Two quick "back wire" receptacle questions

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  #41  
Old 07-29-07, 10:48 AM
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GFCI = No Grounds?

As I mentioned earlier, I'm swapping all receptacles in a modern wired house (circa 1999/2000.)

I'm doing the GFCIs currently and, with the exception of the first one I swapped, in not a single one of them is the ground connected. In each case, the ground is lying loose in the back of the box, sometimes actually still as a dense twisted mass of grounds (meaning there's no evidence of a pigtail to the GFCI.)

My feeling is strongly that I should ground the GFCIs. I know there are some limited situations in which having a GFCI can make using 3-prong devices marginally more safe in the absence of a real ground--but I _have_ a real ground, sitting in the box!

Is there any reason in the world I shouldn't just use it?
 
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  #42  
Old 07-29-07, 02:53 PM
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If one or ground wires are present, they should all be connected together and pigtailed to the box (if it is metal) and to the device (receptacle or switch).
 
  #43  
Old 07-29-07, 04:13 PM
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That's what I thought--GFCI's aren't excepted from that rule.

I can't imagine why the original electrician/homeowner didn't ground them. Perhaps a DIY who didn't understand what GFCI's were for.
 
  #44  
Old 07-29-07, 07:22 PM
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Isolated ground needs to be orange?

There's a receptacle in my TV area which is orange--I suspect an isolated ground (or faux isolated ground) to protect electronics.

However, it's in a very visible place in the room and the orange is gaudy (especially with nothing plugged in!)

Is it legal to replace the orange receptacle with a white one, or does the receptacle need to be orange to indicate the isolated ground?
 
  #45  
Old 07-30-07, 04:29 AM
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An isolated ground in a residence is not isolated. People foolishly spend money them when they do absolutely nothing.

Replace the receptacle with a normal one. If the person incorrectly used a non-green or non-bare wire for either ground then make sure that same wire is not connected at the panel.
 
  #46  
Old 07-30-07, 06:15 PM
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Thanks for all the help so far!

I'm just getting around to our master bathroom and I've figured out the circuit works like this (as wired when we bought the house):

From the panel, current goes directly into a GFCI receptacle. The load side is then passed on to the second receptacle. In that box, the circuit branches off into more receptacles and two sets of lights (track lighting and 14 mini-bulbs above the mirror.)

So the net net is that everything (lights and all) is protected by the GFCI. Is this OK--are lights allowed to be protected by a GFCI, or receptacles only?

If this is not OK, I'd have to pigtail behind the first GFCI, buy another GFCI and put it where the second receptacle is, and then make sure only the 3rd receptacle is run off of the load from the 2nd GFCI.

Obviously if what I have now is OK, though, then I'd rather stick with that.
 
  #47  
Old 07-30-07, 08:26 PM
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There is nothing wrong with lights protected by a GFCI. It is perfectly legal. Sometimes it is required (usually for a light over a shower). You do have the issue of being in the dark if the GFCI trips, but that is it.
 
  #48  
Old 08-02-07, 11:17 PM
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Tonight I pulled out a ceiling receptacle which had been installed to run a ceiling-mounted projector.

It's a plastic old work box, installed directly next to a structural wooden ceiling beam. The beam protrudes from the ceiling, whereas the receptacle is flush against the ceiling.

The (potential) problem is that the box is slightly offset from the beam, so that the face of the receptacle sits almost against the beam. You definitely cannot put a standard faceplate on it; it'd say there's about 1/16" between the face of the receptacle and the wooden beam. I made a faceplate to fit by taking a standard plate and cutting it so that only a thin strip of plastic was left on one side.

Here are a couple of pictures to help you visualize what I'm talking about. Keep in mind you're looking up at the ceiling:

http://www.headworld.net/pictures/ceilingrecep1.jpg

http://www.headworld.net/pictures/ceilingrecep2.jpg

The screws don't touch the wood certainly, but I bet there is no more than 1/3" or 1/4" clearance between the hot side screws and the wood.

What I'm concerned could happen would be that there would be arcing which would cause sparks which would fall down (because it's a ceiling receptacle) and hit the wood, starting a fire.

Is this something we should be worried about? Honestly, I'm not sure how we could fix it.

Would wrapping the receptacle screws in electrical tape provide an extra measure of safety?
 

