Installing a Four-Prong Dryer Outlet: Is It Necessary?

Tips for Installing a Four-Prong Dryer Outlet

Most homeowners have run into the problem of having a dryer with a three-prong power cord, but a wall equipped with a four-prong dryer outlet. Or, they may have the opposite issue—a four-prong dryer cord, but a three-prong power outlet in the wall. We wanted to explain why this is such a common problem in many American households and help you decide if installing a four-prong dryer outlet is necessary.

Why Do Two Different Types of Outlets Even Exist?

For decades, three-prong dryer outlets were standard in all American homes. However, in 1996, the National Electrical Code (NEC) was updated to require four-prong dryer outlets in all new homes. Existing homes may still use three-prong outlets, but new homes definitely need to have four-prong dryer outlets.

So, why did the NEC decide to switch from three-prong to four-prong dryer outlets in new homes? In short, four-prong dryer outlets are safer.

Although the old three-prong outlets were effective at providing power, they had one major flaw: the ground and neutral wires were grouped together. If a current happened to make its way onto the ground wire, it could travel up to the dryer, creating the potential for shock, damage to the appliance, or fire.

The more recent four-prong cords feature two hot wires, a neutral wire, and a ground wire. This configuration creates a separate return path for unused power, thereby eliminating the possibility of a ground current traveling to the machine and resulting in your dryer catching fire.

What if an Appliance's Power Cord Doesn't Match the Existing Power Outlet?

If you've moved to a new home or purchased a new dryer and have realized that your power outlet doesn't match the appliance's power cord, don't panic. The good news is that you don't have to purchase a new dryer if the current outlet in your home doesn't match.

One simple solution is to purchase a new dryer cord. Most home improvement stores sell both three-prong and four-prong dryer cables for about $25. You can easily change out the dryer cord using a Phillips head screwdriver. This is your best bet if your home is equipped with a four-prong dryer outlet, but your dryer's original power cord fits a three-pronged outlet. You certainly wouldn't swap out an existing four-pronged power outlet out for a three-pronged outlet.

Of course, if your appliance has a four-pronged power cord, but your home has a three-pronged dryer outlet, you may want to consider installing a four-prong dryer outlet. This is a more involved process than switching the cord on the appliance and will require a licensed electrician to make sure the job is done correctly.

What's the Bottom Line?

Ultimately, installing a four-prong dryer outlet helps make your home safer and brings it into compliance with the most recent NEC standards. Check the dryer outlet in your home. If it needs an upgrade, then be sure to call an electrician.

However, if you think your dryer needs an upgrade, then contact Reno's Appliance. We've got a wide selection of dryers from major manufacturers including GE, Samsung, and Whirlpool. You're sure to find the perfect appliance for your home.