up blowing fuses more frequently. Not only is this inconvenient, but fuses cost much more than flipping a modern-day circuit breaker and are harder to find.
Compatibility With Grounded Extension Cords & Appliances
A lot of high-value appliances and modern-day extension cords have three prongs, which include a ground wire built right into them. If you only have a two-prong electrical outlet you won’t be able to connect the appliance or the extension cord without dangerously removing the third prong for the ground. Not only can this cause the appliance to malfunction, but it can also increase the fire risk.
Frequently Asked Questions
What Is A GFCI Outlet?
The acronym GFCI stands for “Ground Fault Circuit Interrupter.” This is the type of outlet you find in the bathrooms, kitchen, and laundry rooms of most modern homes. There is essentially a tiny circuit breaker built into the outlet itself. If water or a power surge affects the outlet it automatically “Trips” the tiny internal circuit to prevent shorts, electrical faults, electrocution, or fire.
How Much Does It Cost To Upgrade From Two Prong To Three Prong Outlets?
Assuming you have a grounded circuit already in place, the cost to replace a single two-prong outlet with an updated modern three-prong outlet costs around $25 to $50. If you don’t already have a grounded circuit, it could increase the total cost by as much as $1,000 to $2,000.
Maintaining an older building or a historic home does pose a few challenges. Though one that you shouldn’t debate about is updating the electrical system to modern-day electrical standards. Most three-prong electrical outlets will fit in the same receptacle as a two-prong to both preserve the look of a historic home, while still meeting important fire safety and electrical codes. Even if you don’t have a historic home upgrading from two prongs to three-prong outlets will likely save you money on the resale value of the home as well as decreased home owner’s insurance premiums.