Tester says "OPEN GROUND" on my only garage outlet

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Old 01-18-12, 01:41 PM
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Tester says "OPEN GROUND" on my only garage outlet

Dwelling type: condo
Garage: 1 car, 1 outlet, 1 on/off switch
Built: around 1970
Location: DuPage Co, IL


My outlet tester says "open ground" so I opened up took the face plate off to see what's up. I know nothing about electricity but got a book here on my desk and you guys!

There is no wall between my garage and my neighbor's and we're friends. His outlet and light switch is just below mine. I opened up his to take pictures, too, so you I could compare why mine is "open ground" and his is "correct."

The only other electrical thing in the garage is the light Receptacles above the garage door opener. I have a cheater plug (3 prong to 2 converter) to a 3-prong-to-light-fixture converter thing so that I can use my garage door opener without having to run an extension cord along the ceiling and to the outlet by the garage door (about a 20' run).

I looked and I see that my computer room, living room and garage are all on one 15 amp circuit (I have 7 total in breaker box). I have a picture of that too along with what is on each circuit if anyone needs it.

Okay, so why does mine say "open ground" on my outlet? How can I remedy this?




 

Last edited by nibroc; 01-18-12 at 02:03 PM.
  #2  
Old 01-18-12, 02:21 PM
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Receptacle

I do not see an equipment grounding wire on your receptacle. The ground wire connects to the green screw.
 
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Old 01-18-12, 02:30 PM
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Is this a rental? if so you need to tell the landlord there is possibly two code violations in the garage and you would like them corrected. Do you know if the garage is fed by a GFCI somewhere else, possibly the bathroom or a GFCI breaker? If there is no GFCI and this isn't on metal conduit or new style FMC/Ac cable with bond strap then you can't have a receptacle with a ground slot.
 
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Old 01-19-12, 09:11 AM
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The OP looks like they might be on conduit land where the contact with the metal box provides the grounding.

@OP was the receptacle installed in the box or hanging out when you got the open ground reading?
 
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Old 01-19-12, 02:21 PM
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T
he OP looks like they might be on conduit land where the contact with the metal box provides the grounding.
Is the yoke considered sufficient grounding or should there be a grounding pigtail from the box to the grounding screw?
 
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Old 01-19-12, 02:45 PM
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Is the yoke considered sufficient grounding or should there be a grounding pigtail from the box to the grounding screw?
They make a self grounding device. Never used one but one of the pros can explain the difference and if those are self grounding devices.
 
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Old 01-19-12, 03:45 PM
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They do have receptacles that can grab a bond from a bonded metal box using a neat attachment they have installed on the yoke of the receptacle. The receptacle in the picture does not qualify. I’m wondering if the plug tester was installed while the receptacle was attached to the box—seems someone already ask this question? It could have showed correct wiring, if the receptacle was attached to the box. The screw may have made a bond between the bonded box. In the old days, they also bonded metal boxes with an equipment grounding (or bonding) conductor outside the box (Not using conduit).
 
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Old 01-19-12, 07:03 PM
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In the old days, they also bonded metal boxes with an equipment grounding (or bonding) conductor outside the box (Not using conduit).
Speaking of the old days, it was also common in the old days to just install the device in a grounded metal box with no equipment grounding conductor bonding the device to the box, before the days of self grounding devices. The bond was just through the screws and/or the yoke being clamped to the box by tension of the tightened screws.
 
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Old 01-19-12, 07:13 PM
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Speaking of the old days, it was also common in the old days to just install the device in a grounded metal box with no equipment grounding conductor bonding the device to the box, before the days of self grounding devices. The bond was just through the screws and/or the yoke being clamped to the box by tension of the tightened screws.
Thats pretty much what I said. I’m sure you know this, but to bond a metal box, the box would have to be connected to some sort of ground connected to the main service neutral.
 
