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Two Prong vs Three Prong Outlets


Did you know that 2019 marks 4 Star Electric’s 30th anniversary? That’s a lot of years serving our community here in Calgary. One of our favourite parts of the job over our time here is learning about our trade and sharing that with our valued customers. This week we are going to take a look at the difference between two prong and three prong outlets. It may be a small distinction, but it’s an important one!

Round and Round it Goes

If you live in an older home, chances are that you’ve seen them; vintage outlets. They are super easy to spot, characterized by a slight yellow colour due to age and only two slots for electrical plugs. One of the vertical slots is connected to the “hot” wire and the other is connected to the “neutral” wire. Electricity flows in a current from the hot wire, through the electrical device, then to the neutral wire.

Two Or Three Prongs

Outlets nowadays have a third slot, this is connected to the “ground” wire. This wire doesn’t carry any current unless something goes wrong. In these cases, the third wire will direct the current into the ground, saving the user from electrical shock. This is why 2-3 prong plug adapters do not affect the normal operation of an electrical device. That third wire isn’t required for it to work.

Complete the Circuit

However, using an adapter will nullify the important safety feature that the third prong provides. In the instance of a malfunction, the current still needs a place to go. If you touch the conductive bits of the device, your body will complete the circuit. This means that the electrical current will flow through you until the breakers have been tripped. You can see why this is such an unsavory hazard. Low powered devices can often get away with only two prongs. They do this by being doubly insulated, thus reducing the risk of shock. However, these can still pose a threat. That’s why homeowners with older homes should ensure that their two prong outlets either be avoided or converted to a safer device.

If your home has two prong outlets instead of three prong ones, you may want to consider having certified electricians make the switch for you. Contact us for a consultation today!

Written by 4-Star Electric

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