Light bulbs burning out often and microwave surge sound

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  #1  
Old 02-01-07, 09:50 AM
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Question Light bulbs burning out often and microwave surge sound

I've had the energy company come over and I'm not sure I agree with their assessment, though I'm in no position to argue with them since I don't have an electrical engineering degree.

Anyway, I multimetered every light bulb fixture and wall outlet and every single one is outputting 125v to 126v. The energy company guy says we're a steady 125v from the back of the house and they say they are allowed to be within 7 volts above or below the 120v standard. I'm positive we have a problem because we have to replace bulbs in the light fixtures every 2 to 3 months. The microwave makes a really hard and loud surge noise when you kick it on in the default highest setting. Bump it down 1 power level and it sounds fine as it should sound. There have been problems with hair driers being used while too many lights are on (whatever that means I don't know, but my girlfriend seems to think that was in another apartment and not this one so I might be wrong there). Everything I have read has said that normal voltage ranges for the home is 110 to 120v so why would the energy company dude tell me that 123v (if his reading is right) is ok?

I have read up a lot and know that I can start using 130v light bulbs, but I'm more concerned with equipment I will soon plug in that I don't want frying on me. I suppose I can surge protect everything including the microwave, but isn't there something out there like a voltage suppressor or regulator that I can just plug into the wall outlets and/or even the light sockets to CAP the voltage off at 120v?

Also, the apartment we live in is a house (duplex) and the wiring is probably 50 to 60 years old. I noticed when I replaced a wall socket from 2 prong to 3 prong that the insulation around the wiring was pretty pathetic.... nearly dry rot. We have smoke alarms n all and I haven't seen anything that would make me think that there is an immediate fire hazard, but what up here. Why would the energy guy be ok with a 125v reading? Are my ideas of a regulator or suppressor silly? Will surge protectors be enough to protect office equipment from prolonged voltage overexposure? I multimetered the current coming out of the surge protectors too and it was still 125v to 126v.
 
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  #2  
Old 02-01-07, 09:58 AM
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This is a potentially serious condition.

Getting the power company involved first was the correct thing to do. I don't know how long he monitored your "steady" power, but if it was just a short time, you might ask the power company if they'd be willing to put a recorder on it and monitor it for a longer period of time (days or weeks).

If that fails to find the cause, then you need to get an electrician out there soon, as you probably have a loose neutral in your main panel. It's a very simple, but dangerous fix, so I don't recommend you try to fix this yourself.

A surge suppressor probably won't be enough to protect you.

125 volts is just fine. That's what I have in my house.

If you don't own this place, get the owner to send out an electrician. The cost of the electrician will be much less than the alternative.
 
  #3  
Old 02-01-07, 10:06 AM
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Circuit

Did the circuit where you changed the receptacle from two prong to three prong have a functioning ground and did you connect it to the receptacle ground screw?
 
  #4  
Old 02-01-07, 10:07 AM
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John - I'm a little confused. If you are getting 125v at your house and I have potentially a serious condition then how do we have potentially a serious condition? Only because of the light bulbs and microwave thing I told you about?

Are you saying that surge protectors (power strips; suppresors) will likely not be sufficient at protecting office equipment etc.. ?

The energy company came out today to put a monitor on the line as part of a follow-up from yesterday's initial visit. They are going to monitor it for at least a day or two as I understand it. ALSO, yesterday the power guy checked the "neutral" and while he did all the power in the apartment went out so I'm assuming he reseated it. I'm also assuming the neutral is just a big GROUND wire to the actual ground? Is that right?

FYI - When the guy came to put the monitor on the line today he told me he saw it read 125v+ and that he wanted to watch it. What else he told me was something I don't know if the power company would've wanted him to. He said that the whole street is getting 125v because we are a bit towards the end of the line and if they were to lower it people in the very end may not get enough power. Still it doesn't seem right to me that you'd over adjust to 125. Seems like 122 or 123 would be better.

Again, I can take readings all day with my multimeter and get 125v to 126v across the entire apartment and yes if energy company doesn't do anything, which it seems like they won't, we will call the landlord to have an electrician come look into it. Frankly I'd like to have a voltage regulator installed right at the main power source to cap it at 121v or something like that.

Thanks for your speedy post. I welcome others !
 
  #5  
Old 02-01-07, 10:12 AM
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Originally Posted by Wirepuller38
Did the circuit where you changed the receptacle from two prong to three prong have a functioning ground and did you connect it to the receptacle ground screw?
BIG GRINS. No. I knew it wasn't a true 3rd prong ground point, but we needed the 3 prong hole for the microwave. I have since learned that there are these adapter thingies you can get that plug into the 2 prong hole and have 3 prong holes and a metal tab that you can screw into the screw at the center of the plate on the outside of the outlet. Would this be better? Have I installed a fire hazard by not connecting that receptacle ground screw?
 
  #6  
Old 02-01-07, 10:23 AM
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Unplug your microwave and do not use it until you either verify a properly grounded circuit or have a properly grounded circuit run.

You should not have replaced the two prong receptacle with a three prong one period. This is an apartment and you should do nothing. An electrician should so ALL electrical work. What you did was wrong on that count, and possibly on other counts as well.

