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Scherer Electric Blog

Are Three-Pronged Adapters Safe?


The standard for major electrical appliances since 1969 is to have three-pronged plugs. Soon after this standard was introduced, the household outlets started to change over to three-prongs. A three-pronged outlet is a grounded outlet. The third prong, the one below the “hot” and “neutral” slots, is the “ground.” The ground slot is there to protect a person from receiving an electrical shock from the metal casing of an appliance because the electricity from the hot wire side is sent into the ground in case there is excess. You’ll notice that some appliances still use two-prong plugs because they don’t have large metal cases in them that can create this problem.

This lengthy explanation about grounded outlets and three-pronged plugs is necessary to get to the big question, “Is it okay to use a three-pronged adapter?” The cheater plugs allow you to plug a three-pronged plug into a two-pronged outlet, which you wouldn’t be able to do otherwise. If you live in an older home with two-pronged outlets, you may have plenty of these cheater plugs around. Is this a good idea?

The Cheater Plug Basics

If you’ve used a cheater plug before, you’ll know that they work. The appliances plug into it and runs. But the cheater plug hasn’t made the outlet a grounded one. What it’s done is a basic rewiring to bypass the grounding. In other words, it’s a safety bypass. And if that sounds like it can be a problem, you are right.

The Problem

One of the issues with using a three-pronged adapter is that it can allow you to plug an appliance into a socket that isn’t rated for the appliance. An older home with two-prong outlets won’t have the same amp service as a modern home, and that won’t match with the appliance’s electrical demand. If you use a cheater plug to get around the voltage-mismatch, long-term use of the adapter can create a dangerous situation leading to shorts circuits and tripped breakers. We definitely don’t recommend plugging any major appliance (such as a refrigerator) into a cheater plug.

The Big-Picture Solution

If your home still has two-pronged outlets and you’ve been getting by with adapters, please stop this practice. Instead, arrange for an electrical upgrade for the house to put in grounded three-prong outlets. This job will also require putting in a new electrical panel to increase the amp service. This is all around great for your house. It makes it safer and makes it easier for you to use modern appliances without interruptions from tripped breakers.

To get started, call an Orchard Park, NY electrician who handles electrical upgrades for outlets and panels. Our electricians are experts with these upgrades, and we specialize in replacing faulty old Federal Pacific electrical panels, which many homes in the area have. We also perform extensive rewiring for homes and install GFCI and AFCI outlets, which are important safety devices that keep a household protected from electrical shocks. We have served the Buffalo-Niagara Falls Area since 1995.

Scherer Electric is Western New York’s Favorite Electrician! Schedule electrical upgrades with us today.

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