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is there a converter that can be used to allow a 4 prong connector to connect to a 3 prong electrical outlet?

Posted on 2015-02-11
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Last Modified: 2015-02-19
Hello and Good Evening Everyone,

            We brought in a dryer which has 4 prongs at the end of its power chord, but, the power outlet for connection has 3 prongs which brings me to the point of this post.  Is there a converter that can be connected into the 3 prong outlet which will have 4 openings on the other end so the dryer can connect to it?

             Any shared thoughts to this question will be greatly appreciated.

             Thank you

             George
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Question by:GMartin
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by:John Hurst
ID: 40604764
Picture please.  North America and Europe are all 3 or 2 prong. My "international" converter kit (which I have used) is all 2 and 3 prong.

I have see "huge" 4 prong phone plugs overseas (Europe).

A photo would be helpful.
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John Hurst earned 200 total points
ID: 40604772
Sorry. I read again. By "dryer" you mean laundry dryer. I thought you meant hair dryer.

Dryers and Ranges are 240 Volt appliances and have 4 prongs. 2 hot (120v x 2 = 240v), one neutral, and one ground.

These do NOT EVER convert to 3 prong. No way. Please do NOT try.
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by:John Hurst
John Hurst earned 200 total points
ID: 40604777
The outlet which you speak of (3 prongs) is likely a 15-amp outlet (common). You need a 40 - 50 amp outlet for a range and at least a 25 amp socket for a dryer.
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by:dbrunton
dbrunton earned 50 total points
ID: 40604779
George, I think you may need to speak to an electrician about this.

It is possible you have a three phase dryer and not a single phase dryer.

Anyway post a picture of the dryer plug and and look for any identification panel on the dryer or dryer motor and post that here.

Also read the following link and see if it helps identify your plug

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Industrial_and_multiphase_power_plugs_and_sockets#NEMA_14
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by:John Hurst
ID: 40604790
My range and dryer are single phase but are still 240 volt and high amperage plug and socket.
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by:garycase
garycase earned 250 total points
ID: 40604841
George,

This is a VERY common problem.   The issue is that electrical codes have changed in the US so new 240v outlets in homes built after 2000 have 4-prong plugs.   [a dedicated ground wire was added to the 2-hots and neutral connections]

The codes do not permit changing a 4-prong to a 3-prong outlet;  but it's okay to re-wire your appliance (dryer, electric range, etc.)  with a wire that has a plug with the correct number of prongs for your outlet.

All you need to do is go to Home Depot (or Lowes, or an electrical supply store) and buy a 3-wire cord.    Then simply remove the dryer's electrical plate, and you'll almost certainly see a diagram that shows how to connect both 3-wire and 4-wire cords.    Home Depot has a useful general description of this process:
http://www.homedepot.com/c/how_to_replace_a_dryer_cord_HT_PG_AP

Note that it IS possible -- but NOT within your electrical code -- to simply change the 3-prong plug to a 4-prong plug [As this guy did and posted a youtube video about: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FJwcCMGm00c ]  ... but it's a much better idea to replace your dryer's cord, so there's no ambiguity about how the wall plug is actually wired.  (and, of course, so you're not violating the electrical code requirements)
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by:garycase
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ID: 40604859
... by the way, when you buy a 3-prong cord, be sure it's a DRYER cord ... the prongs on cords for dryers and electric ranges are shaped differently.
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Author Comment

by:GMartin
ID: 40604879
Hello Everybody,

            How much does a dryer cord typically cost?

            Thanks

            George
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by:JeffG2583
ID: 40604881
Gary is correct, just replace the cord and you will be fine.

As far as cost, you're looking at $20 or less.
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by:garycase
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ID: 40605271
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by:John Hurst
ID: 40605424
Make VERY certain that the new cord with a new plug to match your outlet will carry the required current. Most 3 prong outlets are not big enough for this job. You could cause a fire if the dryer draws too much current through the small outlet.

Best to have an electrician put in a new outlet rated for the task.   Good luck.
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by:GMartin
ID: 40605462
Hello and Good Morning Everyone,

               Yes, I was wondering the exact same thing here John.  The house itself was built in 1967, therefore, it might not have the inherent requirements to handle the voltage and amperage requirements of the 4 prong clothes dryer.  I will follow up more here this morning by having an electrician take a look at this situation.

                On a side note, the suggestions given are excellent.  Under the circumstances, I will get an electrician to look at this situation and post back his recommendations.

                 Thanks again everybody for your shared advise.  In the meantime, if further suggestions come to mine, please feel free to post.  

                 George
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by:John Hurst
ID: 40605464
Keep us posted. Best solution is a new 4 prong outlet with the proper number 8 or near cable back to the fuse panel
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by:garycase
ID: 40606196
" Most 3 prong outlets are not big enough for this job. " ==>  Not at all true.   The wire gauge isn't any larger on the 4-prong cords ... they simply have a separate dedicated ground wire.   Dryer cords typically use 10 gauge wire with a 30 amp rating ... this is plenty for a clothes dryer.

The 4th wire used in the 4-prong plug is the 240v equivalent of when they added a grounding wire on 120v household plugs many years ago (i.e. the "grounded plugs" that have been required by code since 1974) ... it does not change the current carrying capacity at all.    

