Installing GFCI Receptacles

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  #1  
Old 05-20-07, 07:50 PM
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Installing GFCI Receptacles

I'm planning on installing two GFCI receptacles to replace 2 old non-grounded (2 prong) receptacles. However, I have a few questions. First is that I know there is line and load connectors on a GFCI. These two outlets I want to replace are in a bedroom and close to eachother, however this house is old and I don't know what is downstream at all. How do I go about the installation due to this. I want both outlets to be protected by GFCI due to the absence of a ground. Which wires would connect to load and which to line?

Also, I believe I've read somewhere about the box or something becoming electrified due to the absense of a ground with GFCI. Any ideas?

All input greatly appreciated. Thanks.
 
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  #2  
Old 05-20-07, 08:10 PM
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It is common for receptacles to be wired in a string, in other words the power comes into the first box, and the black and white wires are each connected to that receptacle, but also another black/white pair are connected right to the back of that receptacle, and that wire goes throught the wall to the next device. If you are sure that one of your receptacles is "downstream" from the other, then the cable carrying the voltage from your panel would connect to the terminals marked "line". The cable which goes downstream to the next receptacle would be connected to the terminals marked "load".

You are supposed to attach a label ( included with the GFCI) indicating 'ungrounded'. You have the safety protection of the GFCI function, even without the actual ground lead being present.
 
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Old 05-20-07, 08:17 PM
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So since I'm not sure which outlets are downstream are not, I should just upgrade both 2 pronged receptacles with GFCIs? And when I'm installing, if there are wires going to another receptacle, they attach to load, and the others go to line right? What happens if load and line are switched and how do I know if which two wires are load and which are line. Thanks.
 
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Old 05-20-07, 08:21 PM
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It is easy to figure out what is downstream. Just test with the wires disconnected.

However, you may have others even further downstream.

I suggest just putting in two GFCI receptacles where you want them and use the LINE terminals for all connections.

But first, please tell us why you are doing this. I would like to be sure you are not doing this for an incorrect or improper reason.
 
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Old 05-20-07, 08:25 PM
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I'm planning on installing the GFCIs because the current outlets are not grounded, and from what I've read/heard so far, it seems that no equip. ground GFCIs would provide some protection without the cost or effort of trying to find a ground.

So if I put both wires on line, outlets further downstream would not be protected, correct? If they go on load, wherever they are they will be affected by the GFCI?
 
  #6  
Old 05-20-07, 11:20 PM
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Are they currently 2-prong or did someone already replace them illegally with misleading 3-prong receptacles?

You can still get and use new 2-prong receptacles, and the downstream receptacles would still need to be 2-prong if they were not labeled GFCIs themselves.
 
  #7  
Old 05-21-07, 04:30 AM
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Installing GFCIs will not provide a ground. If you need a ground for some reason (such as for a computer or for a UPS or home entertainment center), the GFCI will not help.

Yes, a GFCI is safer in some instances when a ground is normally required than no ground, but a GFCI by itself is not safer than a grounded receptacle.

I can think of very few situations in a bedroom where a GFCI is needed, and I can think of many situations where a properly grounded receptacle is. You might better consider grounding those existing receptacles, or running a new circuit.
 
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Old 05-21-07, 07:53 AM
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The two main purposes for a grounding connection are to protect people, or to protect equipment. Which one is your purpose?
 
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Old 05-21-07, 08:14 AM
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Yes I do realize GFCI does not provide a ground, but we'd like to use it in this bedroom to offer some protection in the case something went awry. From what I've heard from the internet and some electricians, it seems that using the GFCI (to protect people mostly) would be easier, and less costly, than installing a new circuit or ground wire. As well, from what I've seen so far, the wiring/box does not look grounded.
 
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Old 05-21-07, 08:24 AM
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Yes, GFCI will provide substantial protection against injury, even without a ground. This is a very worthwhile project.
 
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Old 05-21-07, 08:35 AM
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That is what I thought. From other things I've heard, it seems that my options are to install a three prong no ground and fill ground with "non conductive goop" - which would not work as I need to use three pronged outlets. Or I would need to install ground which is out my league and more costly. So GFCI fits better. It's not perfect, but it will protect to some degree.

Back to my original question. When installing the GFCIs (I want to install 2), if I encounter a receptacle in the middle of a series, should I attach both wires to line, or use load as well? I will not know what is downstream/upstream of any of this old wiring.
 
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Old 05-21-07, 08:45 AM
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As already mentioned, you determine upstream/downstream by disconnecting all the devices, leaving the wires hanging out of the box and not touching anything, then turn on the power, and use a tester to see which one is hot, and so on.

If any ungrounded receptacle will not be a GFCI, it must be a factory-made 2-prong, which are still available for this purpose, even at Home Depot. This is true even if they are protected by an upstream GFCI.
 
