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I bought a new dryer that has 4 prong L cord but outlet we have is 4 prong and straight. Should I change outlet or the cord? How easy is to swap out outlets?

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  • Usually just undoing a few screws with the breaker off. Hardest part is the wires are stiff when putting them on the new outlet. Should have instructions with new outlet, but take pictures before removing wires from old outlet.
    – crip659
    Commented Jan 14, 2022 at 21:12
  • They sell replacement dryer cords (4 prong and 3 prong) at big box stores or online (e.g. Amazon) for a few bucks. Typically much easier than replacing an outlet (which might require running new wiring inside walls)>
    – TylerH
    Commented Jan 14, 2022 at 22:01
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    Can you post photos of the plug and receptacle in question please? Commented Jan 15, 2022 at 2:51
  • What is the size of the breaker to this outlet?
    – jay613
    Commented Feb 14, 2022 at 2:50

2 Answers 2

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Sounds to me like you have a NEMA 14-50R receptacle, which is intended to be supported by a 50 amp two pole 240v breaker. If not could you read the tiny numbers on yours and post them. enter image description here

If it is fed by a 50A breaker then you need to change the breaker to a 30A breaker and then change the receptacle also to a 14-30R.

If it is fed by a 30A breaker leave the breaker and change the receptacle.

I think there is an odd NEC provision (210.21(B)(1)) that allows a single 50A receptacle on a 30A breaker, so someone might recommend changing the cord, but that would likely conflict with the Installation Instructions which likely say to use a 14-30 or 10-30 cord. The Instructions are part of the UL (or CSA/ETL/TUV) Listing and the NEC requires complying with them. And the 50A cord will be bulky and hard to work with.

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I assume we are dealing with a consumer-tier dryer in the sub-$1500 range, not a commercial laundromat unit.

The correct receptacle for a dryer is NEMA 14-30, which requires a 4-wire connection. Also acceptable is:

  • 14-30 hot-hot-neutral, mounted on a metal junction box which is grounded via a wire or the use of metal conduit back to the panel. The socket picks up ground via the metal box.
  • 14-30 hot-hot-neutral, which is ungrounded, protected by a GFCI back at the panel, and marked "No Equipment Ground".
  • You cannot use a 3-prong NEMA 10. You can continue in service one which was installed prior to 1996, but it's not a great idea.

enter image description here

If the dryer cord is not NEMA 14-30, or has an inconvenient bend, the correct answer is to change the dryer cord. Note that if you are changing from the terrible NEMA 10, there is a procedure you must follow to separate chassis ground so it is no longer bootlegged off neutral. (yes, that's as scary as it sounds).

Every once in a blue moon we see people use 50A receptacles on dryers (NEMA 14-50 or 10-50). That is wrong and a Code violation. Change it at once.

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