A three-pronged outlet is always better than a two pronged outlet due to the fact it is grounded. This might seem like a simple operation to tackle, but in fact, there are a number of things you must consider since it involves a full change over on the wiring system.
Before you start any work, it would be a good idea to consider consulting a licensed electrician. They can check whether your fuse panel is adequately grounded or if there is need for concern. You can also use basic logic to determine whether your home is grounded or not. If all your outlets are two-pronged, then you can assume that your home is not grounded. If there is any situation where you three-pronged receptacles, there is a good chance your home is likely grounded, but again, consult a professional when necessary.
The best place to check for grounding evidence is checking high amperage appliances like the refrigerator or microwave (if it is not directly hard-wired into the electrical system).
The replacement process of a two-pronged outlet to a three-pronged outlet is as follows:
1. Turn off all the electricity - switch off the circuit breakers or the specific circuit breaker if you are working on certain areas first. Double check whether the current has been cut off by either using a meter or a lamp to check whether there is any flowing current. Under normal conditions, neither the meter nor the lamp should light up. After ensuring that the electricity is actually turned off, proceed to step two.
2. Unscrew the top plate of the panel - a majority of the outlet plates have only one screw at the center, and you can just use a screw driver to unscrew at the joint. Take caution as now the areas you will be getting into contain live wires, although there should be no power there.
3. Remove the outlet from the electrical box - Unscrew the outlet from the power box and identify whether there is a green wire or a bare copper wire attached to the mounting bracket. If none then there is no grounding in place. If there is, then you have a grounded outlet.
4. Start the replacement process - There are two sets of wires to deal with here: the neutral and the hot ones. The neutral wires connect through the long slot while the hot ones go through the shorter slot. Start with each set of wires at a time. If you pick neutral, then stick with it until everything is fixed and move on to the longer plate side until everything is screwed correctly.
5. Check for compatibility - The wires which come from the breaker panel should be connected to the mounting plate through the load point while the others that go to other outlets in the circuit should be connected through the line labeled connection.
6. Ground the outlets - If the building is grounded, then you just need to run a wire from the newly fixed outlet to the electrical box. The areas to connect and screw the wires from and to; are marked in green.
7. If the building is not grounded - Get the grounding wire from the main electrical panel at the far end corner and continue the wiring just as normal since now all the wires of the three prongs have been engaged.
Despite the resources or the costs involved it is always good to do the upgrade. It is actually a hazard to have a two-pronged wiring system these days. The majority of electrical items are using the grounded wiring system. Operating an electrical system is simply risky. If you have cause for concern or are uncomfortable doing this work yourself, give serious consideration to hiring a licensed electrician in Albany to get the job done correctly. While it might cost a little extra money, the peace of mind you will have knowing the work is correct is worth it in the long run.