Home > Building & Decoration > Is it safe if there are 3 wires black white bare copper at your breaker panel but only 2 wires at the wall socket outlet

Is it safe if there are 3 wires black white bare copper at your breaker panel but only 2 wires at the wall socket outlet

Answer for USA, Canada and countries running a 60 Hz power supply service.

As you asked this question here you really should call a licensed electrician to advise you what to do to make your household wiring safe.

Some appliances, especially older ones, don’t have a ground wire. Also, a lot of wiring circuits in older houses were installed without using a ground wire to each socket outlet. They just ran a hot and a neutral wire. The neutral wire is grounded at the breaker panel.

On the breaker panel the 3rd wire – colored green or just bare – is the Ground wire. It is there to protect circuits – different to the one you are looking at – which need to have a ground wire as well as a neutral. On such circuits, in case of a fault condition in the appliances connected to them, a short circuit is sent to ground so that the circuit breakers on the hot wires should then trip to break the power supply to such circuits and stop a house fire or someone getting killed by electricity.

This is not a full answer to your question. You still have to think about which types of appliances – having plugs with only 2 prongs on their flexible cords – are still quite safe to use and which types are definitely not safe to use with that type of socket outlet – and in that situation, what should be done to make them safe?


As always, if you are in doubt about what to do, the best advice anyone should give you is to call a licensed electrician to advise what work is needed.

Before you do any work yourself,
on electrical circuits, equipment or appliances,
always use a test meter to ensure the circuit is, in fact, de-energized.


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