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Old 01-19-12, 07:29 PM
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I’m sure you know this, but to bond a metal box, the box would have to be connected to some sort of ground connected to the main service neutral.
Yeah, I think I heard that somewhere about 35 years ago. Many years ago it was also common to rely completey on pipe ground and to not run a separate grounding conductor. I have seen old time electricians ready to fight project engineers who said they wanted a separate grounding conductor on every branch circuit. Today it's a lot more common to see a separate grounding conductor in every conduit although pipe ground is still an approved method of grounding.
 
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Old 01-20-12, 02:13 AM
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Receptacle said:
"I do not see an equipment grounding wire on your receptacle. The ground wire connects to the green screw."


Yes, but my neighbor also has no wire running from the green ground to the metal box. Yet his says "correct" with the outlet tester while mine says "open ground" so I can only ask why?
_______________________________________

ray2047 said:
"Is this a rental?


No, I've owned this place for 16 years. It's a building with 4 owners separated by 4 main walls. Quad? Condo? Only 900 square feet.

_______________________________________

"Do you know if the garage is fed by a GFCI somewhere else, possibly the bathroom or a GFCI breaker?"


Not that I'm aware of. I'll bet 19 out of 20 there is no GCFI between my garage outlet and the breaker box. I know exactly which outlets are on breaker #4 (Garage, living room and computer room).

Two years ago I installed GFCI in the kitchen next to sink (different circuit) and one in the only bathroom (different circuit).


_______________________________________

"If there is no GFCI and this isn't on metal conduit or new style FMC/Ac cable with bond strap then you can't have a receptacle with a ground slot."

Well there are (counting in my head) 13 outlets in this entire place.

1 garage
2 kitchen
3 living room
3 computer room
3 master bedroom
1 bathroom

Every one of these had 3-prong outlets with 2 slots and 1 circle I presume for the ground. I do not know if in the wall the wiring was done with metal sheathing or whatnot. But the place was built in the late 60's or early 70's in DuPage County, IL

_______________________________________

pcboss said:

"@OP was the receptacle installed in the box or hanging out when you got the open ground reading?"

In the box (not hanging out). I tested my outlet and my neighbor's with both outlets and switches screwed in and face plate on. I pulled the outlets and switches out to photograph them to post here.
_______________________________________

SeaOn said
"They do have receptacles that can grab a bond from a bonded metal box using a neat attachment they have installed on the yoke of the receptacle. The receptacle in the picture does not qualify.

Does anyone need a better picture of the inside of my outlet box?

"I’m wondering if the plug tester was installed while the receptacle was attached to the box—seems someone already ask this question? It could have showed correct wiring, if the receptacle was attached to the box. The screw may have made a bond between the bonded box. In the old days, they also bonded metal boxes with an equipment grounding (or bonding) conductor outside the box (Not using conduit)."

No, I tested both my outlet and my neighbor's while both were screwed in and face plate on. Tested as if I just walked in someone's home. Mine failed and said "open ground" while his said "correct" wile attached to the wall.

I did not bother testing either once I pulled the outlets out of the wall. I could try that on my neighbor's to see what it says if you'd like.
 

Last edited by nibroc; 01-20-12 at 03:23 AM.
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Old 01-20-12, 03:34 AM
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Here are some more photos that may or may not help...

The outlet tester saying "open ground"





Showing what's on each circuit in the box. The garage outlet is on breaker #4.





 
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Old 01-20-12, 04:30 AM
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Well, your legend may tell it all. You have more than the garage on this circuit, right? Check all the receptacles on the circuit with your tester and see if any of the Computer room, living room lamps, TV, VCR, or hall lights have the problem. My guess will be a disconnected ground in the hall light that feeds the garage after itself. Why are there blue wires on the primary feed screws??
 
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Old 01-20-12, 06:08 AM
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The blue wires in the lugs with the feeder conductors is incorrect. Only one wire per lug.

If Larry's suggestion does not work, if you have conduit you could pull a ground conductor in to ground your receptacle.

It also looks like the GEC is run into the bottom of the panel and ends on the neutral bar. Is there another breaker or panel ahead of this panel shown?
 
