Lights without a Ground

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Old 08-21-04, 08:28 PM
Howie6
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Lights without a Ground

A few days ago, we put in some new outdoor lights(motion-sensing). We didn't realize that the house was wired with a ground also. I was informed that some old houses don't have a ground, but that it is required by code(if we ever get an inspection). What can happen when a light is not grounded? It's plastic and the two grounds from each light are wired to where the house ground is supposed to attach. It is not attached. What am I risking by not having the ground? How severe is this risk?

ALSO-on a separate light(and house) I need to extend the ground wire. What kind of wire should I look for for this and how can I crimp the two together?
 
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Old 08-22-04, 05:21 AM
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I have an old house that doesn't have a ground wire going to the outlets either. Years ago the third wire wasn't necessary to meet electical codes and if no one did any electrical work on the home since then you could still have a bunch of two wire outlets like I do. My motion sensing light outside works just fine without the ground wire. I must say that having a third ground wire IS safer. Most people don't understand the issues involved with the depensing of electricity from a two pronged outlet and put themselves into a little more danger when they are careless with their use (or misuse) of electricity. I'll be taking my own advice soon an upgrading my own home to three pronged outlets. In the mean time I avoid doing anything stupid like standing up to my knees in water while drilling holes with a single insulated drill with an all metal outer case.
 
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Old 08-22-04, 05:37 AM
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When you add to an existing residence, you are supposed to add to the current code. When you extensively remodel a portion of a house you are supposed to bring the area of the house you remodel up to code. Remodeling is somewhat subjective, but you aren't asking about a remodel.

If your new lights were to be inspected they would fail if the ground is not properly connected. Grounds are used for safety. Is your current setup unsafe? ahrd to tell.

Are these lights where someone will be touching them? Are these lights on a GFCI circuit?
 
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Old 08-22-04, 07:55 AM
Howie6
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ground

What is a GFCI circuit? No one should be touching it much.

How is it less safe(fire hazard, shock hazard, etc.)?

Thanks
 
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Old 08-22-04, 10:08 AM
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A GFCI is a ground fault interruption circuit. In order for it to work properly requires a properly wired grounded outlet. The idea is that if someone is receiving a shock or there is some other fault with the circuit that the condition would be sensed by an interruption device and the power would be automatically disconnected before any damage occurs. Now the safety aspects of such a device are significant for anything outside where you may encounter wet conditions. Consider changing a light on the outside. Say you are on a ladder and receive a shock. The shock itself might not cause you significant damage but the resulting fall from the ladder may. GFCI's are designed to prevent that danger. Another way to prevent such a danger would be to ensure that any device you work on has the power removed first. Many people can't do that properly so devices such as GFCI's were invented. You can get by with a two wire circuit, people did for years, but you must be more careful and knowledgable when working and installing such things. Most people can't or won't so they will find a three wire system safer and less of a fire hazzard than the typical old two wire system.
 
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Old 08-22-04, 11:19 AM
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A GFCI does not require a properly grounded circuit to work properly. A GFCI works just fine on a 2 wire ungrounded circuit. In fact, a GFCI is one approved way to vonvert a two prong recepticle to a three prong recepticle.

A GFCI senses an imbalance between the hot wire and the return wire and shuts off the power before any damage is done.

On new construction and on significant remodeling, GFCI protection is required for kitchen countertop circuits, bathroom recepticles, unfinished basement recepticles, garage recepticles and outdoor circuits.

On older houses that were built before they were required they should be installed on those circuits.
 
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Old 08-22-04, 01:51 PM
Howie6
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grounds

Okay, thanks yall. I'm not really sure what I have, but I now have peace of mind . The houses I'm working on: one was built in 1980 and the other in 1968. Should these have GFCI?

And the lights say that the wire should be rated for 75 degrees Celcius or higher. Should houses built in those years have new enough wire to support that temp?

Can I make a ground extension by stripping old wire and using a wire nut to connect the old ground with the extension?

Thanks
 
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Old 08-22-04, 03:34 PM
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The houses I'm working on: one was built in 1980 and the other in 1968. Should these have GFCI?
Do you mean should the builder have put in GFCI when the house was constructed, or should you put in GFCI now? In 1968, GFCI was not required anywhere. In 1980, GFCI was required on swimming pools, exterior receptacles, bathrooms, and garages. Today, GFCI is also required for spas, boathouses, kitchens, unfinished basements, crawl spaces, and wet bars.

And the lights say that the wire should be rated for 75 degrees Celcius or higher. Should houses built in those years have new enough wire to support that temp?
Asking for 90-degree wire is more common than asking for 75-degree wire. A fixture specifying 75-degree wire is rare. Are you sure it asks for 75-degree wire?

Can I make a ground extension by stripping old wire and using a wire nut to connect the old ground with the extension?
"Old wire" is fairly imprecise, but a wire nut is an approved device for splicing grounding wires.
 
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Old 08-22-04, 06:29 PM
Howie6
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Motion Lights

Today I installed the motion light. I found out that the circuit has GFCI(or something similar) the hard way. I accidentally pinched a wire and snapped it. I turned the light on and the breaker flipped off. I took it off and found some semi-charred wood under the light. I learned from my mistake and was very careful to not snap anymore wires. I used a wire nut to connect the broken wire back together and to connect the ground to an extension. All connections are very tight. After the broken wire I also enlarged the hole in the soffit(sp?) to hold more wires so they wouldn't be put under pressure like the broken one. Now it works perfectly and my installation is very solid(i Hope). It has only 150 watts of bulbs in a 300 watt lamp and that is plenty! I love these motion lights. The light switch is in an inconvenient place and I've never had an easy time unlocking doors in the dark so this will help me and light the place up if anyone unwanted shows up. Thanks for the help!
 
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Old 08-22-04, 06:51 PM
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I hope that splice is in a permanently accessible electrical box.
 
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Old 08-23-04, 05:19 PM
Howie6
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lights

Permanently accesible electrical box??? Why should it be any different than the other two splices(between light and house)? The wire I snapped was between the light and the splice(black to black). So now there are two black to black splices, but not in an electrical box. Again, what risks am I taking?
 
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Old 08-23-04, 05:32 PM
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All electrical connections MUST be made in permanently accessible electrical boxes. Not doing so risks not only havoc in finding a broken connection later on, but also a fire.
 
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Old 08-23-04, 05:38 PM
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According to modern safety standards, this is above the acceptable level of fire risk.
 
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Old 08-25-04, 05:53 PM
Howie6
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ground

Is the risk serious, or just part of code? The previous connection was made almost exactly like the current one and the house hasn't burned down.

Anyway, I guess I should be more worried about fixing the problem than getting around it. How can I install a box like this in the soffit? The circular base of the light is not big. How big is the smallest box I can get?

Thanks
 
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Old 08-25-04, 07:24 PM
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My guess is that you could drive your whole life without putting on a seat belt, and live a long and happy life. Do you buckle your seat belt?

My guess is that you could also close your eyes and walk across the street without looking, and 99 times out of a hundred, nothing bad would happen.

It's just a risk. Nothing more. Nothing bad happens in 99 homes out of a hundred that have this violation. Most likely, your house will never burn down.

Boxes come pretty small. And you don't need much room to make a splice.
 
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