Last Updated: , Created: Friday, November 16th, 2001

Why can't I find electrical cheater plugs any more?

One viewer caught our camera in a renovation store and asked why he saw electrical cheater plugs in Quebec but can't find them in Ontario?

First, what is a "cheater plug"?

That is the little gadget that was so common when we first changed from two prong outlets to three prong outlets. The idea was that you could plug a three prong device into this gadget, then plug this into an ordinary two prong outlet and attach the ground to the centre screw on the face plate. That centre screw would electrically connect the ground connector on your plug to the outlet box itself.

The problem is that all of this was based on the assumption that the metal box itself was in fact grounded. In fact, most outlets with two prongs, do not have a ground wire anywhere near the box, so that special connector never really went anywhere. The end result was a false sense of security that your device was grounded, when in fact it rarely was.

Are these things legal? An interesting question. First you need to realise that the Canadian electrical standards are far more stringent than the US electrical standards. So even if it carries a UL approval label, like the one in the photo, that is not legal in Canada. It has to have either a ULC (Underwriter's Laboratory Canada) or a CSA (Canadian Standards Association) label to be legal in Canada. There are in fact some cheater plugs that are Canadian approved, but hard to find in the stores, probably simply because there are so few two prong plugs left that they don't sell much. Not to mention that they rarely actually gave anyone any protection.

The right thing to do about old two prong outlets is to either run a new three wire lead up to the box to install a regular properly grounded outlet, or put a Ground Fault Interrupter on that old two wire lead. The GFI will give you the three prong connector with some basic protection against shock, although not as good as a proper three wire installation.

Click here for information on the LEGALITY OF DIY ELECTRICAL WORK.

Keywords: Wire, Wiring, Safety, Electrical, GFI

Article 1471