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Old 01-20-12, 06:47 AM
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Every one of these had 3-prong outlets with 2 slots and 1 circle I presume for the ground. I do not know if in the wall the wiring was done with metal sheathing or whatnot. But the place was built in the late 60's or early 70's in DuPage County, IL
The opinions above indicate to me that the equipment grounding is intended to be through the conduit or metal sheathing rather than by a ground wire. This would indicate that your problem is due to a break somewhere in the conduit or metal sheathing grounding path.

Have you checked the other receptacles in your condo for proper grounding?
 
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Old 01-20-12, 07:29 AM
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So to sum it up:
Do you have conduit?
Where do the blue wires go?
Is there a main panel ahead of your panel?

Answer these questions and we will go from there.
 
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Old 01-20-12, 03:26 PM
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I belive the OP is in Chicago area which everything do run in conduit.

Now to address the open ground issue I think somewhere in the conduit run the coupling or connector may got loosen up for some reason that can comprised the safety of grounding purpose.

Only way you can slove this if you can snake in new green 12 or 14 gauge THHN/THWN conductor.


The other thing is PCboss did address the two bleu conductor at the main lugs that is a no-no on that one do you have electrique water heater there ? if so you will have to have a electrician assit you on that one to make it legit.

Merci,
Marc
 
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Old 01-20-12, 06:57 PM
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I belive the OP is in Chicago area which everything do run in conduit.
I think Marc is right, it's a conduit system. That would also explain why the OP has yellow and blue conductors in the receptacle box. I think I'd check the attic for conduits that have been walked on and damaged and pulled apart, breaking the ground connection. Are your conduits using diecast setscrew couplings and connectors? If so, that could explain why the conduits may have been pulled apart.
 
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Old 01-25-12, 02:49 AM
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Yes. On circuit breaker #4 is the Computer room (second bedroom) + Living room.

My living space is ALL on a second floor. I tested every outlet in the home where all say "correct" on my outlet tester but 2 said "open ground" and both are on Circuit #4! In fact, the outlet in the living room is directly above the outlet in the garage. So if you threw a ball from the garage straight up through the ceiling it would go right past the outlet in my living space since it's right above it.

I have no clue why any wires are blue...hopefully some of you guys can chime in....

__________________________

All outlets in the place are covered in drywall (even in the garage) so I have no way of knowing if they used metal conduit. But I have fold stairs to the attic and here is a picture of the light switch up there. Note I put the extension cord there years ago so I can flip another light on up there when I need to get some stored items.

Looks like the wire is fully enclosed in metal. If they are gonna metal clad it in the attic (where most people won't see it, would it be a good guess the whole place has wires inside metal tubing? Mind you attics in these places usually only have a tiny square peek hole, not a whole ladder flip down thing so most people never even look in theirs attic in these units.


Below is attic showing metal conduit (my extension cords added to that light fixture)


________________________

pc boss asks "
It also looks like the GEC is run into the bottom of the panel and ends on the neutral bar. Is there another breaker or panel ahead of this panel shown?"

What is "GEC"? No there is no other breaker in my condo or garage. I show the picture of my breaker box. I assume each of the 4 units in the building get their own. There are 4 electric meters outside the building.

________________

ray2047 asks:

"So to sum it up:
Do you have conduit?
Where do the blue wires go?
Is there a main panel ahead of your panel? "

Yes

No clue about blue wires but you can see from my original pictures there is blue wire in the garage outlet and on/off light switch

I don't know what you mean as a MAIN PANEL ahead of mine. The panel pic I provided is the only panel I own. I have 3 neighbors in my building. I don't know what's happening outside of my place.

_______________________

french277V said

"I belive the OP is in Chicago area which everything do run in conduit.

Now to address the open ground issue I think somewhere in the conduit run the coupling or connector may got loosen up for some reason that can comprised the safety of grounding purpose.

Only way you can slove this if you can snake in new green 12 or 14 gauge THHN/THWN conductor.

The other thing is PCboss did address the two bleu conductor at the main lugs that is a no-no on that one do you have electrique water heater there ? if so you will have to have a electrician assit you on that one to make it legit."

