Ground wiring question?


Old 03-15-05, 04:13 AM
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Ground wiring question?

I just bought an older house and we found out the upstairs outlets do not have ground wiring. what does this mean exactly? Is it dangerous? Not sure since the previous owners must have lived ok without it.I have no background in this and i am also female so I just dont know

we are still waiting to see if the sellers will add ground wiring or just credit us to do it ourselves
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Old 03-15-05, 04:27 AM
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Originally Posted by colleen25
i am also female so I just dont know
Hey, that makes no difference. I know a lot of guys who "just dont know"

Originally Posted by colleen25
or just credit us to do it ourselves
This I don't get. You are buying an old house. Why must this be done at the sellers expense?? It's not like they are trying to hide it. It's not a serious structural defect that was not readily visible.
Since the advent of these *#@#^ home inspectors people are under the impression that a seller must make an old house like new. I'm sure the seller has taken things like this into account. If it needs a roof for instance I'm sure the price reflects this fact.

To ground these receptacles could be a job of anywhere from $200-$2000+ dollars. There is no way to tell without scoping it out with a trained eye.
In fact they do not even need to be grounded. They can be left as is, they can be replaced with new two-prong receptacles or they can be protected by a GFI at the first device of each circuit and 3-prong receptacles installed (with other restrictions).
I'll bet there are probably on three or four general circuits in the whole house if it is that old.

I'm sorry if I sound overly frank, but if I were the seller I would say: "Here is my house....this is the you want it, or not."
Old 03-15-05, 04:44 AM
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Grounding of convenience receptacles has been both evolutionary and geographical in application.
While it may "appear" that there exists a ground, a receptacle with a ground stake can also mean that the receptacle has been changed.
If this is an original, permitted installation, the seller has no incumbency,
this could be a deal breaker.
Old 03-15-05, 05:18 AM
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thank you for your information. this is the first house i ever bought and I had no idea what it means when the inspector wrote this in the report.

In response to forcing the seller, its not going to make or break my deal. the realtor just said, lets throw it in the addendum to see if they will do something about it. I dont expect and older house to be perfectly new.

thanks again
Old 03-15-05, 07:51 AM
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When you buy an older home, ungrounded outlets are just part of the package. It's kind of like buying an old car without air bags. Old stuff just doesn't have the modern safety features that new stuff does. And in both cases, it is very expensive to retrofit.

If the wiring is old, it also may or may not be in bad shape. Depending on whether you're talking 50 years old or 80 years old, it may not even be insurable. A thorough evaluation of the home wiring by an electrician may be in order, especially if the home is closer to 80 years old.

Your main options:
  • Decide that you're just going to live with ungrounded outlets. That may mean that your computers are more vulnerable to surges, your fluorescent lighting may not come on reliably, you'll have to use GFCI on your refrigerator risking spoiled food if it trips, you'll have greater shock risk if an appliance malfunctions, etc.
  • Plan to spend $500 to $1000 to upgrade key systems to grounded outlets. This would protect your computer, stereo, and refrigerator, but leave most other stuff ungrounded.
  • Plan to spend $5000 to rewire the entire house.
  • Buy a different house.
If your house is newer than 30 years, it's possible that the grounding has just failed. Since your house apparently has grounding on the first floor, perhaps it was partially upgraded previously. In this case, you could just keep all your computers and electronics on the grounded first floor.
Old 03-15-05, 12:04 PM
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The presumption/conclusion that the circuits in question were wired without a Ground-path may be predicated on the fact that the existing receptacles are 2-slot devices. That the presence of a 2-slot receptacle indicates a "no- Ground" condition is a non-sequiter. The final determination is based on the type of cable that inter-connects the individual outlet-boxes.

If the receptacles are fastened to metal outlet-boxes with metal cables clamped/connected to the boxes, and such metal cables extend from the Service-panel to the circuit outlets, then the cable armor can be used for Grounding any replacement Grounding-type receptacles.

Inherent in the original design of Armored Cable as a Wiring Method is the metal armor serving as protection of the conductors from injury ,and as a Grounding-path.In his book "Electrical Grounding" author Riley emphazises that the cable armor ALONE is the Ground-path.Also the more thicker/larger mass of "old" Armored Cable indicates an effective Ground-path.

