Everyone's encountered it at least once: the old house with totally ungrounded electrical outlets. At first this seems like more of an inconvenience than anything else because obviously, people lived in those old houses and used ungrounded appliances for decades without an apparent problem. But if you see one of those houses today, think twice about living there unless you're planning to update all of the wiring. That third prong, the ground, is among one of the best inventions for homeowners, renters, and anyone else using an electrical outlet.
This Is What a Ground Does
Electricity that runs through an outlet should run to an appliance and then back through the circuit. But that electricity can often surge or go off-course. The ground gives that electricity a safe, stable route away from you and your appliances. This prevents the appliance from overloading and protects you from electric shocks.
These Are the Risks You Face if Your Home Doesn't Have Grounded Outlets
No grounded outlets mean no way for that excess electricity to disperse peacefully. Instead, it can surge into the appliance and short it out, or it can cause a fire to start. Another problem is that, if you have appliances with a three-pronged plug, you can't use them unless you get adapters from a hardware store. (Do not cut off the ground prong!)
Those Outlets Near Water Had Better Be GFCIs
If the house's electrical system has never been updated to include grounded outlets, chances are the outlets near the sinks and shower won't have ground fault circuit interruptors. These GFCI outlets shut off power to appliances when it detects that electricity is deviating from its intended path. In other words, if water splashes onto an appliance and the electrical current starts to flow through that water, the outlet shuts down. That protects you from electrocution. In an older house, with no ground and no GFCIs, you would be at a great risk of injury if something went wrong.
That Older Wiring Often Means Inadequate Power
One more issue that isn't really dangerous but is certainly restrictive is that older wiring usually means that the power supply could be inadequate to at least some circuits. For example, if you have a 15-amp circuit in the bathroom, and you have a 1750-watt hair dryer, you'd be unable to use that hair dryer on that circuit at full power, and might not be able to use it at lower settings if those settings draw the full 1750 watts, or roughly 15-16 amps, of power. It would be too much for the circuit. And if you had no 20-amp circuits in your home, you'd be unable to use the hair dryer at all.
Rewiring the home will take care of all of these problems. A qualified electrician can install new, safe wiring, increase the power to each circuit, and add grounded outlets and GFCIs. For more information, talk with the professionals at PIRESELECTRIC.COM.