How Safe is an Ungrounded Outlet?

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–If you’ve dealt with electric experts in the past, you may have heard them mention “ungrounded” outlets in homes and buildings, most likely in a negative context. But what exactly makes an ungrounded outlet such a negative? Are they dangerous? Our expert San Luis Obispo electricians at Electricraft today bring you answers to the important questions regarding ungrounded outlets.
What qualifies as an ungrounded outlet?

Ungrounded outlets can easily be identified simply by taking a look at the face of the outlet. On almost all modern homes, there will be three holes; two vertical slits and one roundish slit located between and beneath the vertical pair. This is a grounded outlet, which has been required by electrical safety standards for all structures since the mid 60s. An ungrounded outlet lacks the third, round-shaped hole on the lower portion of the face which is where the ground plug is meant to go.
So what’s so important about grounded outlets?

To understand the importance of a grounded outlet, you have to first understand what it does. The vertical slots represent a “hot” and “neutral” wire. The ground wire in grounded outlet ties into the neutral vertical slot. Why so redundant, one might ask. The ground acts as a failsafe; should any problems arise within the outlet, such as a shortage, the renegade electricity travels safely through the ground wire back to the panel; without it, that electricity can be channeled into materials close to the outlet, or a very unlucky person, causing possible fires and electrocution.
So is an ungrounded outlet dangerous?

Not necessarily in the sense that one might think. It’s not like it’s going to release toxic gas into the home, however, it does drastically increase the risk of personal and property damage. Some problems that can arise from ungrounded outlets include electrical fires, electric shocks or property loss.

Without the ground present, errors occurring within the outlet can cause sparks and electrical charges that, if they come into contact with nearby furniture or fabrics, can very well cause a house fire. Not only that, but these outlets pose a serious threat of shock to people operating electronics and appliances plugged into the outlet, and can sometimes even short out equipment and appliances plugged into them.

Throughout the years there have been few arguments that ungrounded outlets aren’t as dangerous as they’re perceived to be, after all, they did work fine in the past. To that, we say leave them in the past. Sure, at one point they were used fine, but knowing that grounded outlets are safer, why risk it?

Electricraft, Inc.
205 South Street
San Luis Obispo, CA 93401
(805) 544-8224