01 Mar. 21

Are Three Prong Adapters Safe?

If you live in an older home, you are sure to have discovered that there are no three-prong outlets in the house. That is not uncommon, but it is a problem because all major appliances have required three-prong plugs since 1969. So your only fast and cheap option has been to add a three-prong adapter to each three-prong plug that you need to plug into your older outlets. But over the years, you have started to wonder if adding adapters is a real solution or are you creating a substantial risk of an electrical fire in your home. There are a few things to consider when you evaluate your plugs and your home’s electrical system.

The Technical Side Of The Question

The big question is, can your home’s wiring safely supply the power that your appliance or tool will demand. So you need to consider the amps required by the item. It is a general given that most older homes with only two-slot outlets used cloth-insulated wiring. And that will not accommodate the high electrical demand appliances and tools used in most of today’s homes. You will find that the device works, but you are overloading the wires, which will become hot and can start a fire. Look at the breakers or fuses in your electrical panel to determine the amps available on each circuit. And then decide if the three-prong plugged device is low amp enough to plug in with an adapter.

Is The Electrical Box Grounded?

If the electrical box is grounded, the wire will be attached to the center screw in older two-slot outlets, attach the adapter to the same screw via a grounding tab. If you can ground the adapter to the outlet, it is generally considered safe for short-term use. But again, this only applies if you have checked the amperage requirement for the device, and it is within the limits of your wiring and breakers.

An Insurance Concern

It is important to note that the use of three-prong adapters is not always a wise choice, even if you have met the above criteria. Check your homeowners or renters insurance policy to see if three-prong adapters are called out. Many insurance companies will not cover fire damage or injuries resulting from appliances plugged into a three-prong adapter. And the same could be true for the warranty on any electrical items like appliances, HVAC equipment, and electronics.

Signs You Need An Electrical Upgrade

You know that having only two-prong outlets is a sign that your home’s electrical system is older. But there are also other indications that the electrical system is not meeting your appliances and electronics’ needs. If you see the lights dim or flicker when an appliance turns on, you should be calling (703) 463-9866 for an evaluation from the pros at Circuit Doctor. Other signs of electrical overload hazards include:

  • Outlets that have burn damage or melted
  • Outlets that have a burnt toast odor
  • Outlets that are warm to the touch
  • Outlets that spark when you plug in an item
  • Outlets that emit a crackling sound

All of these are strong indications that there are serious and very dangerous electrical overloads in your home. Left unaddressed, any of these outdated outlets or the wiring in your home to overheat and start a fire. Never risk the safety of your loved ones or your home. Call (703) 463-9866 for an electrical evaluation from the Circuit Doctor pros. We will determine if you need an electrical upgrade, new three-pronged outlet installations, or other repairs to keep your electrical system functioning correctly and safely.