I'm trying to install a dryer I got for free into this old house, and I'm not sure I have the correct wiring to do it. I've replaced one of those standard 3-prong outlets before, because it wouldn't hold any plugs in, but this has me confused.

I went to The Home Depot and showed an assistant a picture of the dryer plug, he immediately grabbed me one of these, said it'd be easy and I could just follow videos on YouTube:

dryer 3 prong outlet


back of dryer 3 prong

Thinking everything would be easy, I dove in and (after flipping off the house breaker) disconnected the target wall plug:

regular 3 prong outlet

However, I'm unsure of how to proceed, and the information online seems to have differing opinions. Some say I need to get a 4 prong outlet and re-wire the dryer to make it 4 prong, some say that it can't be done with this outlet, and I'm at a loss for what to do. These are the wires sticking out of the wall:

wall wires

There's another bare box nearby that only appears to have 2 wires sticking out of it, I'm not sure if it's of any help:

other outlet

I'm not sure what to do -- do I have the right plugs to be able to pull this upgrade off?

  • 2
    Most electric dryers use 240 VAC. The outlet you are trying to replace is a regular household 120 VAC outlet. You will probably need an electrician to run a 240 VAC line from your distribution box to your dryer.
    – Barry
    Commented Feb 21, 2016 at 1:22
  • 1
    Did the house have an electric dryer beforehand, or a gas dryer? Commented Feb 21, 2016 at 1:23
  • 1
    This is dead proof that one should know what they are doing BEFORE removing devices and wiring. What you propose CANNOT be done without running a new circuit, which could have been explained if you had just investigated a bit before starting. Commented Feb 21, 2016 at 13:21
  • 1
    I have upvoted your question, because it is a good question. The answers are also good. I do not understand downvoting questions that are complete, clear and reflect a desire to learn. In addition, you received bad information from Home Depot - they didn't ask about the outlet you are replacing, so your question is doubly important.
    – ssaltman
    Commented Feb 21, 2016 at 14:53

2 Answers 2


The dryer requires a 120/240 volt 30 ampere circuit. The receptacle you removed is on a 120 volt 15 or 20 ampere circuit. The wiring and overcurrent protection for that circuit are not large enough to supply a dryer.

If you don't have an existing 120/240 volt 30 ampere circuit, you'll have to install one. Installing a new dryer circuit requires.

  • Installing a 30 ampere double pole breaker in the panel.
  • Pulling four 10 AWG copper conductors (or 10/3 with ground cable), between the panel and a box near the location where the dryer will be installed.
  • Install a NEMA 14-30R receptacle in a box where the dryer will be installed..
  • Follow the manufacturer's installation instructions to install a 4-prong cord on the dryer.

No, you don't -- the NEMA 10 you have is a 120/240V outlet -- the junction box you pulled the outlet from, however, only has a single 120V branch circuit in it. (The empty box is likely the same way, too, although one would need to measure the voltage from hot to neutral to be sure.)

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