Without a proper ground, your complaints about the microwave acting up are moot.
 
  #7  
Old 02-01-07, 11:17 AM
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Originally Posted by racraft View Post
Unplug your microwave and do not use it until you either verify a properly grounded circuit or have a properly grounded circuit run.

You should not have replaced the two prong receptacle with a three prong one period. This is an apartment and you should do nothing. An electrician should so ALL electrical work. What you did was wrong on that count, and possibly on other counts as well.

Without a proper ground, your complaints about the microwave acting up are moot.
Problem is this is an apartment. I don't know how keen the owner is going to be about possibly getting an electrician in here to do new electrical install work. There are however a few places in the apartment/house that already had 3 prong receptacles installed like where the fridge is and two of the four receptacles in the living room however I don't know if they are truly grounded at the 3rd prong. A friend of mine who has an electrical engineering degree says that technically things are grounded with only 2 prongs, but that the 3rd is like a safety ground mechanism. Care to dispute that without lecturing me? I trust his judgement there, but am just exploring other information as he was brief cause he was at work.

As far as it being an apartment and whether I should've done something or not: I'll do what I want. I'm not going to wait and/or PAY for someone to come do something so trivial that I already can do on my own and I did realize the 3rd prong wasn't active when I did it and I did realize what power I had to cut in order to perform the work. Now if I need to cut holes in walls or do work that may involve damaging the place thats a different story, but I didn't post to this thread to get lectured on landlord/tennant apartment etiquette.

Furthermore, the microwave was doing the surging BEFORE I installed the 3 prong receptacle. I'm not a jacka$$. I wouldn't have posted to this thread if the case were that it started after I did the 3 prong receptacle cause I would've known that is what changed and caused the problem to surface, but the problem was there before said work. It has nothing to do with what I did. I suppose you'd tell me too that to plug in a 2 to 3 prong wall adapter I also have to call an electrician? Please, if this is the kind of stuff you wish to offer me please don't respond to this thread again. This is DoItYourSelf.com not CallTheElectricianForTrivialThings.com.

Now, I'd like to hear back from the other people who offered good tips and info if they have the time. Respect me and I'll respect you. Its that simple.
 
  #8  
Old 02-01-07, 11:20 AM
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The adaptors (2 prong to 3 prong) are stupid and generally unsafe. The only reason they are sold is that they can be safe in about 1% of the cases in which they are installed. It's not their fault if you install it in one of the other 99% of the cases.

As I said, 125 volts is safe. That's not your problem. Your problem is voltage fluctuations, which you'll probably not see with spot checks with your multimeter. If you're lucky, the power company monitor will find them, if they exist at all.

If you really are having power fluctutions, the surge suppressor will probably not protect your office equipment from the problem you have, but they might help a little bit. Note that most surge suppressors won't do anything useful at all if you don't have a true grounding connection.

It is very common that houses closer to the substation/transformer get higher voltage than houses farther away.

Your problems with the microwave are likely due to the illegal way you have connected it. The problems with the light bulbs may be due to any of a dozen different causes, such as vibration, cheap bulbs, excessive heat buildup, a bad batch of bulbs, or even excessive usage. Many light bulbs are only good for an average of 1000 hours. At 10 hours a day, that's only three months. And there's a wide variance, so there can be quite a bit of deviation from those 1000 hours.

So I don't know whether you really have voltage fluctuations or not. If the power company finds nothing wrong with your monitor, buy 130-volt bulbs.
 
  #9  
Old 02-01-07, 11:23 AM
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2 male prong to 3 female prong hole adapters with a metal tab for screwing to the center screw that holds the plate on the wall - Do these adapters actually make the 3rd prong ground a real ground? or Do they just do what I did with swapping the 2 prong for a 3 prong receptacle while not attaching a functioning 3rd prong ground wire to it?
 
  #10  
Old 02-01-07, 11:26 AM
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As I said, they provide grounding in about 1% of the cases. The other 99% of the time, they're just a hazard.

A $6 outlet tester from your home center will tell you whether your three-prong receptacles are grounded, although they can be fooled into thinking they are if you have a bootleg ground (grounding and grounded conductors connected anywhere outside the panel).
 
  #11  
Old 02-01-07, 12:21 PM
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Grounding is a misunderstood subject.

In a 125 volt electrical system the third wire is a ground. It exists for safety. It is also used as an electrical reference point for certain devices that need a ground reference, such as things that include computer and other sensitive electronics. This would include microwave ovens, computers, some televisions and other home electronics.

With major appliances that have metal shells, like washers, dryers, refrigerators, stoves, and microwaves, the ground wire is used to ground the shell of the appliance. This is done so that if something goes wrong and a hot wire inside touches the shell, there will be a path back to the panel to force the breaker to trip and prevent a possible electrocution.

Years ago not all circuits were grounded. Depending on when the house was wired (or the wiring in question was upgraded), the circuit may be grounded or it may not be. The only way to check is to physically investigate and test with the proper equipment.

Inexpensive surge protection equipment will not function without a proper ground. This is because the ground is used to dump the excess power when a surge happens. Without a ground, the excess power goes right to the devices you are trying to protect, as if the surge protector isn't even there.

