Using Three-Wire Cords on Modern Four-Wire Appliances

Electrical appliances have come a long way in the past few decades. Because they’re higher powered than they once were, today’s dryers, ranges and other larger home appliances require updated appliance wiring.

Nowadays, appliances require a four-wire cord and plug instead of the traditional three-wire configuration.
This post will cover everything you need to know about four-wire cords.

The difference between the two

As the name suggests, a four-wire cord has a fourth wire that acts as a grounding conductor. This grounding conductor is missing in the traditional configuration, which only contains two hot wires and one neutral one. The two hot wires provided 180 degrees out of phase from one another to handle the electrical load, and the neutral wire was the return pathway for any 120-volt loads.

In a four-wire configuration, the equipment-grounding conductor is attached to the metal frame and housing on the appliance. It’s responsible for carrying back any fault current on the metal during a short to ground condition. Four-wire configurations are much safer than three-wire ones and are now required under the National Electrical Code (NEC).

Does my home need to be updated?

The main thing to consider when it comes to outdated appliance wiring is your home’s age and the age of the appliances in your home. If your home was built after 1996—when the NEC changed code requirements—everything should be safe and good to go. If you live in an older home, there’s a good chance your appliances are still running on a three-wire configuration, and your wiring is out of date.

If your house and all the appliances in it are on the older side, you don’t have to call an electrician to update your cords and plugs ASAP. Even though your house technically isn’t up to code, all of your older appliances are still safe running on three-wire configurations. The only time you will need to update your cords and plugs is if you buy new appliances—and, chances are, those old appliances will need to be replaced sooner rather than later!

Is updating a DIY project?

Despite what you may read online, updating to four-wire configurations isn’t a DIY job. You’ll need to hire a professional for these reasons:

● Injuries: The first step in updating these plugs is cutting the power to your home, but even though the power’s off when the work’s performed, you could shock yourself or others once the power’s back on if you try to take on this project by yourself.
● Fires: Faulty wiring is a leading cause of house fires across the country. Even a small mistake during the update can lead to a rogue spark when your new appliance is running. Hiring a pro is the best way to protect yourself and your family from a fire.

If it’s time to update your appliance wiring, be sure to call our team at Walsh Electric. There’s no job too big or too small for us to tackle. Schedule your appointment today, or find out what we can do for you and your home.