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How to Fix an Open Ground Outlet Safely

How to Fix an Open Ground Outlet Safely

Sometimes, our homes present us with a project that isn’t best to ignore.

An open ground outlet is not exception since obviously it concerns electricity and in itself, is there to keep us and our homes more safe.

If you need a fix for an outlet that isn’t grounded, don’t worry I’ve got everything you need to know below to understand what it means and how to best get these outlets in working order.

What is Grounding?

To understand what an open ground outlet means, we need to first understand what grounding means in electrical terms.

Going back to basics, the electricity that a person uses in their house relies on a residential wiring system that provides electrons a pathway to flow, with the use of metal circuit wires.

However, a fault in the wiring system can lead to a short circuit, and here’s where electrical grounding comes into play.

The grounding system provides a backup pathway to guide the current through an alternative route that leads it back to the ground.

It connects all electronic systems, devices, outlets, and metallic enclosures in your house to the ground.

What is an Open Ground Outlet?

Coming back to open ground outlets – what exactly is it?

An open ground outlet refers to a three-pronged outlet that isn’t connected to the house’s electrical grounding system.

This can occur when a two-pronged outlet is upgraded to a three-prong outlet without adding the required grounding wire to the electrical circuit.

It can also be caused by a break in the grounding connection such as a broken wire.

The danger of an ungrounded outlet is that when the wiring system of a house gets disturbed (because of a short, for example), the active electricity has no safe place to be discharged.

A grounded outlet would divert the electricity back to the panel and through the grounding rod to safely dispel it.

damage from ungrounded outlet

As a result, an ungrounded outlet can damage your electrical appliances, or worse, electrocute someone or spark an electrical fire.

Open ground outlets are thus a risk to property as well as human life.

So, how can you safely check for an open ground outlet?

How to Check for an Open Ground Outlet

If you suspect you have an open ground outlet in your home, it’s best to contact a reputable electrician who can diagnose the problem and professionally solve it.

However, if you want to locate the open ground yourself, you can always use an outlet testing tool.

Whenever I do electrical work, I always wear electrical protective gear such as insulating gloves to protect my hands, no matter how trivial the job may seem to be.

It’s always better to be safe than sorry!

Once you’re geared up, mark all the electrical outlets in your house and unplug appliances from the outlets that you need to test.

Plug the outlet testing tool into the outlet, ensuring that it’s securely attached.

The lights on the tool will indicate the outlet’s status.

tool to test outlet for ground

Generally, if the rightmost and middle lights light up, this means that the outlet is properly grounded.

If only the middle light lights up, you have an open ground.

While it’s not a crime to have open ground outlets, the National Electrical Code requires that your equipment is grounded.

An open ground could also affect your insurance or make it difficult to sell your home.

Local building departments will generally have codes that enforce equipment grounds on every outlet, especially when you plan on building a new structure, remodeling your house, or building a new house.

Pick up a Ground Fault Receptacle Tester if you don’t have one – BUY HERE. Every homeowner should have one!

How to Fix an Open Ground Outlet

outlet wiring with copper ground

Once you’ve found the open ground outlet, the next step is to fix it.

However, if you feel you lack the expertise, it’s always better to contact a professional electrician to do the job for you.

While wearing your protective gear, turn off the circuit that the outlet is connected to – this step is very important!

Once the power is switched off, remove the outlet from the wall so you can better inspect the grounding wire and other wiring connections.

It’s possible that your house already has a grounding wire in every outlet, and this one just came loose.

In this case, you can easily connect the grounding wire from the metal box to the green screw of the outlet.

tighten green screw on outlet

In some cases, the metal boxes where the wires are stored are grounded by an electrical conduit, and no grounding wire is present.

In this scenario, you can connect the ground wire to the box with a grounding screw.

However, in the case of older homes that used to have 2-pronged, ungrounded outlets that were upgraded, there is a chance the grounding wire is not present.

In this case, the only way to ground the outlet is by connecting a grounding wire from the problem outlet to the electrical panel and subsequently to the ground.

This process is quite labor-intensive and it is strongly recommended to leave it to professional electricians.

Another possible solution is to install a ground fault circuit interrupter (GFCI) receptacle in the outlet.

GFCI wiring provides for a mini circuit breaker that can quickly shut off electric power in the event of a ground-fault.

While this will protect you from getting shocked, it will prevent your appliances from getting damaged by an electric surge.

Additionally, if a GFCI outlet has stopped working, then it may be helping to thwart a more seriously issue on that circuit or the internal wiring.

FAQs

What Does Open Ground Mean on Outlet Tester?

ground tester light

Buy this tool here

An outlet tester is a device that is plugged into an outlet to test if it’s properly wired. It has different light indicators to show you the outlet’s status.

When the outlet tester’s middle light lights up, it indicates the outlet is an open ground.

This means that the outlet is not connected to the house’s grounding system and will not be able to divert electricity in case of a short circuit.

Will Open Ground Outlet Work?

An open ground outlet will function normally but puts you at the risk of electrical hazards like fire and shock.

If you detect an open ground outlet in your house, the safest thing to do is to call a professional electrician to inspect the outlet and, if needed, connect it to the  grounding system.

Is An Open Ground Safe?

Statistically speaking, the chances of someone getting injured by an open ground outlet isn’t high, but it’s not zero either. Of course, electrical grounding is still super important.

There is also a chance that an open ground may harm your appliances, or in the worst-case scenario, cause a house fire.

According to the National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI), electrical injuries lead to almost 1,000 deaths every year in the US. About 400 of these deaths are related to injuries caused by high voltage currents, such as burns.

Additionally, there are about 30,000 shock incidents every year.

While common and not usually serious, some incidents can lead to cardiac arrest and death.

Summary

An open ground outlet can pose dangers not just to your electrical appliances, but to the people who live in and visit your home as well.

If you suspect you have an open ground outlet, safely inspecting it with an outlet tester is the first step in ensuring your safety and well-being.

If you have any hesitations about fixing an open ground outlet yourself, the best option would be to call a professional electrician – they’ll know the best course of action to take.

I hope this article was helpful in shedding light about open ground outlets and what you can do to ensure your home’s and family’s safety!

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