I assume a conduit coupler attaches the metal wire pipe to the electrical box?

It would seem damn impossible to snake a wire anywhere through actual walls. Yet the furnace they put in like 5 years ago was larger than the closet so i had to build out the closet door and they had to cut into the floor! You can see the bottom of my furnace in my garage. As such, I could see a wire being shoved along side the furnace into the garage. If I were to go that route it would seem to make sense to just get that flexible metal clad wire and run it to the garage and put a new outlet down there and a new breaker in the box.

I don't know how to do any of that but a thought.

Yes, there is a water heater literally touching the breaker box! The closet room is so tight. In fact, the lower left screw on the breaker box cover was missing since the water heater was leaning on it and in the way.



Below shows the water heater touching the breaker box (space in that closet with furnace/A/C, water heater, and fuse box is very tight).


_________________

CasualJoe said:

"I think Marc is right, it's a conduit system. That would also explain why the OP has yellow and blue conductors in the receptacle box. I think I'd check the attic for conduits that have been walked on and damaged and pulled apart, breaking the ground connection. Are your conduits using diecast setscrew couplings and connectors? If so, that could explain why the conduits may have been pulled apart."

Now I think I understand and I'm afraid. I guess I should take a pic of my attic, too, so you can see. I installed like 12' x 12' of 1/2" particleboard so I can walk around up there and store stuff. But the place you think where the break may be is all the way across the attic by where the celing slopes down to the attic floor.

I do see metal tubing all around the attic but never really thought much of it since I don't deal with it. There's open fiberglass insulation all over up there too so I ONLY walk on the part where I put the particleboard. If I misstep over the joists I could go through the ceiling.

7 years ago the association tore off the entire roof and wood sheets and put a new roof on and the jerks cracked 2' of our ceiling and did a horrible job patching it. Those monkeys may have stepped on anything then.
 

Last edited by nibroc; 01-25-12 at 03:38 AM.
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Old 01-25-12, 04:22 AM
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Basically all we can see are violations of code. There must be a 3' cube of free air surrounding the electrical panel. The water heater violates that air space. What Marc was suggesting on "fishing" the grounding connector was to use the existing conduit, not fish it through the walls. The conduits will provide (hopefully) a path to the offending receptacles. I fear, as you, someone has either stepped on a conduit connector and broken the continuity back to the box, or a connection wasn't made properly.
I have no clue why any wires are blue...hopefully some of you guys can chime in....
The blue wires are "bootleg". They are connected to the service entrance and offer no protection at all downstream. Our question was "where do they go"? Being in a common living area, it is possible someone tapped onto this to feed a laundry room, or some other common area at your expense, as this is coming off your meter. I would check out common areas for sub panels to see if that is the case and have it rectified immediately. Remember....one screw, one wire.
 
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Old 01-25-12, 06:19 AM
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You have major code violations that need to be fixed. The ungrounded receptacle is the least of your worries. The unfused double lugged blue wires off the main lugs of your panel could burn the place down. Either the water heater or the panel must be moved to give adequate space to work in the panel. You are looking at maybe a couple of thousand dollars to get this safe and code acceptable and it must be done by an electrician.

Can you post a picture of your meter and the area around it?
 
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Old 01-26-12, 04:18 AM
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I have to get some sleep so I'll make a quick post....

We don't have any common area. No hallways. We each have separate entrances. The association pays for all exterior lights so I can't see why my power would be feeding someone for free. Can you make some guesses what is going on?

I'll take some photos of the exterior on all 4 sides of our building as well as a photo of the 4 electric meters so you can get an idea of what is going on.

The water heater was next to the electric panel when the place was build so it seems whomever "inspected" (building inspector) either:

1. Did not inspect it
2. 40 years ago code did not dictate how close water heaters and electric panels could be
3. inspector saw the violation(s) but got paid off

What the heck would ANYONE run live wires (the blues ones) with no breakers? Is that why you're saying it can burn this place down? Are those blue wires going all the way down to my garage? I see blue wires in the breaker box and garage outlet/light swtich.
 
