How Electricians Replace a Two Prong Outlet with a Three
Live in an older home with 2-prong outlets? Chances are you’re running out of outlet real estate for appliances and electronics. Here’s how an electrician can fix this problem for you!
The 3-Prong Access vs Affordable Solution Conundrum
There abundant reasons homeowners shy away from rewiring their homes, and though this option offers the safer solution, it may not be the most feasible one. There are ways your electrician can upgrade your outlets to 3-prong without rewiring or grounding for convenience, however there are risks. 2-prong outlets have no ground, without which the risk of electrocution and appliance damage is substantial. Simply adding an outlet with an additional prong will give added appliance access, but it will not alleviate these serious issues. Ground is necessary for safety.
Converting a 2-prong outlet to 3-prong GFCI (rather than a standard 3-prong) can decrease these risks, protecting against shock-injury, however a 3-prong GFCI will not provide the necessary ground protection that prevent sensitive electronics from becoming fried with voltage fluctuations that commonly occur within your home. Thinking of tossing on one of those surge protector strips? Think again. Those devices are only as good as the ground they are connected to, serving as an escape route for excess current. No ground = no surge protection – no matter how much you invest.
How Electricians Replace a 2-Prong Outlet with a Three Prong GFCI:
- Turn off power to the outlet being replaced at the service panel. Confirm the outlet is off with a circuit tester.
- Remove the cover plate screw and cover, then remove the two screws holding the old receptacle into the box.
- Pull out the old outlet, being very careful not to crack the old wiring, gently extending it to give yourself access to the wires.
- Disconnect the old outlet.
- Some old boxes are tight, so the new GFCI must be test-fitted by gently pushing the wires back and ensuring the new box will fit. (If it doesn’t, a new, larger electrical box will be needed – which is another tutorial entirely.)
- If the wires aren’t long enough, add a 4-6” extension (“pigtails”), using the appropriate wire for the circuit amperage: 15amp = 14 gauge; 20amp = 12 gauge. Pickup one white wire, one black from a local hardware store, along with the appropriate wire nuts to add the extensions.
- If the wires are long enough, look at the terminals on the GFCI, identifying the “Line” terminals. These are the only ones you will use. Connect the wires:
- Black wire to the brass “Line” terminal screw.
- White wire to the silver “Line” terminal screw.
- Gently fold the wires back in the box, pressing in the new outlet.
- Screw in the box to fasten.
- Test the outlet, pushing RESET to turn it on, and the TEST to shut it off. Then, re-attach the cover plate and add the NO GROUND sticker.
How to Ground a 2-Prong Outlet
Long-term, you’ll want to ground outlets to ensure safety. If your home is grounded, but some of your outlets are not, a trained, licensed electrician is still recommended to ensure the safest modifications. Grounding an outlet requires attaching a wire and running it all the way from your outlet to the grounding screw at the back of your electrical box, which is often a long, complicated endeavor, and exceedingly painful for the inexperienced – sometimes “shockingly” so.