Q:

How bad is it to have an open ground on an outlet?

A:

The risk of electric shock is increased if an outlet has an open ground, which can cause serious harm. An open ground also increases the risk of a power surge causing damage to the electronics plugged into it, so depending on what outlet is being used, the damage can be either minor or catastrophic. It is best to get an open ground fixed by a professional electrician as soon as damage occurs.

It is important to note that any three-prong plug requires a proper ground in the outlet for its own ground to function. A surge protector plugged into an open ground outlet is not able to actively protect the devices plugged into it, as it utilizes the outlet's wiring to reroute an overload.

To check if an outlet is grounded, it is recommended that you use an outlet tester, which you can purchase from an electrical supply or hardware store. If you have experience with handling electrical hazards, you may attempt to visibly confirm the ground in the outlet by removing the cover. This should only be attempted by a licensed electrician. Electrical inspection is not safe for the inexperienced. The safest option is to hire a qualified professional to confirm and repair any faulty wiring problems.

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