Last edited by jensenh; 08-02-07 at 11:35 PM. Reason: Added pictures
  #49  
Old 08-03-07, 10:18 PM
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If you are backstabbing your receptacles, yes in my proffesional opinion as a licensed master electrician. Backstabbing, although not illegal and nothing in codes prohibits this unsafe and impractical method, has been one of the major causes of circuit failures and fires. "Hot wires" backstabbed in receptacles becomes loose from spring failure or not properly inserted, can and are a major and dangerous hazard, especially under heavy loads. When wires are loose from a connection and are close enough for current to satisfy the load, current travels in a form of an arc. These arcs although small are known to be at a temperature of 10,000 degrees farenheit are not always noticable until receptacles and insulation start to breakdown and melt. This is one of the reasons arc fault circuit breakers are being required for bedrooms and may soon be as early as next year be required in most rooms of the home. Neutrals when loose and not pigtailed leads to a failure of the circuit and is time consuming to locate.

My advice and take it for what its worth, it's your home and family you can do as you wish, is to go back and pigtail your receptacles and wrap around the side screws. For added safety use quality electric tape to wrap around the receptacle.

You can put a faceplate on that ceiling receptacle. There are cover plates that are non-breakable, soft and bendable. Using a pair of scissors, simply cut and trim off the plate to make a custom fit. Get a few extras in case of mistakes.

Your bedroom receptacle with switched side and constant power side is fine and there is nothing wrong with that and is required by code if their is no light fixture for the room. The switched side of the receptacle is for a lamp to be controlled by the switch.

Your gfci's not grounded is a bit of a serious concern if installed by someone else doing your electrical work. This person is not an electrician because an electrician wouldn't leave a gfci not grounded. Gfci's don't work without a ground and in wet locations are more lethal for personal rather than a fire hazard. How old is your home. I have rewired a home recently where an unscrupoulos person doing electrical work had tied new wire into old knob and tube wiring underneath the house with no ground and told homeowner he installed new wire all the way to the panel. If there is a ground availble, check and make sure it is bonded to the electrical panel. If not, you would need to pull new wire from panel.

The orange receptacle you mentioned is hospial grade and is orange to represent an isolated grounded circuit. There is a separate grounding grid that is isolated from the main grounding grid. Hospitals use these types of circuit for computer and data and for life saving and delicate,expensive equipment. In your home it is nothing more than a 15 or 20 amp receptacle and can be changed.
 

Last edited by jamead65; 08-03-07 at 10:36 PM. Reason: adding text
  #50  
Old 08-04-07, 06:21 AM
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GFCI circuits work fine with no ground. To be up to code they must be labeled "No equipment ground," however they work fine without one.
 
  #51  
Old 08-08-07, 09:06 PM
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Thumbs up Thanks for the help!

I just wanted to take a second to thank all of you who spent time helping me with my questions on this project.

Last weekend, I finished replacing around 80 receptacles and 10 GFCIs, using backwire, the screw terminals, and pigtailing. Hopefully all of the receptacle failure problems we had when we moved into this house will be (knock on wood) mostly in the past.

Along the way, I found so many things wrong... a box filled with an inch of wood shavings. Boxes recessed 1.5" into the wall. #14 wire pigtails serving 20-amp receptacles on a 20-amp breaker. I found a receptacle where all 4 screws had 2 wires looped on them.

Most of the house was done with backstab connections on what would be today probably $0.39 receptacles... I'd say in fully one-quarter of the receptacles, the wires actually pulled out of the receptacle as I pulled it out of the wall--no screwdriver required.

I discovered a previous "electrician" had a novel way of connecting wires to receptacles, I'll call it "screwstabbing." Basically you strip the wire as if you were going to use the backstab, but them you sort of stick it under one side of the screw and screw it in a little bit.

My scariest find was a receptacle which had a ground wire which looked to have been broken off too far back in the receptacle. So the previous "electrician" ran a black wire from the ground screw and taped it to an internal nail which was holding the plastic box to the stud.

Anyway, I systematically worked through these problems over the last month or so, and hopefully made things safer and more reliable.

And, racraft style, I was able to create a large Excel spreadsheet full of information about every circuit in my house and precisely what receptacles and lights it powers.

Thanks again for all of the help and information!
 
  #52  
Old 08-17-07, 09:28 AM
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Great job Jensenh - you'll sleep better at night knowing the job's been done right.

It is surprising how many electrical things you'll find wrong in the average home. I guess that's why smoke detectors are mandatory :-)
 
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