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Old 05-21-07, 08:53 AM
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Is there any chance I'd be able to tell which cables are line and which load by seeing the old receptacle out of the box. I don't know how comfortable I am with leaving exposed wires hot to test. Is it within code/safe to attach all wires to line side?
 
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Old 05-21-07, 09:01 AM
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I think you are missing the point.

Most items (for a bedroom) that are three prong for a bedroom need a ground. They may not function properly without a proper ground. The ground is functional, not (just) for safety.

And no, you CANNOT put non conductive goop in the ground slot on a receptacle. You cannot use three prong receptacles unless they are grounded or there is upstream GFCI protection and you use the "No Equipment Ground" stickers.
 
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Old 05-21-07, 09:05 AM
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So in your opinion, a ground must be installed, and I have no other options...?
 
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Old 05-21-07, 09:24 AM
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If you have no 3-prong plugs on anything that's going to be plugged in, then you don't need the ground.

If the things you are going to plug in have 3-prong plugs, you'll need to run the ground, at least to those receptacles.
 
  #17  
Old 05-21-07, 09:42 AM
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I don't have much experience with this. The things I need to plug in include monitor, computer, and Xbox - All three pronged. How difficult is running a ground going to be. We're talking a fair amount of expense via an electrician too, right?
 
  #18  
Old 05-21-07, 09:46 AM
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I don't know what Bob's got in his bedroom, but nothing in my bedroom needs a ground. Lamps don't. Most televisions don't. Radios don't. Clocks don't.

So Cody, what exactly do you need to plug in that has three prongs on the plug?

And no, you cannot tell line from load by looking at them. But a simple $2 neon circuit tester will tell you.
 
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Old 05-21-07, 09:51 AM
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This bedroom has a computer and monitor, both three - pronged, and an Xbox which is three - pronged as well.
 
  #20  
Old 05-21-07, 10:00 AM
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They might or might not work okay without a ground. Some people report that their computer crashes more without a ground, but with all the crashes that you get anyway, who could tell. You might as well give it a try. If your computer acts flaky, then run a new grounded circuit to your bedroom. Until then, you might want to unplug that stuff during an electrical storm.
 
  #21  
Old 05-21-07, 10:03 AM
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You need a properly grounded receptacle. You do not need a GFCI, and having a GFCI will not supply the ground that those devices need.

Out in the GFCI if you want, and you will be safer. however, your electronics will not be happy and may not work properly. Further, don;t waste your money on a UPS or surge suppressor, as they won't work (for surge protection) without a proper ground.
 
  #22  
Old 05-21-07, 07:28 PM
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Awhile back I had bought a surge protector, one with a green light that says it is surge protected, and with a red site wiring fault light. The site wiring fault light seems to light at all our three pronged outlets. Does this mean that we have absolutely no ground even on three pronged outlets, or that the grounds may be there but not functional. If we do not have any ground, and I know that that is unsafe, it seems it has not affected any appliances so far.

As well thanks for all your responses. I do realize that having a GFCI does not provide a ground, and am just wanting it for the extra safety as I cannot provide a ground currently.
 
  #23  
Old 05-21-07, 08:29 PM
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It is quite likely that you do not have grounded circuits. This means that someone incorrectly installed three prong receptacles. Ignorant people do this all the time. Sorry to be blunt, but I believe in using the proper term when it applies.

You should have found this out before you bought the house, and made them correct the problem.

You need to either replace all those three prong receptacles with two prong ones, provide GFCI protection, or provide a proper ground.

You can, of course, continue to use things the way they are. When you sell the house an astute buyer will have you fix the problem.

Don't bother using your surge protectors, they are useless.

As I stated above, your computer, monitor and Xbox require a ground. They may work properly without one, or they may get damaged.
 
  #24  
Old 05-22-07, 05:09 AM
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Computer Bob;

a couple of points. I grew up in a house with tile floors in the living room and bedrooms. In fact, I live in a different home now with terazzao floors. My childhood was a memory of shocks in the 60's, first from an old refrig. (ungrounded) and also from changing bulbs in table lamps (before UL or someone made them use polarized plugs).
These days of carpet, polarized lamps cords, GFI's, and grounded major appliances, thankfully, I haven't had a shock in decades.
However, if you do have older table lamps, and live on bare, non-wood floors, I can see why a GFI has great value, even in a BR.

Second; the reference to surge protection being useless without grounding is only half correct. There are typically several sets of MOV's at work in those boxes, some for line to neutral (normal mode), some for line to ground (common mode). An ungrounded surge system should still limit the peak line voltage to about 160volts or so, providing great benefit. It doesn't need to be grounded for that. Normal mode spikes might be caused by inductive kickbacks, common mode might be caused by nearby lightning hits.
 
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