I do not know if your microwave receptacle is grounded or not. You have not told me anything to make me believe that it is, and more than likely it is not.

The fact remains, you should not have installed a three prong receptacle as you without making sure that it would be grounded. Nobody, not even an electrician should have wothout verifying (or installing a proper ground).

Those two to three prong adapters provide a proper ground if, and only if, the screw that you tuck the metal tab or wire under is properly grounded. This will usually only be the case if the metal box that the receptacle is installed in is grounded, and if the ground passes through the shell of the receptacle to the metal screw.

You have discovered one of the problems of renting. This same problem is repeated over and over again as more and more people have computers, microwaves and other electronics that need proper grounds.

The lesson you need to take away from this and use for your next apartment is that you should have investigated the wiring before you moved in and either had it corrected or looked elsewhere. Often this sort of thing can be worked out with the landlord. Sometimes you can split the bill, sometimes you can offer to pay a little more rent, etc.

I do suggest that you approach the landlord now and see what he or she is willing to do. You may be able to work something out.

My cautions about you doing work should not be taken lightly. Depending on where you live it may very well be illegal. You certainly don't want anyone to point a finger at you in the event of a fire. Even if it isn't your fault you will be under the microscope. And if it is your fault and someone gets hurt or killed, you will likely be charged with a crime.

I assure you, this has nothing to do with your abilities or knowledge. This is about what's right and wrong legally. Nothing else.
 
  #12  
Old 02-01-07, 01:47 PM
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I don't have much to add other than standard voltage in the U.S. is considered 110V to 127V with a nominal voltage of 120V. Any of your appliances should operate properly within this range.
 
  #13  
Old 02-01-07, 08:05 PM
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Originally Posted by John Nelson View Post
The adaptors (2 prong to 3 prong) are stupid and generally unsafe. The only reason they are sold is that they can be safe in about 1% of the cases in which they are installed. It's not their fault if you install it in one of the other 99% of the cases.

As I said, 125 volts is safe. That's not your problem. Your problem is voltage fluctuations, which you'll probably not see with spot checks with your multimeter. If you're lucky, the power company monitor will find them, if they exist at all.

If you really are having power fluctutions, the surge suppressor will probably not protect your office equipment from the problem you have, but they might help a little bit. Note that most surge suppressors won't do anything useful at all if you don't have a true grounding connection.

It is very common that houses closer to the substation/transformer get higher voltage than houses farther away.

Your problems with the microwave are likely due to the illegal way you have connected it. The problems with the light bulbs may be due to any of a dozen different causes, such as vibration, cheap bulbs, excessive heat buildup, a bad batch of bulbs, or even excessive usage. Many light bulbs are only good for an average of 1000 hours. At 10 hours a day, that's only three months. And there's a wide variance, so there can be quite a bit of deviation from those 1000 hours.

So I don't know whether you really have voltage fluctuations or not. If the power company finds nothing wrong with your monitor, buy 130-volt bulbs.
Ok, lets get this cleared up once and for all. I wish I could BOLD stuff on here.

1. THE MICROWAVE WAS HAVING WEIRD SURGE SOUNDS WHEN IT KICKS ON BEFORE I EVEN TOUCHED THE WALL RECEPTACLE IS GOES INTO. IT WAS DOING THIS WHEN IT WAS JUST THE REGULAR 2 PRONG RECEPTACLE THAT WAS THERE WHEN WE MOVED IN. THE ONLY WAY WE HAD IT WORKING BEFORE WAS USING A 2 TO 3 PRONG ADAPTER. FURTHERMORE THERE IS NOTHING WRONG WITH HOW I HAVE THE 3 PRONG PLATE HOOKED UP EXCEPT FOR THE FACT THAT THE 3RD PRONG GROUND SCREW ISN'T HOOKED UP WHICH I KNOW AND HAVE IT LABELED AS SUCH ON THE WALL. IT IS JUST THE SAME AS THE 2 PRONG OUTLET HOOKED UP THE EXACT SAME WAY EXCEPT FOR ALLOWING THE 3RD PRONG TO ENTER THE WALL DOING NOTHING, BUT MAKING A SNUG FIT INSTEAD OF THE DROOPY FIT THAT USING A 2 TO 3 PRONG ADAPTER ENDS UP BEING SET UP LIKE.

2. Thanks for the info on the 2 to 3 prong adapter. It sure looked as though it was a viable option at Home Depot the way the instructions said to just hook that loop up to the center wall receptacle plate screw, but I'll take your word for it that its an accident waiting to happen 99% of the time.

3. If surge protectors/suppressors will not help to protect my office equipment then what good are surge protectors? What device would help protect my office equipment for the problem we "think" I might have (which is line surges)?

4. 125v is safe. OK, I'll buy it cause I've been told by more than 2 people now, but it doesn't make sense to me why its safe when everything is rated to take 120v and while we're on a street full of very old homes. This particular home is 3/4 away from the transformer.

5. I've spent at least two decades that I can remember using incadescent light bulbs and usually always the cheapest kind and nearly all of them last at least a year or more. I don't buy that our usage is surpassing the actual lifespan listed by the manufacturer. In fact I know for a fact they are not used that much to surpass those ratings.

