If you’re living in an older house with two-prong outlets, it’s probably time for an upgrade. Because two-prong outlets usually aren’t grounded, they can present significant safety risks such as electrocution and power surges. Switching to safer, three-prong outlets is a good way to protect yourself and your home.

In order to swap out two-prong outlets for modern three-prong ones, you’ll either need to install ground wiring or a ground-fault circuit interrupter (GFCI). Rewiring your home is always the best option, but in some cases, it may not be feasible. Below, we’ll review both options for replacing your two-prong outlets:

Grounding Your Outlets
The safest and best way to replace a two-prong outlet is by adding ground wire. Not only will ground wire protect you from electrocution risk, but it will also protect your electronics in the event of a power surge.  However, it’s important not to attempt to do this work yourself. You should always seek the help of a licensed electrician who can attach the ground wire to your electrical panel and run it to each outlet. Once your outlets are grounded, you can easily swap out your two-prong outlets with three-prong ones.

Replacing A Two-Pronged Outlet Without Ground Wiring
Rewiring your home can be expensive and time-consuming, and for some homeowners, it isn’t always feasible. You can still switch a two-prong outlet to a three-prong outlet by installing a ground-fault circuit interrupter (GFCI). Keep in mind, a GFCI will provide protection from electrocution, but it won’t protect your electronics from power surges. To swap out your two-pronged outlet with a GFCI, follow these steps:

  1. Ensure electricity to the two-prong outlet you want to replace is turned off from the breaker panel.
  2. Remove the cover and the two screws that attach the receptacle to the box and detach the wiring.
  3. Attach the new GFCI receptacle by connecting the black (hot) wire to the brass terminal and the white wire to the silver terminal. Simply use the line labels on the back of the receptacle. If your wires aren’t long enough, you might need a 4″ to 6″ wire extension. Note: some old boxes are tight, so make sure your GFCI fits. If not, you may need a larger box.
  4. Place the green screw through the hole in the rear of the box, and then connect one end of the 8-inch grounding wire to the screw. After it’s connected, make sure to tighten the screw.
  5. Secure the other end of the 8-inch grounding pigtail to the green grounding terminal on the three-prong or GFCI receptacle. Place your wires into the box and press in the new three-prong outlet, and fasten the screws into the box. The outlet can now be tested by pressing the RESET button. You can use a circuit tester to make sure the circuit is functioning properly.

At the end of the day, grounding your outlets is the safest and most effective way to upgrade your two-prong outlets. However, using a three-pronged GFCI is also an option if you don’t wish to rewire your home. In both cases, it’s usually a good idea to consult with a licensed electrician who can help you determine the best path forward.