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Old 01-26-12, 07:30 AM
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VWhat the heck would ANYONE run live wires (the blues ones) with no breakers? Is that why you're saying it can burn this place down?
Yes. Also it causes a less then Ideal connection for power in.
Are those blue wires going all the way down to my garage? I see blue wires in the breaker box and garage outlet/light swtich.
Are the wires the same size? Do you have a breaker for the garage receptacle/light?
 
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Old 01-26-12, 01:05 PM
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OP said there is 4 meters one for each unit. Also said Association pays for all outside lights. WHERE is there Meter??

If OP was to turn off (open) all his brakers. Wouldnt he be able to tell where that bootleged wires go ? It would be the only power in his unit.

Maybe bootleged wires are powering outside lights
 
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Old 01-26-12, 01:20 PM
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If OP was to turn off (open) all his brakers. Wouldnt he be able to tell where that bootleged wires go ? It would be the only power in his unit.
No, because it is ahead of his breakers.

That is why we need to see a picture of his meter. With luck he may have a main beaker incorporated into his meter and not realize it.
 
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Old 01-26-12, 03:04 PM
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If OP was to turn off (open) all his brakers. Wouldnt he be able to tell where that bootleged wires go ? It would be the only power in his unit.
No, because it is ahead of his breakers.
Ray, what he's saying is to turn off all of the breakers and whatever still has power is what's bootlegged off the main.
 
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Old 01-26-12, 04:38 PM
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Ray, what he's saying is to turn off all of the breakers and whatever still has power is what's bootlegged off the main.
Oh, but if it is not in his apartment he won't know.
 
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Old 01-26-12, 06:11 PM
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I would think the best way to identify what the blue wires are powering would be to disconnect them; then, look for what no longer works. This probably wouldn't take too long to figure out. But, of course, this would require finding the main and turning it off first.
 
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Old 01-27-12, 04:02 AM
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Ray2047 asked "Are the wires the same size? Do you have a breaker for the garage receptacle/light?"

Yes, refer to earlier in the post breaker # 4 covers the garage outlet, switch, and light. Also on that breaker is the computer room and living room. There's a picture of the breaker box showing what's on each breaker.

__________________________


Here is a close up of the meters outside along with whatever nonsense they have. Looks like 4 meters, 4 big boxes below them, and 2 smaller boxes.

1 smaller box on outside of unit B's wall and 1 smaller box on outside of unit A's wall all shown in that picture. Anyone care to identify what the heck all those boxes are?





Took some pictures of the outside of my building. Neighbors are in units A, B, and C. Mine is D but marked "my unit." Mine is all on the second floor and above all the garages (weird, yea I know).

 
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Old 01-27-12, 06:47 AM
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Boxes

Anyone care to identify what the heck all those boxes are?
I will make an attempt:

Two small boxes are disconnects for the two outside A/C units.

Service line to the building appears to be underground service and goes through largest conduit to four meters.

Conduits below each meter goes to large boxes which would be outside disconnects for each condo.

Conduits under the large disconnects would be circuits to each service panel in each condo.

I have no idea what the open box at the lower left is nor the light colored box at the upper right. Perhaps communications?
 
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Old 01-27-12, 08:18 AM
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Thanks for the pictures. My guess is the blue wires are your AC. Do you have a multimeter or test light? The big box below your meter is your cut off. I would turn of power to your breaker box. Double check at the main lugs of your breaker box that it is dead then remove the two blue wires and re-tighten the screws. Restore power to the breaker box.

As I wrote I suspect the two blue wires go to the AC disconnect. The disconnect is that small box on the wall connected to the Ac . With your multimeter check to see if you have power. I would almost bet you don't.

I think you have room to add a breaker for the disconnect to the panel but lets wait for the pros on that.

I know you asked about a simple problem and we have turned it into a production unrelated to the problem but we will get back to that. Sorry about that.
 
