Inspecting older homes the most common defect I find is bad electrical outlet upgrades. Usually the outlets are upgraded by homeowners or other non-qualified person to do electrical. The following is the verbiage I use in my report.
“At some time the electrical outlets have been upgraded from the original 2-prong outlets to modern 3-prong outlets without upgrading the wiring to the outlets. This presents an unsafe condition. The purpose of the third prong is grounding.”
Installing a 3-prong outlet on a 2 wire system is wrong and not up to any codes, but is happens in many older homes. The purpose of the ground is to provide an alternate path for the electrons to flow back to the main electrical panel. If there should be a short, the electrons do not have an alternate path back to the electrical panel without the grounding wire.
When your home has bad upgrades as a homeowner you have four choices:
- Upgrade the wiring to new grounded wire
- Install GFCI (ground fault) protection
- Install new 2-prong ungrounded outlets
- Know the 3-prong outlets are not grounded and use as a 2 prong outlet with no ground. This condition needs to be disclosed to anyone using the outlet. The 3-prong outlet will give a false sense of security about the outlet being grounded.
If you use non-grounded outlets I recommend using a good quality surge protector for sensitive electronics. ( Desk top computers, flat screen tv’s, ect..)