Grounded outlet issue


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Old 05-11-10, 10:46 PM
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Grounded outlet issue

Hello all. First time poster here.

So I just recently bought my first place and was aware before we moved in that only half the outlets in the house are grounded (it was built in 1961). So I have been doing some painting and such and took the plates off some outlets to paint under them and noticed something. ALL MY OUTLETS HAVE COPPER WIRES ATTACHED TO THE HOUSING! Hooray right? Well not quite.

Only half the outlets are three prong, the rest are two prong. To compound the issue I have a surge protector that senses ground and a couple of the three prong outlets fail this test. So I decided to wire a three prong to one of the outlets that currently has a two prong. As you can guess, it failed the test. Now I can't for the life of me figure out what's going on here. Each outlet looks identical when I take out the panel and outlet. Black wires on the right, white on the left, bare copper wire in the back connected to the housing.

My box out in the garage is a bit old, probably as old as the house. Also my inspector told me I should probably replace it because it is FPE and that brand had issues. Is it possible that my house is wired for ground but that the ground wire is not connected to the box in all cases? I have also seen the rod outside where the ground goes. I'm just super confused if anyone has any insight that would be great!
 
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Old 05-12-10, 02:21 AM
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Try to connect a jumper wire from the box to the ground screw on the receptacle and test.

The ground rod outside has nothing to do with grounding the receptacles.
 
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Old 05-12-10, 06:36 AM
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I wouldn't be surprised if your house is like mine where the grounding wire you see going to the receptacle box is not connected all the way back to the panel, but just to the nearest cold water pipe. If this ground wire is broken, there is a break in the continuity of the pipe (think a replacement section done in PEX or a push-type fitting somewhere), something was re-plumbed, etc., you're going to not have a ground at the box despite seeing a "ground wire."

If that's the case, you can swap out your 2-prong receptacle for a GFCI one and you now have a code-compliant 3-prong outlet, despite not actually having an equipment ground (code also says you need to put the little sticker that says "no equipment ground" on the faceplate of the outlet).
 
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Old 05-12-10, 07:37 AM
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Or ungrounded circuits were later extended using cable with ground.
 
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Old 05-12-10, 09:01 AM
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PCBoss: Will do, I'll report the results.

Also, all of the wires in each circuit are in a loam that runs back to the box. It is highly unlikely that any ground wires are veering off to pipes because they are bundled in the loam with the hot and neutral wires and theoretically run all the way back to the box.

Again it appears as though they wired it for grounding, but then just didn't hook it up or something. A break is possible but it isn't just one outlet here and there. It's the entire upstairs and everyoutlet in the basement but one (two level + basement). The main floor is all grounded except a single outlet (maybe a break in just this one).

Again, I'll get back with the results when I get a chance to take a better look.
 
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Old 05-12-10, 11:16 AM
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By the by, when you inspector told you "you should probably replace that panel" you can feel free to translate that as "50 year old FPE panels are deathtraps. I can't legally force you to replace it, but if I could I would."

Get that thing replaced as soon as you are able. FPE panels are horrid. Liability is the reason they went out of business.
 
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Old 05-12-10, 08:23 PM
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all of the wires in each circuit are in a loam that runs back to the box. It is highly unlikely that any ground wires are veering off to pipes because they are bundled in the loam with the hot and neutral wires and theoretically run all the way back to the box.
Have you checked in the main panel (box) to see if the ground wires were ever terminated at the neutral bar. They could have been clipped off.
 
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Old 05-12-10, 08:41 PM
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Originally Posted by RHefferan View Post
By the by, when you inspector told you "you should probably replace that panel" you can feel free to translate that as "50 year old FPE panels are deathtraps. I can't legally force you to replace it, but if I could I would."

Get that thing replaced as soon as you are able. FPE panels are horrid. Liability is the reason they went out of business.
I would agree with replacing the FPE panel as soon as you can. Many insurance companies won't insure your home if you have a FPE panel. By the way, FPE is still alive and well under the name Federal Pioneer in Canada as a sister company to Square D; both are owned by Schneider Electric.

Electrical Distribution
 
 

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