If the line monitor doesn't turn up surges then I'm going to have to go with the next logical guess that the line insulation in this place is just so old that there may be openings/cracks in it in various places and possible arcing and combined with the higher than necessary voltage it isn't a good combination.

The real question is that since we are burning bulbs in 2 months and the microwave makes surging sounds when it cuts on NO MATTER WHAT RECEPTACLE ITS PLUGGED INTO IN THE apartment then do we have a possible dangerous situation that an electrician needs to look into or do we just let it rest and me stop beating the issue?
 
  #14  
Old 02-01-07, 08:19 PM
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I'll repeat my original recommendation. Wait until the power company finishes their analysis. If they can't find a problem on their side, have the owner send an electrician to investigate. There are many possibilities, and it's going to take somebody on-site to figure it out.

The irregular behavior of your microwave is probably due to the fact that you don't have grounding. It probably doesn't matter where you plug it in. There's probably no grounding anywhere in the house. The electrician can check this out too.

You assert that there is nothing wrong with how you have the new receptacle connected, except ... Okay, if you say so. But it does violate the National Electrical Code. So there's nothing wrong with it except for the fact that it's wrong.

There may be nothing you can buy to protect your office equipment. You'll probably just have to live with the risk. Or move.

Nothing you've described sounds particularly dangerous to you (i.e., a shock hazard) or the house (i.e., a fire hazard). Most of the risk is potential damage to what you plug in.
 
  #15  
Old 02-01-07, 08:45 PM
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As I stated earlier and John reiterated, your Microwave is not grounded, and never was (in this house). That is the problem. It has nothing to do with whether it is plugged into a two prong receptacle or a three prong ungrounded receptacle, there still is no ground.

To make your surge suppressors work, you need a ground wire. The same electrician who investigates the problems you may be having can provide prices on providing one or two (or more) brand new circuits where you need them, such as for the microwave and for your computer equipment. That is the best option.

If you approach your landlord offering to pay some of the cost, you may be able to work this out. After all, he will get new circuits which will help you and the next tenant, and you will get proper circuits for your appliances and computer equipment.
 
  #16  
Old 02-01-07, 09:08 PM
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Originally Posted by John Nelson View Post
As I said, they provide grounding in about 1% of the cases. The other 99% of the time, they're just a hazard.

A $6 outlet tester from your home center will tell you whether your three-prong receptacles are grounded, although they can be fooled into thinking they are if you have a bootleg ground (grounding and grounded conductors connected anywhere outside the panel).
John Nelson, I will buy an outlet tester. I am curious if the outlets that were already 3 prong in the apartment 1st day we walked in it are truly grounded or if the shortcut method was implemented by the landlord himself.

racraft - Thank you for posting back. Your information and explanation of grounding has helped a lot. I appreciate your concerns of safety and legality issues, but while I keep my wits and awareness about me I know I won't have any problems to worry about.

racraft said: "I do not know if your microwave receptacle is grounded or not. You have not told me anything to make me believe that it is, and more than likely it is not."
RE: Thank you for clarifying. Point taken about the receptacle installation and the legalities which are of no concern to me. We all operate within the confines of a system of rules engulfing us everyday because we are told we are supposed to emulate a portrait of an ideal suppressed person defined by the rule makers, but those with intelligence shouldn't have to be confined to such mind numbing boundaries. Its just that simple. Basically, anyone with the electrical, mechanical, or jack-of-all-trades inclination circumvents the rules all the time and no one is the wiser. Just because I'm asking questions doesn't mean I'm going to burn the house down or hook up a receptacle the wrong way (as I merely have it the same way, but allowing for the 3rd prong to enter the receptacle doing nothing as it was doing before plugged into the 2-to-3 prong adaptor), but you certainly don't know me personally so I can see the cause for concern.

All I can tell you is that I knew there was no 3rd prong ground point to hook up to and I knew this already before I popped the plate because again it was a 2 prong outlet and an old house. We just needed to be able to plug into a 3 prong hole so the microwave cable would be snug and not fall out mind you its near the sink. Now though with new information from this thread if I could use the wall adapter as long as the center screw passes through the wall receptacle box for a true ground I'd rather to that. We have already contacted (I forgot; gf called him) the landlord and he recommended using the 2 to 3 prong adapters. She doesn't seem to think he'll be receptive to installing 3 prong outlets where necessary.

racraft said: "The lesson you need to take away from this and use for your next apartment is that you should have investigated the wiring before you moved in and either had it corrected or looked elsewhere. Often this sort of thing can be worked out with the landlord. Sometimes you can split the bill, sometimes you can offer to pay a little more rent, etc."

I wasn't part of the apartment browsing process. I moved up after the fact and before I start to run a business I need to know if the home base is gonna fry out or not.

Stupid question: Does a true grounding (3rd prong) actually run to a wire or rod that goes into the physical earth?

ipbooks - Thanks for the heads up on the voltage range. I had read somewhere else it was 110 - 120v, but I guess that was being modest.
 
  #17  
Old 02-01-07, 09:25 PM
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Without seeing your house I cannot tell you whether there are any ground rods or not.

Here is what I can tell you:

Power that is delivered from the power company is on three wires, two hots (that individually are 120 volts and together are 240 volts) and one neutral (or return).

