San Luis Obispo electrician answers the question ‘Why does my electric dryer need a different plug?’

What do you do when your dryer has a three-prong plug and your new house has four slots in the outlet? It’s actually a pretty quick fix according to the San Luis Obispo electricians at Electricraft, Inc. A trip to the hardware store for the right cord with the four-prong plug, remove the old cord, replace it with the new cord and all usually runs well. To be sure the dryer is going to work, some people call a certified electrician to switch out the cords. There’s rarely a need to buy a new dryer.

Why are the plugs different?

Gas dryers and electric dryers have different electricity needs. A gas dryer works by burning natural gas or propane to dry the clothes, so its electricity needs are satisfied by a normal 120-volt current outlet. An electric dryer generates the necessary heat, along with running everything else from electricity and requires 240-volt current, meaning the outlet needs to accommodate 240-volts.

What’s the difference between a three-prong and four-prong plug?

Three-prong plugs and outlets were the standard until the 1990s when the National Electric Code (NEC) and local code standards began mandating that dryer cords and outlets must be fitted with a separate grounding pathway.

Before 2000, the three-prong plug (and outlet) that powered electric dryers had two 120-volt wires and a third wire serving the functions of both a grounding and neutral pathway. Each of the three wires connected to one of the three prongs on the older prong. The outlet was designed accordingly. The NEC adopted during the 1990s required that the grounding wire be a separate, or fourth, wire, connecting to a dedicated fourth prong on the plug and requiring a four-slot outlet.

The new code requirement came about because it was discovered that the presence of water in laundry areas created a potential for electrical shock unless a separate and dedicated ground pathway was present. The four-slot outlet is a safety feature. The San Luis Obispo electricians are expert at upgrading wiring and outlets to match the best safety practices.

Houses built after the new code was enacted were required to have a four-prong 240-volt outlet. Some homes may still have the old three-prong configuration. It is a definite safety feature to hire an electrician to rewire the laundry room for the four-slot and four-prong configuration.

Is it against the law to use a three-prong dryer outlet?

The new code requirement did not require homeowners to stop using the older three-prong dryers, nor did it require homeowners to convert to the newer four-slot cords and outlets. Many homes built before 2000 still have the three-slot outlets. If you buy a new dryer it’s most likely going to come with the four-prong plug giving you two options:

  • Install a three-prong cord and plug on the new dryer.
  • Install an upgraded four-slot outlet.

The cost to upgrade is minimal and updated electrical wiring is always a plus for safety and for property values.

The certified and licensed electricians at San Luis Obispo’s Electricraft, Inc. have been meeting the electrical needs of California’s Central Coast since 1984. From single-family residences to large commercial and public works projects and everything in-between, Electricraft can inspect, test, troubleshoot, install new electrical systems, upgrade existing systems and install solar systems.

No job is too small or too big. Call Electricraft to repair a single light fixture or to design and install a multiple building electrical and solar system. Electricraft is available 24/7 for emergencies and is proud to:

  • Assure professional on time, qualify service at a fair price.
  • Complete the work right the first time.
  • Complete projects on time and within budget.

Call today.