Question on replacing an older two-pronged outlet

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Old 05-12-09, 09:09 PM
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Question Question on replacing an older two-pronged outlet

Hello,

Tonight I replaced an older two-pronged outlet with a newer three-pronged version with ground. We have an 80 year old house. While it works, I encountered quite a few twists along the way. Are these common, and should I be doing anything else to ensure it is now wired correctly?

Here's a brief chronology:

1) I noted the old outlet was upside down (or at least looked that way due to the screw colors and lettering). To avoid the ground hole being on the top, I wired the new outlet the same (upside down) and then rotated it 180 degrees. However, I noticed the "Hot/Neutral Reverse" combo was on with my three prong tester.

2) So I then swapped the sides the wires were on (two per side for a total of four connections). After another test, the single "Open Ground" light was on instead, even when swapping wires on a single side (which probably didn't make a difference).

3) I then gave up for the night and put the cover back on with it wired this way. When performing a final test, the "Correct" combo went on and all now appears well.

Would putting the cover on really make a difference? Should I be concerned, or is all probably now ok as the "Correct" light combo is lighting up? We noticed the printer was buzzing after testing the newly-moved computer, but maybe we're just paranoid?

We had a similar situation with another outlet downstairs, but haven't noted any problems in the couple years since doing the work.

Many thanks,
- Matt

EDIT: We also noticed the back outdoor light no longer works after doing this. Maybe just coincidental? Will try replacing the bulb tomorrow.
 
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Old 05-13-09, 07:09 AM
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You can not just replace ungrounded receptacles with grounded receptacles unless it is a metal box on rigid or EMT. Old style "BX" or cable or knob and tube do not supply the ground needed. No ground no grounded receptacle permitted unless that receptacle is a GFCI and you don't mention a GFCI.

There is no up or down or right or left only screw colors. White to silver, black to brass.

Reversed neutral/hot could be open neutral. Porch light might be a loose connection.
 
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Old 05-13-09, 07:53 AM
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what you did was illegal.
 
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Old 05-13-09, 09:20 AM
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Those little testers cannot detect hot/neutral reverse without a ground (even if it makes you think it did). You'll need a non-contact voltage tick tester (about $15 at your home center) to tell which is which.

Fixing your code violation is simple. Just replace the receptacle with a GFCI receptacle and be sure to attach the "no equipment ground" sticker to it.
 
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Old 05-13-09, 09:31 AM
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Thanks, all. My main issue is that the wires are so old that I cannot readily tell the color. The wires have "metal hooks" on the ends. Since I cannot tell the colors, my assumption has been that the previous owner hooked things up correctly to begin with.

The GFCI receptacle note is helpful. So this is all I should need instead of the standard receptacle I had purchased?

I'll also look into a non-contact voltage tick tester. Based on an image search, I think I already have one of these. I use it as one of my tests to ensure all electricity is off before beginning work. How would this be used in conjunction with testing grounding?
 
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Old 05-13-09, 09:53 AM
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How would this be used in conjunction with testing grounding?
You would not. You probably do not have a ground. You would use it to test which is hot and which is neutral. It should respond on the hot wire, the (black wire}.

Please note to be clear using a GFCI does not make it grounded. It just increases the level of personal safety. If you can determine the first receptacle in line you can add GFCI protection to all downstream receptacles with one GFCI. IF you have a breaker box instead you can use a GFCI breaker. All receptacles will need to be marked "No equipment Ground". Labels are included GFCI.

An alternate to using a tick tracer to determine hot is to use a multimeter and a wire to a known good ground such as a metal water pipe. Measure for 120v between each wire and ground. The one with a 120v is hot, black.

It sounds like you have knob and tube. This wiring is very fragile. Just touching it can cause problems plus you are very limited in what changes you can make.
 
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Old 05-13-09, 10:03 AM
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Thank you, Ray! This really helps.
 
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Old 05-13-09, 11:40 AM
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Request Reprint Permission

See if this grapic helps.
 

Last edited by daddyjohn; 05-13-09 at 11:41 AM. Reason: add text
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