In an up to code system the neutral wire is grounded (physically connected to ground) via two means. These two means are usually the metal water pipes feeding the house and a ground rod. There are other ways too, like the rebar in the concrete.

In the main panel in the house the ground wires from those two ground sources are connected to the neutral wire. In most houses this is usually the main panel in the house with all the circuit breakers. At this point, all the ground wires from all the circuits are all connected to all the neutral wires from the circuits, and these wires all connect to the ground wire and to the power company neutral.

The actual ground rod and the metal water pipe (or whatever it is) provide a reference, but more importantly they provide a safety ground for surges caused by things like lightning.

For problem in your house, such as at your washing machine or refrigerator, they provide nothing, or almost nothing. Instead the connection to the power company neutral provide a return path for the electricity to follow.
 
  #18  
Old 02-01-07, 09:30 PM
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Originally Posted by searcherrr View Post
Ok, lets get this cleared up once and for all. I wish I could BOLD stuff on here.

1. THE MICROWAVE WAS HAVING WEIRD SURGE SOUNDS WHEN IT KICKS ON BEFORE I EVEN TOUCHED THE WALL RECEPTACLE IS GOES INTO. IT WAS DOING THIS WHEN IT WAS JUST THE REGULAR 2 PRONG RECEPTACLE THAT WAS THERE WHEN WE MOVED IN. THE ONLY WAY WE HAD IT WORKING BEFORE WAS USING A 2 TO 3 PRONG ADAPTER. FURTHERMORE THERE IS NOTHING WRONG WITH HOW I HAVE THE 3 PRONG PLATE HOOKED UP EXCEPT FOR THE FACT THAT THE 3RD PRONG GROUND SCREW ISN'T HOOKED UP WHICH I KNOW AND HAVE IT LABELED AS SUCH ON THE WALL. IT IS JUST THE SAME AS THE 2 PRONG OUTLET HOOKED UP THE EXACT SAME WAY EXCEPT FOR ALLOWING THE 3RD PRONG TO ENTER THE WALL DOING NOTHING, BUT MAKING A SNUG FIT INSTEAD OF THE DROOPY FIT THAT USING A 2 TO 3 PRONG ADAPTER ENDS UP BEING SET UP LIKE.

2. Thanks for the info on the 2 to 3 prong adapter. It sure looked as though it was a viable option at Home Depot the way the instructions said to just hook that loop up to the center wall receptacle plate screw, but I'll take your word for it that its an accident waiting to happen 99% of the time.

3. If surge protectors/suppressors will not help to protect my office equipment then what good are surge protectors? What device would help protect my office equipment for the problem we "think" I might have (which is line surges)?

4. 125v is safe. OK, I'll buy it cause I've been told by more than 2 people now, but it doesn't make sense to me why its safe when everything is rated to take 120v and while we're on a street full of very old homes. This particular home is 3/4 away from the transformer.

5. I've spent at least two decades that I can remember using incadescent light bulbs and usually always the cheapest kind and nearly all of them last at least a year or more. I don't buy that our usage is surpassing the actual lifespan listed by the manufacturer. In fact I know for a fact they are not used that much to surpass those ratings.

If the line monitor doesn't turn up surges then I'm going to have to go with the next logical guess that the line insulation in this place is just so old that there may be openings/cracks in it in various places and possible arcing and combined with the higher than necessary voltage it isn't a good combination.

The real question is that since we are burning bulbs in 2 months and the microwave makes surging sounds when it cuts on NO MATTER WHAT RECEPTACLE ITS PLUGGED INTO IN THE apartment then do we have a possible dangerous situation that an electrician needs to look into or do we just let it rest and me stop beating the issue?
A lot of microwaves sound like that. The reason being is that the transformer in them is really cheap. If they had a decent transformer they would cost twice as much or more. We have 3 identical microwaves at work, one groans when you start it up the other two dont

Once upon a time Amana certified Radar Range Tech.

Turn on the lights and watch them while you turn the microwave on if there is no substatial change in brillance of the bulb the two problems are not related.

I have a similar problem with lights in my bathroom. It s because my wife is manic about turning the lights off when she leaves a room. With in 30 minutes of her getting up in the morning that poor ligt goes on and off about five times. As she moves from room to room there will only be one light on in the house at a time.

Get 130 volt bulbs, put bulbs on a dimmer so they come up slow. I have some bulbs that are 10 years old, maybe older.


IF the ground has anything to do with operation of the microwave something is reallly FUBAR. The ground is there for saftey, not operation.
 
  #19  
Old 02-01-07, 10:00 PM
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Originally Posted by John Nelson View Post
I'll repeat my original recommendation. Wait until the power company finishes their analysis. If they can't find a problem on their side, have the owner send an electrician to investigate. There are many possibilities, and it's going to take somebody on-site to figure it out.

The irregular behavior of your microwave is probably due to the fact that you don't have grounding. It probably doesn't matter where you plug it in. There's probably no grounding anywhere in the house. The electrician can check this out too.

You assert that there is nothing wrong with how you have the new receptacle connected, except ... Okay, if you say so. But it does violate the National Electrical Code. So there's nothing wrong with it except for the fact that it's wrong.

There may be nothing you can buy to protect your office equipment. You'll probably just have to live with the risk. Or move.

