Replacing Non-Grounding Type Receptacles

Nongrounding & Grounding Type Receptacle

Many of today’s electrical and electronic devices are equipped with plugs that have 3 prongs. They’re intended for use with 3 prong grounding type receptacles. People having older electrical systems without an equipment grounding conductor only have the 2 prong non-grounding type.

There are some simple solutions to replace the non-grounding type that won’t introduce potential hazards. Cutting off the ground prong of the plug or only swapping out the receptacle with a grounding receptacle are not one them.

What You Can Do

Ground the Receptacle

You can ground the receptacle by installing a grounding conductor from the receptacle to any of the following;

  • A grounding electrode that is part of the grounding electrode system
  • The grounding electrode conductor that interconnects the electrode system
  • The neutral conductor inside of the service equipment of grounded systems
  • The grounding terminal in the service equipment for ungrounded systems

This is likely not the simplest method for the average person. This requires knowledge of the system and how to create a low impedance path back to the source. Making a connection that relies on the earth as the path is prohibited.

 GFCI Protected Receptacles

You can also replace a non-grounding type receptacles with a GFCI receptacle. This is the easiest way to go. When you do this you have to put the label on the cover plate that says “No Equipment Ground”. These labels come with the device. The receptacle itself doesn’t need to be the GFCI type.

Regular grounding type receptacles can be GFCI protected from the load side of a GFCI receptacle or a GFCI circuit breaker. Two labels need to be placed on the receptacle when you do this. They are “GFCI Protected” and No Equipment Ground”. Again they will come with the device.

If you just want to change the device color or replace an existing 2 prong and don’t need a 3 prong. You can simply change the non-grounding receptacle with another non-grounding receptacle.

What you can’t do is replace a non-grounding type with a grounding type without an equipment ground or ground fault protection.

Receptacle Interchangability

Graphic from Mike Holt Enterprises on EC&M’s site showing acceptable replacements of non-grounding type receptacles

If you are still unsure about how to replace them contact a licensed electrician. This is not a major upgrade and definitely not worth getting hurt, killed, or burning down your house over.

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