A three-prong plug adapter, also known as a pigtail adapter, is used to connect a three-prong cord to an old-fashioned two-slot outlet. This little mechanism offers a simple solution to connect modern appliances and electronic systems into an older 2-prong electrical outlet. 

We get it, you have an appliance with a 3-prong connector, but your home only has two-slot electric outlets. This is a common story in most older homes.  Unfortunately, this extra convenience is offset by the increased risk to the safety of your family and your appliances. 

Why are Three-Prong plug adapters unsafe? 

Many homes were initially outfitted with 2-prong non-grounded outlets.  The outlets used today have a narrow “hot” slot, a wide “neutral” slot, and a roundish “ground” slot. The grounding system is a safety feature that helps protect you against electrical shock. The important thing is that 2-prong outlets lack a ground wire and don’t provide a safe way to lead electricity away from you if something goes wrong in the outlet, cord, or appliance. Without providing a secondary way for the electricity to return to ground, you risk electrocution or an electrical fire.

Should I change from two-prong to three-prong plug sockets?

Yes, rather than using an unsafe adapter, we would recommend you upgrade your electrical socket from two-prong to three-prongs. Even though the adapter enables modern appliances to work with outdated outlets, they are to be considered a temporary solution – not suitable for the long term. Moreover, two-prong outlets are not up to code. All new construction is required by code to have a true grounding system with three-prong outlets.

What if I plug three-prong adapters into a grounded outlet? 

A three-prong adapter on the grounded outlet is safe to use with modern appliances. As long as the adapter or outlet is outfitted with ground wire, there’s nothing to worry about. The ground wire sufficiently handles the amp load. However, for the best possible solution, we would recommend asking your local electrician. 

Can you upgrade a two-prong outlet into three?

Why stick with old-fashioned two-prong outlets when you can easily upgrade? In many ways, retrofitting a new three-prong outlet into an existing outlet box is the safest course of action.

You can call a professional electrician to upgrade your old socket into a 3-prong outlet and to add a ground wire. This will ensure the safety of your family and protect your modern electrical appliances. Best of all, it is a relatively simple procedure and doesn’t cost a fortune. If you are not ready to install a ground wire, you can replace the two-prong outlet with a GFCI. Ground fault circuit interrupt outlets will shut off the electrical current if it detects a surge in electricity.

Adding a ground wire or GFCI solution isn’t really a DIY job. Since there are several safety protocols to adhere to when working with electrical wiring, you should depend on an expert to ensure professional work. 

The verdict

We are not saying adapters are unproductive. If you are traveling abroad, you might need a dedicated adapter to charge your phone, laptop or to support personal appliances like a hairdryer. But overall, you should avoid using a three-prong adapter in any ungrounded outlet.