Nothing you've described sounds particularly dangerous to you (i.e., a shock hazard) or the house (i.e., a fire hazard). Most of the risk is potential damage to what you plug in.
And your recommendation is what I'd already planned on doing. I'm just exploring to further my own mind on the subject so I know how to deal with people if they try to BS me.

Note to violation of the National Electrical Code. Should I shiver in my socks? I admit to installing it wrong to the NEC standard, but isn't it also wrong to have 2 prong outlets still in existance to begin with since you are saying they aren't truly grounded? I realize I'm going against things you have been taught as an electrician or engineer, but you can let the topic drop. I get the point. In fact just for you today I'm running a special on 2 prong outlet reinstallation and then adding a 2 to 3 prong adapter. I'll install it back just for you, but wait - dare I venture into the wall..... the illegal zone? dant dant daaaaaaaaa.... lol - Come'on lighten up.

Note taken: Microwave not grounded. So why did my friend with the electrical engineering degree tell me that technically on a 2 prong system technically it is grounded? Was he just flat out wrong or what?

I just can't believe there is nothing out there for problems such as this. I guess if devices were created to handle this problem though then the real and true fixes (a house rewiring altogether) would never get done, but hell it is probably very unlikely that happens that often today because of the trouble it means to go through.

racraft and John basically said same thing:
"To make your surge suppressors work, you need a ground wire. The same electrician who investigates the problems you may be having can provide prices on providing one or two (or more) brand new circuits where you need them, such as for the microwave and for your computer equipment. That is the best option."

Thats what I would like. I just don't want to pay and arm and a leg for it. I hate trying to find workarounds for what I know should be the real setup anyway, but if I have no choice (can't move till August because of the RULES of the lease and the gf won't let me break lease) I'll have to use the 2-3 prong adapters with the center screw.

Again, does a real ground to the 3rd prong go to the ground? or is it just run to the frame of the house? Seems to me it would go into the ground, but thats why I'm asking.

I'm not here to offend anyone and I realize my outlook on life and rules etc.. are different than most so don't take anything personally.
 
  #20  
Old 02-01-07, 10:01 PM
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Damn, posts are going too fast before I'm doing typing. Sorry for any redundancies, I believe thats what happened earlier.
 
  #21  
Old 02-01-07, 10:18 PM
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Red face

JimmieDee said: "IF the ground has anything to do with operation of the microwave something is reallly FUBAR. The ground is there for saftey, not operation."

See, thats what my Electrical Engineer friend who designs computer chips and pathways told me too. He said exactly the same thing. So the 3rd prong is a safety ground in case of a big surge (IE: Lightning as racraft said I believe).

BTW JimmieDee - I got a real kick out of your wife's ocd energy saving habit. LOL - It must look like a rave light show in the mornings. Its wacky, but she is saving you some cash over time.... how much is another story. I admit to being anal about lights too, but if I'm working in more than one room at a time I leave them all on till done back and forth. LOL

So regardless of the monitor results on the line I am going to do the following:

1. Price a modification of 5 outlets with an electrician. If too high call Landlord and see if he has a man on contract or knows someone cheaper. If he's not for the idea even if I offer to pay half OR if even half is too high for me to afford right now on to option 2.

2. Get 10 2-3 prong adapters and ground them to the center face plate screw and take my chances with the office equipment.

As far as the light bulbs (which is where this all began) go I did purchase some of those 60 watt emulated flourescent bulbs today after seeing them turned ON compared to the regular 60 watt incadescent and they save energy. Other forums have posted that they last longer with people with the same problem we're having here with burn out and they take a fraction of the juice that the incadescents do..... not like ya'll didn't already know that though. So when we run out of our last 3 pack of regular bulbs on to the flouresents and if for whatever reason they do not last a full year or more then we'll try the 130v bulbs which seem to be hard to find. I read you can get them at LOWES though, but haven't stopped by to check yet.

In any case I'm going to get an outlet tester. Seems like a good thing to have on hand anyway, but couldn't I just unscrew the face plate and LOOK for a blueish/greenish ground screw and if its not there then its not grounded right?

Thats about all I can do it seems.
 
  #22  
Old 02-02-07, 02:53 AM
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The grounding of a box may not be visible. Conversely a box that appears by visible inspection to be grounded may not be. Example if armored cable (AC, BX, Greenfield is used their may be a bonding wire under the cable clamp. On the other hand I have seen a grounding pigtail connected to a box that was definitely not grounded (K&T).
 
  #23  
Old 02-02-07, 04:38 AM
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The ground prong on a three prong adapter runs on a third wire in the electrical cable all the way back to the panel. At the panel this ground wire (and all the other ground wires from all the other circuits) connect to the ground buss in the main panel. The ground buss in the main panel is where ground rod and/or the metal water pipes are connected.

Also in the main panel the neutral wires on each circuit connect to the neutral buss, which is also connected to the power company neutral.

Also, and this may add to the confusion, at the main panel the neutral buss and the ground buss are connected together. And in fact in most main panels they are one in the same.


