Do Surge protector work on the ungrounded outlet

A working surge protector is a great way to safeguard home electrical appliances from severe damage when an electric surge occurs. Electrical surges or spikes are unpredictable occurrences that can ruin electrical appliances or gadgets. The sudden increase in current flow during an electrical surge can burn off gadgets plugged into the electric outlets within the home. A surge protector is worth it, but will it work on an ungrounded outlet?

This blog will explain why an ungrounded surge protector is not a good choice. You will learn all you need to know about surge protectors. I will also explain what to do if your surge protector doesn’t have a grounded outlet. Let us start by understanding how surge protector works. 

What is a Surge Protector?

A surge protector is a device that can intercept power surges or spikes in the home’s electrical system. It prevents the power surge from causing damage to home appliances and gadgets. 

A surge protector functions basically to protect your devices from the large inflow of current that may damage them from the home’s electrical system. In addition, surge protectors also allow you to plug multiple devices and appliances into a single electrical power system. 

This way, it’s important it is properly installed in your home to avoid electrocution and appliance damage and keep your home safe for life.

But can a surge protector work optimally on an ungrounded floor? You may be confused about this; YellowCarpets is here to inform you whether your home surge protector can work on an ungrounded outlet or requires the traditional grounding system.

Proceed on!

What is an Electrical Surge?

An electrical surge is a temporary increase in the amount of voltage traveling through an electric circuit. The sudden increase in voltage can last for three or more nanoseconds. It can cause lifetime damage to appliances plugged into power outlets. A power surge can occur when you switch on high-voltage household appliances. It can also occur when there is a power outage, especially if it is due to power lines issues. 

What is an Electrical Spike?

An electrical spike is a burst of a fast-moving transient voltage passing through a circuit. It usually occurs within a few nanoseconds below three. Power spikes are less damaging than an electric surge. This is because the damages caused by electric spikes are usually unnoticeable when they occur. They might continue working for some period before failing completely.

How does a surge protector work?

Surge protectors perform the simple task of detecting and intercepting excess current traveling through an electrical system. It transfers the intercepted excess voltage through the grounded wire back to the earth.

A standard surge protector have a component called the Metal-Oxide Varistors (MOV). This component is responsible for the diversion of the surge to the ground wire. So where does the surge if not directed to the ground (earth)?

If the surge (excess electrical charges) remains in the system, it raises the chance of electrical sensitive appliances damage. Otherwise, it may forces it way along its own path causing fire hazard.. 

Can surge protector work on ungrounded outlets?

NO, a surge protector can’t work on an ungrounded outlet. For a surge protector to perform its protective function when surges occur, it requires a ground wire or outlet to transfer the excess current

A surge protector without a ground wire will only be able to excess voltage and won’t be able to perform a non-destructive current transfer. This is because, in the absence of the ground wire, the surge protector will transfer the excess current to any nearby electric component or body.

Surge protectors consist of a component called MOVs (metal oxide varistors) which help in the transfer of excess current to the ground. MOVs are generally used to suppress lightning and other high-current transients in an electrical system.

There are different types of household surge protectors. Below are the three main surge protector and their functions

  1. Whole-house surge protector

This is the type of surge protector that is installed directly into the home electrical system through the main electric panel. A whole-house surge protector can detect and intercept excess voltage from every individual circuit within the home electrical system. It can also intercept high voltage from external sources connected to the home electrical system. 

Whole-house surge protector
  1. Wall-mount surge protector

Wall-mount surge protectors are like regular socket extensions that can be installed on the wall. They have outlets that you can directly plug in your home appliances or gadget. It can protect all the appliances or gadgets plugged into its outlets when surges or spikes occur.

  1. Stripe surge protector

They are similar to wall-mount surge protectors in their functions. The only difference is that they cannot be mounted on the wall. 

wall socket

What happens if my Surge Protector is not Grounded?

An ungrounded surge protector cannot provide adequate protection for your family and household appliances when surges occur.

 The most important function of a surge protector is its ability to transfer excess current to the earth, such that no damage is caused. A surge protector without a ground wire will not be able to perform such a function. 

Another harmful effect of using an ungrounded surge protector is that – it can transfer the excess current to a human body or any nearby electric component. This can cause hazardous electric shock. An ungrounded surge protector can also cause a fire outbreak. 

How do I know if my Surge Protector is working?

Current brands of whole-house surge protectors are digitalized. They usually come with an inbuilt indicator light that blinks when they are actively working. The indicator light cannot entirely serve as a foolproof that the surge protector is working effectively. Normalize calling expert electricians once in a while to help you do a proper check on the surge protector.

Most old houses with grounded whole-house surge protectors do not have indicator lights. Call expert electricians once in a while to help you check if the whole-house surge protector is working effectively.

Wall mount or stripe surge protectors usually come with an indicator light that comes on when they are working. Wall-mount surge protector`s component – MOVs usually wear off over time. It is hard to detect if the MOVs are wearing off or not. Normalize replacing your wall mount or stripe surge protector after some years to be on the safer side.

What should I do with an ungrounded Surge Protector?

The best solution for an ungrounded surge protector is to upgrade your home wiring system. If you don’t have an effective surge protector in your home wiring system, you should be consigned with the safety of lives and property.

It’s best you contact a certified and expert Electrician to install a grounded surge protector.


 It is impossible to predict when a power surge or spike will occur. The best way to protect your family, gadgets, and appliances is to install a surge protector. Installing a surge protector is not the end. Ensure that it is grounded. The protection from spike or surge that you desire can only be achieved with a grounded surge protector.

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