Are Three-Prong-Adaptors Safe to Use in Older Homes? | Insight from Your Florence, SC Electrical Service Provider

Photo By Anna Kraynova at Shutterstock

Since 1969 all major appliances are required to have three-pronged plugs, but unfortunately only about 50% of the outlets in the US that year had three-slot outlets. If you have an older home or a family member with an older home in Florence, SC you are probably already aware of the problem.

When visiting an older family member plugging in a laptop or a power tool can suddenly become a larger struggle than it’s worth. While three-pronged plugs are the standard on almost all appliances, electronic devices, and power tools, most older homes have not caught up. Unless your relative is electrically savvy and has an electrical service on retainer, chances are only the major appliances like the fridge and dryer are on a grounded outlet.

Most people solve this problem by buying a three-prong-adapter at the hardware store instead of calling in a Florence, SC electrical service for help. On the surface, this seems like a simple solution, use the adapter as a midway point and instantly get power. However, these ‘cheater plugs’ are not always the safest method of solving the problem. Before using them to solve your power issue, you may want to carefully skim over these safety variables that can help you determine if they are worth the risk.

What Is the Amp Service to the Outlet in Question?

Before grabbing a three-pronged adapter and calling it a day, you need to look at what the amperage is on the wiring that powers the outlet. A lot of newer appliances and electronics require a higher amount of amps than older counterparts. Thus, the outlet might not even be appropriate for today’s high-tech items which is a larger issue that needs to be addressed by an electrical service long-term.

You never want to plug a high-amp item into a low-amp outlet because this can cause the wires to overheat. A lot of older two-slot outlets feature cloth-insulated wires that are not highly rated, when used inappropriately they can result in electrical shocks or even fire if used continually.

Figuring out the amp service on an outlet is not a difficult task. Simply take a trip over to the main breaker or fuse in your home and take a look at the numbers on the fuse. A lot of older homes in Florence, SCand vacation cottages only offer 30-amp service which is a large downgrade from the modern average of 100 amp service. Your electrical service can also determine this for you.

In most homes, the breaker or fuses will be labeled by room location which can help you determine where it is safe to use a three-prong-adaptor to plug in. 20-amp circuits can generally handle most devices outside of dryers, stoves, refrigerators or other major appliances. Your device should tell you how many amps it draws, or a simple internet search can if you are unsure. If your appliance requires more amps than the circuit provides, either switch rooms or call an electrical service to install stronger outlets long-term. Using a three-prong-adaptor even for a short period improperly can be a significant risk.

Find Out if the Electrical Box is Grounded

Outside of amp service, it is also important to figure out whether the electrical box itself is grounded. Your electrical service can answer this for you, but if you are a bit savvy you can also look for yourself. Generally, the center screw in a two-slot outlet will be grounded. Most three-pronged adaptors have a screw tab that will come into direct contact with this center screw. The center screw itself is grounded which will make the three-pronged adaptor safe to use on a short-term basis.

However, if you have reason to believe that an outlet is not grounded then you should not use an adaptor in it both short-term and long-term. If you are unsure and have access to a multimeter then you can test the outlet for yourself. Most hardware stores sell them and you can simply insert the prong into the slot to find out whether the ground wire lights up or not. If you don’t think the outlets are grounded, then it is probably a better idea to call an electrical service in Florence, SC to help resolve the issue.

Consider Updating the Electrical Service in Your Home

Modern technology is not going to change anytime soon, so there is no point in continuing to fight with two-slot outlets when your electronics demand the security of three-pronged outlets. Every time you misuse an outlet you not only risk injury to yourself, but also to your devices. It is much cheaper to call an electrical service to ground a few outlets then it is to replace your laptop, phone, or major kitchen appliances.

Most electrical services have a lot of experience converting outlets and are well-versed in the issues associated with older homes. While they are in your home, you may ask for a quick electrical inspection to ensure that grounding issues are not the only issues you have to be cautious about. Depending on when a home was built, the actual wiring and installation may now be updated and posing a risk to your family or loved ones.

It is also possible that old, outdated electrical wiring could cause an issue with your home owner’s insurance if a fire or injury is the result of improper wiring. The use of a three-pronged adapter can void the warranty or the home owner’s insurance policy that you purchased for protection. Therefore, it is always cheaper to call the electrical professional at Mister Sparky of Florence, SC to assess the condition of your two slot outlets to determine if further action should be taken to protect your home and family.