Can you tell the difference between a grounded and ungrounded outlet?

Look for the smiley face!
If you notice the "mouth" is missing from your outlets or you have 2 holes instead of 3, you have an "ungrounded" outlet...

Homes constructed prior to 1960 tend to have problems with ungrounded outlets. The actual 2 conductor wiring is typically the real problem and not the actual outlet itself. Originally when an electrician wired a home, he used a two conductor wire which was the proper method of that time. Sometime later, more 'modern' electricians replaced the original two prong outlets with three prong outlets which are still used today. Unfortunately it can be very dangerous without an actual third conductor to connect to that third prong of the outlet.

Safe Solution:

There are only a few ways to safely deal with this issue. According to current NEC code standards, a grounding type receptacle (three prong) shall be connected to a functioning equipment grounding conductor. If no such conductor exists, or is not functional then a three prong cannot be used. (NEC 2008 406.3 D1,3a,b,c)

There are other replacements which satisfy these requirements, but nothing can actively ground a receptical without running a new wire. Installing a GFCI receptical to each outlet location will satisfy the requirements and add a level of safety but, again, nothing will actually ground an outlet without running a new wire.

It would be acceptable to run an individual conductor from each outlet directly to the main panel where the actual feed circuit originates. This method is both impractical and very costly. The best option is to rewire each outlet with a new grounded circuit, and rewire each outlet from there on. This is the only 100 percent guarantee that the outlets are not only grounded, but up to current code and safety standards.

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About Generation 3 Electric:

Generation 3 Electric has been servicing the electrical needs of the Philadelphia metro area for three generations. We were voted Philadelphia Magazine's 2012 Best Electrician. Our trained electricians understand any issues you have with the electric in your Philly home. Our technicians specialize in repairing, updating and servicing your homes electrical wiring and lighting for indoor and outdoor residential buildings. They are trained to always respect your home and be mindful of your time. Your 100% satisfaction is our goal. Generation 3 Electric is fully licensed and insured. You will never get a machine when calling our office; a friendly voice will always be there to assist you. Gen3 is also a Mitsubishi Electric Diamond Contractor in Philadelphia. To learn more, contact us today.