Should I be concerned with our vintage wiring...

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Old 01-08-12, 04:29 PM
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Should I be concerned with our vintage wiring...

We recently moved into an old apartment (1940's) in downtown Portland, OR. From the beginning I noticed the electricity fluctuate so I plug most of our electronics into a APC 1200VA Automatic Voltage Regulator.

Recently I plugged a heater into the living room outlet and it seemed to trip a breaker. I went down to check the breaker box which seems to be relatively new (15yrs) and nothing was tripped. So I went back to the apt to investigate the outlet. What I found was ungrounded old cloth covered wiring hooked up to our newer 3 pronged outlets. I checked a couple of the other outlets and it doesn't look like any of them have a ground wire. But when I plug them into my tester it says they are fine.

I fixed the outlet that I had trouble with...part of the old wiring was loose so I cleaned up the old wires with a wire brush and reconnected everything using the screws on the side instead of the quick plugs on the back.

My question is should I be concerned about this overall set-up?

 
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Old 01-08-12, 04:44 PM
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Concerned? Maybe, but if it were me, I'd rather just be aware that the wiring is 70+ years old and I would NEVER, EVER plug in a heavy load like an electric heater or air conditioner unless the wiring has been upgraded for those appliances. Most likely your apartment has one or two 15 amp original circuits for both lights and receptacles plus any updates. This is the type of thing you run into in a 70+ year old building.
 
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Old 01-08-12, 04:50 PM
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What I found was ungrounded old cloth covered wiring hooked up to our newer 3 pronged outlets. I checked a couple of the other outlets and it doesn't look like any of them have a ground wire. But when I plug them into my tester it says they are fine.
If it is BX or Greenfield it may be grounded through the cable/conduit metallic sheath. Not the most reliable because of the lack of a bonding strip found in modern metallic cable. The ground provided is not a code approved ground and should not be used for receptacles with ground. The three prong receptacles should be replaced with 2 prong receptacles or GFCI protected and marked no equipment ground. You might want to let your land lord know.
 

Last edited by ray2047; 01-08-12 at 06:28 PM.
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Old 01-08-12, 04:51 PM
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You should not have three prong receptacles on older two wire systems unless the wiring method provides a ground or the receptacles are downstream of a GFI and marked "no equipment ground".
 
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Old 01-08-12, 05:33 PM
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When you say upgraded for appliances...it has one of these in the room but we figured something more consistent like this would be more efficient. Turns out the place is so poorly insulated that the oil heater can't compete with the cold air coming in from under the wood floors.
 
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Old 01-08-12, 06:26 PM
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Before you spend all your money trying to heat a house so poorly insulated I would advise adding insulation.
 
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Old 01-08-12, 07:06 PM
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Electric heat is 100% efficient, just expensive heat in most areas. The built in heater probably has a newer circuit run to it. The radiator style oil filled electric heater plugs into a normal wall outlet, but if those are all wired with 1940s wiring, I would never use one. Between the two heaters you are showing us, I'd use the built in heater the landlord has provided, but what you really need is more insulation.
 
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Old 01-08-12, 09:57 PM
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PC, I am renting the place so insulating the crawl space would not really be worth it. I guess I could ask the office, but I doubt they would care to spend the money. I guess we will get a few more area rugs.

Joe, thanks for the tips. I am going to go around the apartment and see if some of the other outlets have new wiring.
 
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Old 01-09-12, 04:08 PM
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You might be able to improve things a bit by putting up that heat-shrink plastic over the windows and install a door sweeper, outlet gaskets, and weatherstripping. I know that helped immensely in my old apartment with the drafty single pane windows and poor insulation. It's cheap, and with electric heat it'll probably save you more in electricity than you spent. Also might help to spray in some Great Stuff around any thru-wall a/c units. That was another place I found that was letting wind blow through.
 
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Old 01-11-12, 09:23 AM
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Can you at least seal (or tape up) the crawl space so wind does not blow through and increase cold air coming up through the floor?
 
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