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Serving the South Puget Sound and Western Washington Areas Since 1976

Serving the South Puget Sound and Southwest Washington Areas Since 1976

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Sunset Air Blog

Three-Prong Converters and Updating Your Home’s Electrical System


You’re probably familiar with the “three-prong converter.” A house with old two-prong outlets won’t allow for standard three-prong plugs to connect. The solution? Pop over to the hardware store for a small converter that plugs into the outlet and then allows the three-pronged plug to fit. Done.

Except not really. Since the 1970s, major appliances are required to have three-prongs, and for good reason. It allows the appliances to work with homes that have grounded electrical outlets: that’s what a three-prong outlet is. A house with these outlets has been properly grounded. If your house is old enough that it still has two-prong outlets, we recommend you upgrade your electrical service rather than use converters, also known as “cheaters,” as a way around it.

A converter does not ground the outlet

If you use a converter to allow a three-pronged plug to go into an outlet, the outlet hasn’t become “grounded.” The outlet is acting the same. All the converter does is allow a three-pronged plug to fit into the outlet. It doesn’t alter the wiring—it’s a quick work-around, not a solution. 

A big question people have about using “cheaters” is if they’re safe. The issue is not so much if the converter is safe; it’s whether the outlet can handle the electrical demand of a more powerful appliance. That old two-prong outlet may have cloth-covered wiring that isn’t able to handle the voltage demand, and this could cause an electrical fire. So although a converter isn’t an automatic safety risk, we don’t advise a home rely on one. It’s better, both for immediate safety and long-term electrical convenience in a house to upgrade your electrical service.

Check on the amps for the electrical panel

The electrical panel is the place to start when considering the choices for upgrading service. The modern home should have at least 100 amp service, but older homes may have less than this. The electrical panel or fuse box will have the amp number on it. If the panel is rated below 100 amps, we recommend an upgrade—and don’t use those cheater plugs, since they pose a safety hazard in this situation.

Wiring, Panel, and Outlet Upgrades

We don’t want to get too deep into the weeds of the various electrical upgrades you may need, because it varies from house to house. This is where an electrician in Aberdeen, WA is the most valuable, since a licensed electrician can provide an electrical audit to your house that will explain exactly what services you need. We recommend calling us if you have low amp service, no grounded outlets, or your house is older than 1970—you’ll probably have a combination of all three.

Upgrading a home requires different jobs. Upgrading the panel, grounding the panel, and grounding the outlets are the basic steps. If the house has older wiring, such as aluminum wires, we’ll recommend rewiring. We also advise installing GFCI and AFCI outlets (the outlets with the buttons on them) in key places in the house to improve safety. Leave these services to us, and we’ll free you not only from three-prong converters, but many future electrical issues and even hazards.

Look to Sunset Air for innovative and creative solutions for your home. We offer 24/7 emergency service for any electrical problems you may have. 

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