The third prong on the receptacle is NOT for protection from lighting. It is for protection from accidental shorting of the hot wire to the metal, case of electrical appliances. It is also for providing a good ground reference for electronic components. If your refrigerator gets struck by lightning, the third wire in the electrical cord and the ground wire to the receptacle are not important.

I do not know what your friend meant by his comment about the microwave circuit being grounded. Until and unless the receptacle is properly grounded and the microwave is plugged in to that grounded receptacle, the microwave is not grounded.

I do not know any of the details of your friend's background or his degree. I too have an electrical engineering degree. So what. It doesn't mean I studied electricity or know anything about residential electricity. It doesn't mean I don't either.
 
  #24  
Old 02-02-07, 05:23 AM
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put in a GFCI
 
  #25  
Old 02-02-07, 05:27 AM
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A GFCI will NOT provide a ground. His microwave needs a ground.
 
  #26  
Old 02-02-07, 06:45 AM
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Many entire books have been written on the subject of grounding. It's more complicated than almost anybody suspects. There's no way we can fully explain it in this thread. Misinformation is rampant, even among engineers.
 
  #27  
Old 02-02-07, 06:59 AM
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Originally Posted by racraft View Post
A GFCI will NOT provide a ground. His microwave needs a ground.
But it will protect him..

Replacing Receptacles to Meet the NEC

The NEC requires receptacles installed on 15 and 20 ampere branch circuits to be of the grounding-type and it requires the grounding contacts of those receptacles to be effectively grounded to the branch circuit equipment grounding conductor [210-7]. However, the Code allows the installation of any of the following installations when replacing a 2-wire nongrounding-type receptacle where no ground exists in the outlet box [210-7(d)(3)], Figure 9/10:

(a) Replace the 2-wire receptacle with another 2-wire receptacle.

(b) Replace the 2-wire receptacle with a GFCI-type receptacle and marked the receptacle with the words “No Equipment Ground.”

(c) Replace the 2-wire receptacle with a grounding-type receptacle where protected by a GFCI protection device (circuit breaker or receptacle). Since the grounding terminals for the receptacles are not grounded, the receptacles must be marked with the words “GFCI Protected” and “No Equipment Ground.”

A grounding-type receptacle that is GFCI protected without an equipment grounding conductor is a safer installation than a grounding-type receptacle with an equipment grounding conductor (if GFCI protection is not provided). This is because the GFCI protection device will clear a ground-fault when the fault-current is 5 milliamperes (+ or – 1 milliampere), which is less than the current level necessary to cause serious electric shock or electrocution, Figure 10/11.

A grounding-type receptacle without a ground is a safe installation as long as the GFCI protection circuitry within the device has not failed from shorts and voltage transients. To insure proper GFCI protection, test the GFCI monthly in accordance with the manufactures instructions and if the GFCI test does not operate properly, replace the GFCI protection device.
 
  #28  
Old 02-02-07, 07:30 AM
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JavaBob, I am quite familiar with the NEC as to replacing ungrounded receptacles.

While a properly installed GFCI receptacle will provide protection in the event of a fault, it will not provide an electrical ground.

When a ground is required for proper operation of an electrical device the only solution to have the device operate properly is to provide a ground.

The microwave in question needs a ground to operate properly. A properly installed GFCI will help it operate safely. A properly grounded receptacle will help it operate properly.
 
  #29  
Old 02-02-07, 07:57 AM
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We will assume that the power company uses test meters with proper calibration labels. OK that may be a stretch, but lets assume. Your meter has never been calibrated ( checked) so lets assume it is a good one and accurate plus or minus 5%. So we can stop arguing about 5 volts one way or the other.

A surge protector protects against very high voltage ( hundreds or thousands of volts) in very brief ( microseconds ) surges. It does nothing to alter the average voltage entering your house.

We have told us your house is old, and has britle wire insulation. The wiring is probably undersized and too few circuits for all the modern appliances you have.

I still like the idea of have the power company, or rent one if you have to, connecting a monitor recorder to your line to see what goes on over a 24 to 48 hour period.
 
  #30  
Old 02-02-07, 03:11 PM
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This thread turned out to be a lot more than I ever would've expected. Thanks to all that continue to make it interesting.

I think this article sums it all up for us all:
http://www.howstuffworks.com/question110.htm

My own summarizations from this thread:
Installing a GFCI without a ground is safer, yet obviously not grounded so not the safest receptacle setup. Everyone seems to know that (I feel it) whether you've said it or not so no point in arguing over it.

Installing a GFCI with a ground is probably the safest receptacle installation possible with a regularly installed 3 prong receptacle that IS grounded with no GFCI being 2nd safest.

I realize what I did with the 3 prong receptacle for the microwave isn't up to code and that its not grounded just as it was not grounded beforehand.

I still plan on getting an outlet tester at the store to check for grounds in the receptacles in question.
---------------end summarizations-------------------------------------

Note: Our power line is still being monitored today. So far this is 2 days of monitoring data being collected by the energy co.

Idea: I may further test (after initial tests) receptacles that are not grounded again after (1.) I would ground to the center face plate screw either from the tab on the 2-3 prong adapter or (2.) by jumping a wire from the 3 prong receptacle ground screw to the center face plate screw or to the receptacle shell itself.
Is either idea 1. or 2. stupid, not to code, wrong for any reason ya'll see (besides that I'm not an electrician; I don't need that speech again. I'm capable and know that none of ya'll condone electrical work unless the person is licensed)?

