The Anatomy of an Outlet

Have you ever considered the make-up of your home’s electrical outlets? You know, the places you plug cords into to make your household appliances and favorite devices come to life? Bet you’re giving them some thought now. Take a closer look, does the outlet nearest you have two- or three-prongs? (Made you look!)

As you stare at the outlet, if you see two vertical slots, you’re looking at a polarized outlet. On the left is the slightly larger “neutral” slot, and on the right, the “hot” slot. If your outlet has the neutral and hot slots, plus around “ground” hole smack dab in the middle (also considered “neutral”) you’ve got a three-pronged outlet. Two-pronged outlets are typically found inside older homes. Side note: Outlets are actually called “receptacles.”

Grounding is a safety system providing a path for electrical currents to flow to as a safe destination should a circuit encounter a problem. In the case of the three-pronged receptacle, there’s double the safety protection. Without those two neutral openings, the risk for shock or electrocution escalates. Thankfully, the vast majority of home appliances and power tools have three-pronged cords, furthering the reach of grounding safety.

In addition to grounding receptacles, there are areas of our homes where an added level of protection against shock and electrocution is necessary. Think kitchens, bathrooms, basements, garages, and outdoor patios. It’s in these places where ground-fault circuit-interrupter (GFCI) circuit breakers are recommended. GFCIs are installed in your home’s electrical service panel and safeguard the entire circuit, as well as the wiring and appliances and devices connected to the circuit. You’ve seen these before, they’re outfitted with test and reset buttons.

If you’re staring down a polarized receptacle, you are encouraged to contact a professional to begin the transition from two-prongs to three. The switch from two to three will ground your receptacles, safeguarding your home, appliances, and devices. MZ Electric is your go-to for all your home’s electrical needs. Our technicians are fully licensed and have a wide range of experience in the electrical industry. We offer extremely competitive rates; discounts for teachers, military and seniors, and referral coupons.