False Ground reading on electrical outlet

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Old 06-16-09, 10:10 AM
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False Ground reading on electrical outlet

Hi! I'm new to the forum but I'm in the process of buying a house and need some help to pass a HUD inspection.

We have a three prong outlet near a water heater that needed to be GFCI. We bought the GFCI outlet and hooked up the wires as instructed. We thought we had fixed it as our cheap Sperry outlet tester said it was wired correctly and the GFCI's little green light was also on.

But when the inspector came this morning to check our outlets (we had three others in the kitchen that needed GFCI which we successfully changed out.)...the outlet by the water heater tested "false ground". I've looked all over the Internet and can't seem to find an answer on how to fix it. Help please!
 
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Old 06-16-09, 10:27 AM
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Why did the receptacle near the water heater need a GFI?

How many wires and what colors were in the box near the WH?

By chance do you mean "open ground"?
 
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Old 06-16-09, 10:28 AM
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This may help..... False ground or false neutral electrical wiring

As I read it..it could be that the cheaper testers won't find it but some better ones will. Possibly the ground in the box is tied to the neutral bar instead of the ground bar in the breaker panel?

Did you have 3 wires in the box for the GFCI? Black White and bare copper?

No expert...just some thoughts...
 
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Old 06-16-09, 10:42 AM
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answer to questions

In answer to the questions:

1.) The city inspector required the outlet to be GFCI near the water heater, said it was a safety issue.

2.) I believe there are two black wires, two white wires and one copper grounding wire.

3.) The city inspector, said specifically it was "false ground"
 
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Old 06-16-09, 11:05 AM
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I believe there are two black wires, two white wires and one copper grounding wire
Are you saying there is only one ground wire? If there are cables (AKA Romex or NM) does the ground wire appear to be part of either cable?

By NEC you could install a GFCI with no ground and mark it "No Equipment Ground". Stickers are included with most GFCI. It may be time to ask the inspector for specific NEC code sections and a copy of any applicable local codes that amend the NEC.. Is the inspector even an electrical inspector or a home inspector?
 
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Old 06-16-09, 11:16 AM
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I made a mistake on the wires.

It has one white, one black, one red and the copper ground wire.

And the city inspector is just a housing inspector with the city's housing dept. not an electrical inspector or home inspector.
 
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Old 06-16-09, 11:40 AM
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Without seeing the setup you have I am not sure what safety issue there would be with a receptacle near the WH.

The red wire in the mix makes me wonder about the purpose of the original receptacle and its wiring. Was it controlled by a switch? How were the wires originally connected? Do you know what breaker controls this receptacle? This might be a multi-wire branch circuit.
 
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Old 06-16-09, 11:48 AM
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Thanks for the help here.

We just talked with the inspector and she says we can just dummy it up, which is what we've decided to.

Since we have other working GFCI outlets in the garage, we don't need this one, so my husband is going to cap off all of the wires and then get a dummy plate (so we know where it is and don't try to knock a wall down and forget it's there...)

Thank you though for all of the quick responses!
 
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Old 06-16-09, 11:55 AM
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Originally Posted by ajk4921 View Post
It has one white, one black, one red and the copper ground wire.
Before you installed the GFCI were both red and black connected to the the brass screws? Was there a metal tab between the brass screws? How did you hook up the GFCI? Do you have a switch that seems to do nothing?
And the city inspector is just a housing inspector with the city's housing dept. not an electrical inspector or home inspector.
I have seen them complain there was only a 120v at a NEMA 5-20R. He thought all simplex receps were 240v.
 
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Old 06-16-09, 12:06 PM
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This may have been as simple as an incorrect connection in the receptacle just prior to this one.
 
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Old 06-16-09, 12:16 PM
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The inspector has now come back after checking with her superior that it does need to be fixed.

The superior suggested that we just hook the red wire to the neutral side (above the white wire neutral) and hook the black wire to the lower hot side screw and then of course, the ground wire to the grounding screw and we'll be fine.

We'll see.

Plus when it was originally hooked up, the red wire wasn't hooked up to anything. It just hung out there in the wall. So when we hooked the GFCI in, we didn't do anything with the red wire except tape it off and that was what gave us the false ground reading.
 
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Old 06-16-09, 12:24 PM
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The superior suggested that we just hook the red wire to the neutral side (above the white wire neutral) and hook the black wire to the lower hot side screw and then of course, the ground wire to the grounding screw and we'll be fine.
DO NOT follow those instructions. They are wrong. Who ever said that is clueless. Leave the red wire disconnected.
when it was originally hooked up, the red wire wasn't hooked up to anything. It just hung out there in the wall.
 
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Old 06-16-09, 12:53 PM
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Originally Posted by ajk4921 View Post
The inspector has now come back after checking with her superior that it does need to be fixed.

The superior suggested that we just hook the red wire to the neutral side (above the white wire neutral) and hook the black wire to the lower hot side screw and then of course, the ground wire to the grounding screw and we'll be fine.
Do not follow this advice. The supervisor needs to stop giving advice until they understand electricity and the consequences of giving out wrong advice.

Originally Posted by ajk4921 View Post
Plus when it was originally hooked up, the red wire wasn't hooked up to anything. It just hung out there in the wall. So when we hooked the GFCI in, we didn't do anything with the red wire except tape it off and that was what gave us the false ground reading.
The red wire should have nothing to do with your false ground reading. Grounding wires should be bare or green.

As I said before this could be an improper connection in the box prior to this device.

Should not the buyer be paying to have these defects corrected? Is a certified licensed professional being required to make these repairs?
 
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Old 06-16-09, 01:39 PM
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I assume the inspector is using an Ideal Suretest tester. I wonder if he's read the manual? Here's a brief quote from it:

Note that if the SureTest is within 15-20 feet of the main panel, the unit will indicate a false ground condition on a properly wired circuit due to its close proximity to the proper neutral-ground bond in the main panel.
 
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Old 06-16-09, 07:29 PM
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Originally Posted by Matsukaze View Post
I assume the inspector is using an Ideal Suretest tester. I wonder if he's read the manual? Here's a brief quote from it:
Wow! That one threw me so I got my SureTest (not by Ideal) and tested a GFCI with maybe three feet of wire to the service panel. Tested just fine. Mine is a SureTest Polytronics Inc. Model ST-1
 
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