Is a ground necesary?

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Old 04-14-11, 07:55 AM
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Is a ground necesary?

I am currently renting a house in Ecuador. For those who don't know, that means that many things are done in a way that can be called "creative."

The house is receiving 120V from the street. There is a ground wire at the meter. Within the house itself there are no ground wires (between plugs/lights and the breaker box). It would be impossible (well, remarkably difficult) to install grounds between the plugs and the breaker box because the house is made of concrete...

My question is this, is there any reason to ground the breaker box, considering that I am grounded at the meter, and the internals in the house aren't running ground wires? It is possible for me to get a wire from the neutral bar in the box, outside and into the ground, but is it worth the trouble?

I'm not too experienced with this sort of thing, but logic tells me that grounding the box would really only help in the case of a fault between the box and the meter. Not a complete waste, but only a small piece of the puzzle. Thoughts?
 
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Old 04-14-11, 08:18 AM
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I worked in Thailand for a few years and saw the same craziness only there it was running 220V. I got zapped from a microwave before I found out it wasn't grounded as they had used 3 prong recepticles with no ground. Creative is right. I pulled out a can light in the ceiling and saw connection after connection above the dropped ceiling twisted together with black tape. How do the wires run through the concrete. If they used conduit it should be possible to pull through a ground wire, and connect them to the panel. How is the meter grounded? If by a steel bar is it well driven into the ground? We all accept some increased risks when living in developing countries but this is one that really needs to be addressed for your safety. Nobody on this forum could say otherwise I am sure.
 
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Old 04-14-11, 08:27 AM
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Hey Equinox-
Nice to have someone who can commiserate about these type of things.

The "conduit" that runs through the walls is a small diameter (1"?) rubber hose. The thing is that it seems to all be in line. I mean that to get a wire from the outlet where I keep my computer to the box, I'd literally have to pass through every single light and plug in the house.

The ground at the meter is connected to a bar (I would have assumed copper...), but I didn't want to dig around too much for fear of discovering something "creative."

The fun part about this house is that when doing something simple (changing a light switch) with the breaker off, I still get tingles coming through the wires. Frightening to say the least. Not the mention the duct taped (not even black electrical tape) connection up on the roof. Needless to say, a lot needs to be fixed, but I figured I should start with a ground, just not sure if it will even make a difference...
 
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Old 04-14-11, 09:47 AM
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I would still want to ground the panel with a separate wire because who knows what was really done, especially in regards to the neutral wire, and perhaps it would not be that hard to pull 14/2 romex by connecting to the existing and just pulling it through. Grease the wire a little first. Who knows also how many loads they have on each circuit. That's another point. Should be no more than 12 max. Also it would not cost much to bring someone in to do the wire pulling for you. Labor is always dirt cheap. Even if they used a fish and pulled a separate copper wire through with what is there it would at least correct the problem. The problem in many of these places is not lack of desire, and hard work, but lack of skilled training, and skilled supervision and inspections as you are finding out. If there are inspections I am sure it is more about handing over some cash than doing much else. If you found the right guys, some so called local electricians and provided them with the proper wire and did the panel connections yourself it might work out in the end. This forum can help you with that part. Until it's fixed don't touch anything with power in bare feet, and forget using the recepticles in the bathroom if there are any. You also might want to check the polarity on the recepticles to see if they knew the difference between gold and silver and if they are all the same way or not in regards to neutral white and black. All part of your adventure.
 
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Old 04-14-11, 09:57 AM
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Originally Posted by mtnbk13 View Post
The "conduit" that runs through the walls is a small diameter (1"?) rubber hose. The thing is that it seems to all be in line. I mean that to get a wire from the outlet where I keep my computer to the box, I'd literally have to pass through every single light and plug in the house.
That's usually how conduits run -- generally not every box in the building, but you have to get through a lot of them to get to your destination. It's not a bad idea to ground everything else along the way as you go, you can only do good by it.

The ground at the meter is connected to a bar (I would have assumed copper...), but I didn't want to dig around too much for fear of discovering something "creative."
It's usually copper or zinc plated steel, make sure it seems to be generally intact. In any case good that you have that. Earth grounding is mostly for lightning protection, it is quite different than equipment grounding which is the ground wire installed to appliances and receptacles. The purpose of equipment grounding is to trip the breaker or fuse when there is a short circuit.

The fun part about this house is that when doing something simple (changing a light switch) with the breaker off, I still get tingles coming through the wires.
That suggests that your and/or the power company earth ground is not good enough as the neutral voltage is floating. Wear rubber gloves if you can, even a small tingle can be dangerous if the heart rhythm is disrupted.

I should start with a ground, just not sure if it will even make a difference...
Every little bit helps. If you have access to GFCI (ground fault circuit interrupter) breakers or receptacles that goes a long way toward making an electrical system safer. There are also versions of this technology around the world called RCD (residual current device) or earth leakage (something?) maybe ELCI? Anyway these do a great job at preventing shocks.
 
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Old 04-14-11, 02:59 PM
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Thanks for all the help guys.

Ipbooks, are you telling me that if I put in the ground (or if the one at the meter is working right) that I won't have neutral voltage floating? That is, after all, what started the whole inquiry into the electrical system of the house.

Equinox, I'll check into the availability of romex here. So far all I have seen is solid copper, single strand, coated in blue plastic (for everything...). The problem I'd have with bringing someone in to help me is that I really don't know much about wiring, so I'd rather do it myself than try to give instructions in my broken Spanish...

Anyway, thanks again for the help.
 
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Old 04-14-11, 03:49 PM
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Originally Posted by mtnbk13 View Post
Ipbooks, are you telling me that if I put in the ground (or if the one at the meter is working right) that I won't have neutral voltage floating? That is, after all, what started the whole inquiry into the electrical system of the house.
Unfortunately that is a pretty complicated topic with no easy fix if you cannot depend on the power company to meet quality standards. Having a good earth ground is the best thing you can do to reducing the neutral voltage floating. In the US/Canada we would have at minimum two 5/8" x 8' (16mm x 2.5m) ground rods driven 6' (2m) apart and bonded to the main panel ground bus with brass clamps and #6 (16mm^2) copper wire; and a #6 copper bonding wire from the panel ground bus to the water service plumbing if it is a metal pipe. You can also get a really good ground if you can bond to the rebar in a concrete foundation if you have it.

However if the power company or the neighbors have bad grounding the plumbing bond can actually make your problem worse.

all I have seen is solid copper, single strand, coated in blue plastic (for everything...).
You can use multi colors of tape to identify wires or make tags out of electrical tape and write a number/letter to identify each wire.
 

Last edited by ibpooks; 04-14-11 at 03:55 PM. Reason: SI untis
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