A reader asked the question, and there was a short answer. Yes, surge protectors can be connected without grounding.
Although surge protectors protect you from power disturbances, they do nothing to protect your equipment if its power supply is compromised. So, surge protectors should always be plugged into a correctly wired wall outlet with a ground connection.
When you start adding more wiring, things can get confusing, especially in older buildings. For example, modern outlets with three wires (black, white, and bare or green) are 3-prong outlets with a ground. However, if the outlet has only two prongs, there is no ground connection.
Thus, it would be best to constantly plug surge protectors into outlets with a proper 3-prong ground connection. However, you can plug a surge protector into a 2-prong outlet as long as it does not use the ground connection to work.
What are 2 and 3 prong outlets? A 2-prong outlet is an older style of electrical outlet that has only two prongs. The neutral and hot wires were “pigtailed” together inside the box to create the outlet. Pigtails allow installers to use a 2-prong outlet cover instead of a 3-prong outlet cover.
On the other hand, 3-prong outlets use a separate ground connection, and the neutral and hot wires are not attached.
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Tips For Using Surge Protectors Without Ground
You will not have a ground connection if you have a 2-prong outlet. So surge protectors based on grounding will not function with a 2-prong outlet.
Nevertheless, surge protectors that don’t need ground must be plugged into a 3-prong outlet. Other methods are used to suppress power disturbances, such as clamping voltage spikes between the hot and neutral connections.
Also, you have two options for a surge protector with no groundline:
- Buy a 3-prong to the 2-prong adapter and plug your surge protector into an outlet that has no ground. Because this adapter breaks the connection between neutral and ground.
- Buy an uninterruptible power supply (or UPS) that includes surge protection. These devices usually have an internal battery backup so that they can ride out a power surge.
The other options are:
It is the best option, but it is also the most expensive. The right way to do it is to dig up your power cables and rewire them with three wires.
Therefore, you will need to remove all of your existing outlets and switch covers and replace them with 3-prong outlets and 3-prong covers. You’ll also need to rewire all your light switches with a ground connection because switches without a ground won’t work.
Outlets with three prongs
The second option is to replace your two-prong outlets. You will need to purchase new 3-prong outlet covers and then replace all your 2-prong outlets manually. This option has the disadvantage of being easy to break the ground connection inside a 2-prong outlet.
TIP: You can use GFCI outlets for both 2-prong and 3-prong outlets in some cases. Nevertheless, these outlets don’t have a ground connection, so they aren’t a good option for permanent installations.
Grounding a surge protector is as easy as plugging it into a correctly wired 3-prong outlet. If there’s no ground connection, you can use a ground lifter to create the needed ground connection.
Surge protectors work on ungrounded outlets, but they aren’t as efficient at protecting your equipment. If you’re not sure about the wiring in your outlet box, it’s best to plug the surge protector into a correctly wired 3-prong outlet.
In the case of surge protectors that have the words “no ground” printed on them or their packaging, this means that the surge protector does not depend on the outlet’s ground connection to function. However, as mentioned above, there are situations when “no ground” protection is desirable.
Surge and ground are separate concepts in modern electronics. Surge protectors absorb excess power that enters the building, while grounding is designed to protect the building from harmful power surges.
Grounding is not the same as using a power strip with surge protection, which is two completely different things. While it’s OK to plug a surge protector into a grounded outlet, it doesn’t increase the surge protector’s ability to absorb electricity.
All modern outlets in the United States are grounded when adequately wired. Therefore, you can safely use ungrounded outlets when you add pigtails to wire connections inside the box. However, these outlets aren’t as safe if there is no ground connection (and only two prongs on the outlet).
You can convert an ungrounded plug by removing the ground pin. However, you need to understand the risks involved. When you terminate a ground pin from an electrical plug, you risk creating a shock or fire hazard.
In conclusion, surge protectors don’t need a ground to work. The only difference is whether a surge protector is grounded or not.
Palash is an entrepreneur in the tech industry and the author of the Smart Home Protector. As a tech entrepreneur & reviewer of a home safety gadget store, his job helps customers remain on top of what’s coming next in our rapidly changing world.