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Upgrading to grounded outlets

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Jun 26, 2013, 08:27 AM
DaisyBrew
Upgrading to grounded outlets
Hello-

My husband and I just purchase a home that is partially from the 60's with an addition in the late 90's. Within the old portion of the home there are both 3- prong outlets and 2- prong outlets.

The strange thing is that they are sometimes both in the same room. We would like to try update to all grounded outlets but want to understand the best way to start without having to hire an electrician (as we are still new homeowners.)

Can anyone steer us in the right direction? What is the best way to tell the outlets have grounds but just need to be updated? Any good advice or safety tips ... besides turning off the power first (LOL).

Thanks!
Jun 26, 2013, 09:52 AM
Sparky617
Given the age it could go either way. If you have a Voltage tester you can put one lead into the hot side of the outlet and touch the screw that holds the cover plate on with the other lead, if you get a live circuit you have a grounded system and you could replace the outlet with a grounded one. If you don't get voltage the box and the outlet aren't grounded.


General Disclaimer

Any advice given here is general in nature and is not necessarily valid for your given area. If in doubt check with your local codes enforcement department for what is required when doing electrical, plumbing or structural work on your house. Permits may or may not be required in your area and home owners may not be able to DIY some tasks. I have no way of knowing if you have the skills needed to complete the tasks you are asking about, when in doubt seek professional assistance.

My advice may be worth exactly what you pay me for it. :-) For the record I did not stay in a Holiday Inn Express last night.
Jun 28, 2013, 01:08 PM
CommonwealthSparky
Also on the market are "Circuit Testers" yellow plug in devices that light up in a pattern that will provide wiring information present in the outlet. Heck Harbor Freight sells them for about four bucks a piece. Not that I make purchases from the company. Just to much Chinese made crap carried by HF for my liking.
Better ones made by say GB,or Klein would run at a steeper price.
Also posting to bump the "SPAM" down. Confused

This message has been edited. Last edited by: CommonwealthSparky,


Popeye only reached for the Spinach can as a last resort...
Jul 02, 2013, 01:43 PM
swschrad
there was a little trick in the newspapers back in the 60s or 70s for folks with 3-wire plugs and 2-prong outlets. "remove the fuse, put a wire jumper from the white wire side of the outlet to the ground screw."

bad advice, it's not legal anymore if it was then. and it's a pretty good bet the "3 prong wired" outlets in that old build have exactly that hack. you will have to drop power to that circuit and remove the outlet to look for the jumper. a 3-lamp go-fail tester won't show this.

the separate ground lead all the way back to the entrance panel is the proper and safe way to go about this. that means rewiring.

if you are lucky enough to live in a place that mandated metal conduit and metal device boxes, the metal box will show a valid ground to a tester if there is no corrosion. in that case, places like Chicago and so on, drop power to the circuit, replace the 2-wire devices with 2-plus-ground ones, and to be really with-it happenin' dudes, use a clip-over green ground pigtail that snaps on the box, then screws under the ground screw on the device.

orange "isolated ground" outlets cost double, and separate the ground lead from the strap that mounts the device to the box. NOT what you want in this case, the strap to box provides ground to the ground screw in a normal outlet. but it can come loose, and the snapover or screw down pigtail is the proper procedure. use can make the devices wiggle a little loose from the box, and there goes the ground.

This message has been edited. Last edited by: swschrad,


sig: if this is a new economy, how come they still want my old-fashioned money?
Jul 02, 2013, 02:36 PM
CommonwealthSparky
I doubt if attaching a ground wire from the neutral screw to the ground screw was ever legal. But I too have seen instances where exactly that was done. Amazing what lengths people go to even if is against the electrical code. Why do it correctly?
Sorry but it is no longer legal to use conduit or metal cable as a ground path either. The metal is protection for the cable inside, but not a ground path. A ground wire tugged through the conduit and properly wired and landed is legal though.
Isolated ground receptacles are expensive, but basically installed near electronic equipment. Never used in everyday home applications. Nor are they actually easy to find. I would guess they are available at big box stores, but ordering from an electrical supply store works best. [If needed]. Not sure why it entered this OPs original query.

This message has been edited. Last edited by: CommonwealthSparky,


Popeye only reached for the Spinach can as a last resort...
Jul 02, 2013, 05:20 PM
swschrad
good news if conduit would be, you can pull that ground wire.

for the rest of us, knock a few handholes to allow drilling and pulling, or cut a strip through the drywall for much easier work and patching later, and git 'r' dun.


sig: if this is a new economy, how come they still want my old-fashioned money?
Jul 03, 2013, 09:38 AM
CommonwealthSparky
Always a challenge to do but well worth it. {Bumping down the Spamister}.


Popeye only reached for the Spinach can as a last resort...
Aug 14, 2013, 05:18 PM
wdavid2
Wouldn't grounding to the neutral be better than no ground at all? What is the hazard, both connect to the same place in the breaker box? I'm working on a bathroom and can find no way to get grounded wire to the box without destroying the dry wall someone else just installed, finished, painted and tiled. I want to put GFI outlet near the sink.

I don't know why they didn't call me before they put up new drywall! Any suggestions?

This message has been edited. Last edited by: wdavid2,
Aug 15, 2013, 08:50 AM
CommonwealthSparky
No it would not be better. The neutral provides a path for the electrical circuit to be completed. The ground provides a safety feature if something would interrupt the path {continuity} of the neutral. So while completing a ground path via the neutral will look good on testers and meters doing so provides no added protection in the circuit.

If you {or whoever} had permits for the work someone say an inspector should have picked up on this. Whoever finished and tiled this room is at fault for not upgrading the wiring to current NEC standards. {A GFCI outlet placed near the vanity is required in baths}. It is hard to provide help without more info, scouting Romex runs via the net is difficult.

This message has been edited. Last edited by: CommonwealthSparky,


Popeye only reached for the Spinach can as a last resort...
Aug 18, 2013, 10:46 AM
swschrad
should have GFIs wherever there is a chance of water within reach, or a seriously grounded appliance like a range. it's a fine safety measure.

that does not do away with the ground requirement. it's just another good idea at $8 a pop on sale.


sig: if this is a new economy, how come they still want my old-fashioned money?
Sep 21, 2013, 01:06 PM
wdavid2
Thanks for your input, I guess we'll try to find a way to run a ground to the box.
Sep 22, 2013, 07:59 AM
CommonwealthSparky
According to the NEC it is allowable to tug say a stranded #12 green ground wire though out the house to provide the needed upgrade. Following all cable routing guidelines in the NEC, of course. May be next to impossible to do, that I understand. And if you are going to the trouble to do that why not just pull new Romex? Good luck with your project..


Popeye only reached for the Spinach can as a last resort...