Good Luck and Enjoy the Experience!!!!!
Old 03-15-05, 06:58 PM
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I'm certainly no expert, but here's my take on it from the pt. of view of someone who purchased a 50+ yr. old house w/o 3 prong outlets. I was lucky because my system was grounded with metal conduit in the basement and armor cable through the rest of the house, so I could change outlet from 2 to 3 prong.

For your situation, you should be able to find someone to tell you if the system is grounded or not. If it is not grounded, then think about how many appliances you have that use a 3 prong plug. For me, its my frig, microwave, dishwasher, computer system (computer, monitor & printer), window A/C (no longer needed since I now have central A/C), washing machine and dehumidifier. Your vacuum, hairdryer, curling iron, toaster, coffee maker, TV, VCR, DVD player, etc. only have 2 prongs.

Now here's are the thoughts that may get me flamed by much more knowledgeable people on this board. If by "upstairs" you mean the 2nd floor, then who cares. Other than maybe a window A/C, what appliances will you use up upstairs that require a 3 prong plugs?

Likewise, 3 of the appliances are in the kitchen and 2 are typically in the basement (washer & dehumifier). If you are lucky, it may not be too expensive to hire an electrician to ground just those circuits. The thing I don't know is if you have a fuse box instead of circuit breakers, code may state that an electrician can't add a ground w/o bringing some other things up to code also thereby increasing the cost. (I don't know enough about code to answer that and sometimes it varies from city to city.)

Just a thought.
Old 03-19-05, 06:28 AM
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For some reason, they do have three prongs

although they are not grounded outlets upstairs, they do have three prongs, is that why the inspector thought it was bad, because they changed the face of the outlet to have three prongs but they are not grounded, i am sorry for sounding naive, i just dont know. i have alot of rooms upstairs where i would have to keep my computer (all of that is three prongs) and my treadmill and my hair appliances that are three prongs, i think thats it. fortunately, all my appliances downstairs will be plugged into ground wiring.

I am willing to bite the bullet if we have to fix it. Now i am just confused why the receptacles has three prongs but they are not grounded
Old 03-19-05, 09:11 AM
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Location: port chester n y
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It's possible that the Wiring Method that inter-connects the receptacles in question is Non-Metallic cable comprised only of a Black conductor and a White conductor; what's absent is a bare wire inside the cable that is used for Grounding-connections at the outlet-boxes.

We will presume that the insertion of a tester into the receptacles indicated a "No-Ground" condition.I suggest that you un-fasten one of the receptacles from it's outlet-box.IF the outlet box is metallic, then procede to make 3 tests-for-voltage; Black-to-White = 120 volts----- White-to-Ground ( the metallic surface of the box) = Zero volts---Black-to-Ground = 120 volts.

Zero voltage-to-Ground between both Black/White wires indicates a No-Ground condition; 120 volts, White-to-Ground indicates a reversed-connection as some point in the circuit.

Good Luck & Enjoy the Experience!!!!!!!!!!
Old 03-19-05, 02:28 PM
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Installing 3-hole receptacles on ungrounded circuits is a very common mistake by DIYers who are not aware that the National Electrical Code prohibits it (without providing GFCI protection). Your inspector was quite right to point out this code violation.

It is quite common, after getting this home inspector's report, for the buyer to require the seller to mitigate the code violation. And although not required to do so in most states, sellers usually comply with this simple request in order to ensure a smooth closing.

The simplest solution to solve the code violation would be to install GFCI receptacles on these circuits where you need a three-hole receptacle (because you have a 3-hole plug). Surge suppression is not very effective on a ungrounded circuit, you you will live with a slightly greater risk of surge damage to your computer. This isn't usually a huge problem.
Old 03-21-05, 05:04 AM
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Location: Central New York State
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There are several reasons that three prong receptacles get installed on ungrounded circuits by homeowners. One reason is that the homeowner cannot find two prong receptacles. In my area one home store I frequent has them, the other does not. The other reason is that two prong receptacles are more expensive. In all cases, either the homeowner doesn't know why using two prong receptacles is important, or doesn't care.
Old 03-22-05, 07:35 PM
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Thank you for the last few responses, I being a the biggest novice their is to electrical anything can finally understand what the heck is going on

by the way, the home sellers have agreed to get an electrician ground the receptacles and they ARE paying for it so yippie for that! One thing of MY DIY list, (the only DIY i would have done in this situation is pick up the phone to book an electrician lol!)

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