ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel

Changing a Two Prong Outlet To 3 Prong GFCI Outlet without Electrocuting Yourself

Updated on February 3, 2013
Marye Audet profile image

Marye Audet-White is an internationally known food writer, food editor for Texas Living, cookbook author, and food blogger.


Although home electrical repair can be daunting, most homeowners can change an old two prong outlet to a three prong version.

At one time most home appliances from hair dryers to vacuums had only two prongs. Today we have computers, large televisions, and more electrical appliances than you can shake a stick at; most have three prongs. This can be pretty annoying when you live in an older home that has not been updated to accept three prong (grounded) plugs.

There are adapters that exist and are not too hard to use. Many may be familiar with these adapters, most are gray in color with a small metal tab that is attached to the outlet cover with the existing outlet screw. This provides a grounding point for the extra slot, also known as a 'grounding pin'. While use of adapters is one option, it does not provide a permanent solution to the two prong outlet. Adapters can break if moved often and do not provide a safe alternative if there are small children in a home.

What is a homeowner to do? The best option is to completely change the outlet to a permanent three prong grounded outlet. This is not a huge nor very difficult project. As with any electrical project, care must be used at all times to prevent any injury. If you are at all in doubt, please use a professional to install the new outlets.

Change A 2 Prong Outlet To 3 Prong GFCI Outlet

The first step to changing the outlet is to find out if the original outlet has a grounding path or not. A tester is available at most hardware stores- the neon voltage tester. Basically, the tester is two insulated wires that run into a pen-like plastic tube with a very small neon light at the tip. If the light is activated the path is grounded. If not, the path is not grounded or has been interrupted by rust or other problems.

If the light does not activate:

You can replace the outlet with what is called a ground fault circuit interrupter (GFCI) outlet. These can be purchased at many hardware stores, including mass merchandisers like Home Depot or Lowe's. The GFCI outlet can be placed in any outlet except one with one of the very old wiring systems that have bare wires extruding from tubes. If you find this type of system, call an electrician. The outlet comes with everything needed to install. The power to the outlet must be turned off at the power box/panel before installing.

This is accomplished by having a lamp plugged into the outlet and a friend to let you know when the lamp goes off on it's own...or by plugging a radio into the outlet and turned up loud enough to hear while at the power panel, if you are alone.

  • Once the power supply is cut off, remove the cover to the outlet, then pull it forward.
  • Remove the two wires from the back of the outlet, taking note of which wire is attached where. Most are black and white.
  • Attach the wires to the GFCI outlet, push into the wall.
  • Place the cover on and screw in.
  • Once finished place a sticker on the outlet- one should come in the box- that says 'No Equipment Ground'.

Some areas do not allow the GFCI outlets, though the National Electric Code does allow them to be installed. Check local building codes before installing any GFCI outlets.

Always Test the Installation

Whenever you do a DIY electrical project always test it to make sure there are no problems:

  • Switch on the breaker
  • Press the test button on the receptacle.
  • Plug in a radio or lamp. Turn it on. It should go on. If it it doesn't try pushing the reset button.
  • Press the Test switch on the receptacle. The power should go off.
  • Press the reset button and the power should come back on.

It is important to test a GFCI outlet once a month for the greatest safety benefits.


    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    • ShootersCenter profile image


      6 years ago from Florida

      Most two prong outlets were installed before wiring had grounds in the romex, changing it over to a three prong without changing the wire isn't safe and is against the NEC(national electric code). Before making these changes I'd suggest consulting a local electrical contractor.

    • Sandy Jay profile image

      Sandy Jay 

      6 years ago from Dallas, TX

      I wish everyone would take the time t o check theur GFCI outlets to make sure they work. They save lives.

    • shanel profile image


      8 years ago from Seattle

      You did a great job giving step by step installation directions. Nice Hub.

    • Jessica Horn profile image

      Jessica Horn 

      9 years ago

      This issue comes up all the time when inspectors inspect older houses. The new buyer is told it's a safety issue, but the seller never wants to fix it, and things like that can cause deals to fall apart!

      Thanks for providing a solution that will help prevent a deal from falling apart!

    • Artemus Gordon profile image

      Artemus Gordon 

      9 years ago

      My house is full of the old two prong so I use those adaptors on them all for my electronics. I was just a little hesitant to mess around with electrical stuff since I am no too handy.

    • J Burgraff profile image

      J Burgraff 

      9 years ago

      I have a bunch of old outlets that I need to change. Thank you for this hub!

    • GiftedGrandma profile image


      9 years ago from USA

      My dear hubby is really good at doing things like this :O)


    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at:

    Show Details
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the or domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)