As I noted earlier, this is a VERY common problem, and replacing the cord is the solution -- it's even specifically allowed by the revised codes.   In fact, it's almost certain that if you look at the back of the cover plate for the electrical connection on your dryer (where the cord is attached) there will be a diagram that shows how to connect both 3 and 4 wire cords ... and the same will be true in the manual for the dryer, which is likely available online.
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by:John Hurst
ID: 40606210
My dryer is 30 Amp and my range is 40 Amp. Technically you can get a 3 prong 30A outlet, but I would not. I use the big 4 Prong outlets because they are physically larger (and so run cooler) and easily carry the load.
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by:garycase
ID: 40606303
Not sure what the Canadian plugs are that you're using; but the 3-prong 240v dryer cords are just as large as the 4-prong ones ... they simply have 3 instead of 4 prongs.    The key thing is they use the same wire gauge => if you look at Home Depot, their 3-prong plugs use 10/3 cable;  the 4-prong use 10/4.    And the current is all carried on the 2 hots & neutral ... the 4th wire is simply a safety grounding wire (just as with 120v grounded outlets).

Same thing is true for electric range cords -- the difference is they typically use 8 gauge wire instead of 10 so they can carry 40 amps.
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by:John Hurst
ID: 40606397
I have had household dryers since 1975. I have never seen a household dryer with a 3 prong outlet. I see (everywhere) the 4 prong sockets in laundry room and kitchens. Same was true when we lived in northeastern US for several years. Safety rules my thinking on this stuff even when a lighter duty solution will work.
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by:garycase
ID: 40606492
"... Safety rules my thinking on this stuff even when a lighter duty solution will work. " ==>  Me too ... safety is paramount.   HOWEVER ... a 3-wire cord is NOT "lighter duty".

As I've noted several times, this is a VERY common problem.    Older dryers with 3-prong cords often need to be rewired with 4-prong cords if moved to a new house;  newer dryers with 4-prong cords need to be rewired with 3-prong cords to use in older homes.    But in every case, the cords have the SAME gauge wires, and the plugs are rated for the same amperage.    The changes in the electrical codes clearly anticipated this; as they specifically allow using the appropriate cords to match the available outlets.
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by:John Hurst
ID: 40606498
I will stick to my own solution. 4 prong plugs have thicker, heavier, longer prongs that stay put and stay connected for decades on end.

I understand your point, but I would NEVER do what you suggest. Life is too short already.
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by:garycase
ID: 40606513
I was at Home Depot last night and just for grins had a look at the cords ... there is NO discernible difference in how "thick" or "heavy" the plugs are between the 3 and 4 prong cords.

Not sure what you're thinking of, but these are the cords I was looking at:

http://www.homedepot.com/p/GE-3-Prong-30-Amp-Dryer-Cord-WX9X4GDS/202214665

http://www.homedepot.com/p/GE-4-Prong-30-Amp-Dryer-Cord-WX9X20GDS/202214666

Either one will "... stay put and stay connected for decades on end."
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by:John Hurst
ID: 40615719
Thank you, George, and I was happy to help.
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by:GMartin
ID: 40615733
Hello and Good Evening Everybody

            This problem is now resolved following an electrician's visit the other day.   I have a hot water heater on the other side of the house which requires a 240v outlet as opposed to a 120v outlet.  In order to get the hot water heater to be fully functional, he went ahead and replaced the 120v outlet with a 240v outlet.  While there, he went ahead and replaced the 3 prong outlet with a 4 prong outlet for the clothes dryer.  Everything is working just fine.  

            With respect to the feedback given by Gary, I am confident he is right regarding his suggestion of replacing the 4 prong chord with a 3 prong chord for the clothes dryer.  The reason I say this is simply because Gary has never led me astray or in the wrong direction throughout his past and continued guidance with my concerns expressed on EE.  For that, I sincerely thank you Gary.  You are certainly a very insightful and enlightening person to know.

           In closing, thanks so much everybody for addressing this question in addition to all related follow up inquiries as  related to this post.  I hope everybody has a great night.

          Thanks again.

          George
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by:garycase
ID: 40616098
Since you had an electrician doing some work anyway, that was indeed the best solution.

Just as a matter of interest, are you sure he pulled a new cable to the outlet with 4 wires and didn't simply replace the outlet?     Assuming he's a licensed electrician I'd certainly think that's the case ... but a general handyman may have simply replaced the outlet (like the guy in the YouTube video I posted earlier showing what you do NOT want to do).
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Author Comment

by:GMartin
ID: 40617030
Hello

             That is a good question Gary.  I am not exactly sure to be honest because I was not here during his visit.  But, I can ask a family member who was there during the maintenance.  Perhaps one of them might know.  

             George
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by:garycase
ID: 40617532
Or just turn off the breaker for the dryer; pop off the cover plate and confirm that there are 4 wires running to the outlet.    I suspect since you paid an electrician to do this, he indeed pulled a new cable and you've indeed got a 4 wire connection now.

One "unofficial" but simple test:  Look at the bill.   It should have listed the work for pulling a new cable to that location -- and it also would have cost a lot more than just a quick outlet swap.
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Author Comment

by:GMartin
ID: 40619544
Hello and Good Afternoon Gary,

           While at the house the other day, the electrician did fix two things such as the hot water heater which needed 240v instead of 120v and he replaced the power outlet for the clothes dryer.  With respect to your follow up question, he did add a new cable to give a 4 wire connection.  Everything is running fine and there is not any indication of issues.  

             Thanks again for your follow up suggestions Gary.  Take care and have a great rest of the day.

              George
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