Question for racraft: Why would you say the microwave isn't operating "properly" if the 3rd prong is simply a safety feature ground point to prevent shocks to people? Wouldn't it be more correct to say its operating properly, but that it just isn't grounded? Or are you speaking from a design perspective that since the microwave has a 3rd prong on the plug that it was intended to be used, and therefore it isn't operating properly?

Workaround for now: Using the microwave regularly I just adjust the power level down 1 notch such that I'm not pulling all the juice it can pull and it sounds "a lot" better.
 
  #31  
Old 02-02-07, 03:51 PM
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The reason those two to three prong adapters have a little tab or a small piece of wire is so that the ground slot on the adapter can be connected to the screw holding the cover plate in place. That screw makes a connection to the receptacle ground. Adding another wire there serves no purpose.

Your microwave needs a ground because it contains electronics. While not the original intent of the ground wire on circuits, one use of the ground is as a reference for electronics.

My original computer was not able to print to the printer if there was no ground present. This is because each device (the computer and the printer) maintained five volts with respect to the equipment ground. With no equipment ground, each system had a floating five volts.

I could fix the problem by either interconnecting the grounds (such as with an outlet strip) or by simply using grounded circuits.

Your microwave needs a good ground for reference, although not for the same reason as a computer and printer.
 
  #32  
Old 02-02-07, 04:50 PM
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Question

I realize adding another jumper wire there with the 2-3 prong adapter serves no purpose if I connect the tab to the center screw. I only asked about the idea because someone earlier said grounding to the center screw of the face plate may or may not truly ground it (using the 2-3 prong adapter). If I decide to use 3 prong receptacles instead I was saying to jump from the ground screw on the receptacle to the center screw or wall box shell for the ground point that is again if I go with 3 prong receptacles instead of 2-3 prong adapters.

Thanks for clearing up the microwave issue vs the computer/printer example. Interesting.
 
  #33  
Old 02-02-07, 10:54 PM
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Exclamation

Purchased outlet tester tonight for $4 from Lowes. Also noted that a 4 or 5pk (4 per pack) of 130v regular incadescent bulbs was only $10. The also have a better selection of bulbs than Home Depot. Will test outlets tomorrow.
 
  #34  
Old 02-03-07, 02:09 PM
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Exclamation

Checked all outlets (including the 2 prong ones using the 2-3 prong adapter plugged into the outlet tester).

ALL 3 PRONG OUTLETS THAT I HAVE NOT TOUCHED COME UP AS "OPEN GROUND" - I know thats not "CORRECT" cause there is a correct light combination and I never once saw it. So what does "OPEN GROUND" mean exactly? Just "not grounded"?

The 2 prong outlets of course are not grounded either. I didn't expect them to be, but I tested them anyway.

Comments or are ya'll exhausted?
 
  #35  
Old 02-03-07, 02:31 PM
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Open Ground means just that. The ground is open. An open means the connection is missing or interrupted.

If there were existing open ground receptacles three prong receptacles in place when you moved in, then it's time to negotiate with the landlord. The existing wiring (when you moved in) is illegal and presents a life safety a hazard. The landlord, at the very minimum, needs to bring in an electrician to correct the existing problems. Negotiate with the landlord about having some other things done, perhaps partially at your expense, so that you get some of what you want/need.
 
  #36  
Old 02-03-07, 02:57 PM
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The open ground everywhere explains why your microwave doesn't work perfectly no matter where it is plugged in.

However, I wouldn't go so far as Bob to say that this is "illegal". It would be illegal if constructed today, but it was probably legal when constructed and thus is still legal today. Your landlord is not obligated to do anything.

If your landlord is interested in modernizing and has the funds to do so, then you're in luck. If not, then keep your fingers crossed that your electrical equipment will survive until your lease runs out.

I suggest that you ask your landlord for one or two new grounded circuits to run your electronic equipment and microwave from. One or two circuits can be had at a reasonable cost. Tell him that it will help keep the place rented. Trying to get the whole house grounded is probably impractically expensive, and also probably unnecessary.
 
  #37  
Old 02-03-07, 03:04 PM
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I did NOT mean that an open ground was illegal. I meant that a three prong receptacle in place with no ground was illegal.
 
  #38  
Old 02-03-07, 03:18 PM
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Oh, sorry for doubting you Bob. Right you are!
 
  #39  
Old 02-04-07, 06:32 PM
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Question

Thanks to all who gave their times and points of view in this thread. I'm much more educated now than I ever have been in my life about residential electricity and receptacle grounding issues. It has helped, but the biggest help will be if the Landlord is receptive to our call. I'm thinking of writing him, but I'm sure the girlfriend would be against that because all of her contact with him has been by phone. He's always been responsive though and I don't understand why she'd think he wouldn't be now. Perhaps because its going to cost more than the usual maintenance, although the guy did put in a new A/C cooling and heating system for her last summer so we'll see. Would ya'll CALL or WRITE?
 
  #40  
Old 02-04-07, 07:26 PM
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Call and write both. If he is willing to do it all or is willing to somehow split the cost you need it in writing.
 
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