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Old 01-27-12, 07:08 PM
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I think you have room to add a breaker for the disconnect to the panel but lets wait for the pros on that.
As it is now, you have 7 full sized GE breakers (Type THQL)in the panel and only room for one more. Your panel will also accept the thin style breakers (Type THQP). If you could replace some of the THQL breakers with THQP breakers, you would free up enough space to install a 2 pole Type THQP thin breaker for your A-C. This would allow the blue wires to be removed from the main lugs.
 
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Old 01-28-12, 12:51 PM
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Before everyone gets carried away correcting problems that may not be problems let's take a logical look at the original problem! A very quick way to check to see if the box itself has a good ground would be with a meter. Measuring hot (blue in this case) to the box should show 120v, measuring from the neutral (white wire) to the box should show 0v, very simple to check. If the box shows a good ground (which I'm guessing it does) it becomes a simple matter of attaching a ground wire between the box and the ground screw on the receptacle to correct the problem. The problem could have simply been caused by replacing the receptacle at one time with one of the incorrect configuration.
 
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Old 02-01-12, 04:10 PM
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I'll be damned...well blessed I guess would be more appropriate. I decided to open up a couple of outlets in my place to see how they were wired. Specifically I wanted to see the one in the living area 10' directly above the one in the garage.

So I tested it and it said "open ground" as it did weeks ago. So I took the face plate off, unscrewed the 2 screws that hold the outlet to the box. I connected no wires or disconnected. Took a picture, then put it back together just fastening it again to the outlet box with 2 long screws. One screw for the face plate.

Amazing but NOW that outlet says "correct." The ONLY thing I did was the long attachment screws so somehow those were not grounding the outlet? I was so excited I went down to the garage and now it said "correct" so I'M SO HAPPY!

Still, I'm not a fan of saying luck or God did it. I'd like to have some guesses what the heck changed? And for those who don't remember when I first made this thread I tested each "open ground" outlet while it was still affixed to the wall and also when unscrewed the 2 long screws to pull the outlet (with wires attached) and tested it then too said "open ground." Weird.
 
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Old 02-01-12, 04:40 PM
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The ground for your system is definitely through the conduit and the box. At the very least you should connect a ground wire (green) from the box to the ground screw on the outlets. What happened is by removing and replacing the screws you probably cleaned up a point of contact enough to create a ground. Unfortunately that will probably go away again after a while if you do not add the ground wires.
 
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Old 02-01-12, 09:31 PM
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I too would advise you to add a grounding jumper between the box and the devices. A couple of 10-32 ground screws and some green #12 or #14 would be all you would need.
 
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Old 02-03-12, 03:44 AM
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How do I make quotes from others so I don't have to copy, paste, and then explain who I'm quoting?

pcboss said:
I too would advise you to add a grounding jumper between the box and the devices. A couple of 10-32 ground screws and some green #12 or #14 would be all you would need.
02-01-12, 05:40 PM

Msradell said:
The ground for your system is definitely through the conduit and the box. At the very least you should connect a ground wire (green) from the box to the ground screw on the outlets. What happened is by removing and replacing the screws you probably cleaned up a point of contact enough to create a ground. Unfortunately that will probably go away again after a while if you do not add the ground wires.

Well I have a spool of 10 solid black in my closet. Can I use a 10 gauge wire to ground? The wall wiring is only 14 gauge.

If I use the 10 solid black would I just strip the insulation totally then connect it to the bottom (green) screw in the bottom of the outlet and then to the inside of the box?

Where do I buy the 10-32 ground screws? Menards hardware store is literally across the street from me. Would I need to drill a pilot hole in the metal box to accept the aforementioned screw?
 
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Old 02-03-12, 04:30 AM
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10 gauge wire is unwieldy in a box. I would use 12 or 14, green or bare, but not black. 10-32 green grounding screws are available at box stores in packages. I am not familiar with Menards, but from what I hear on the forum, they should be equipped to have them. No pilot is needed. Metal boxes have a threaded hole offset from center for the grounding screws for the most part. If not, the screws are self tapping.
 
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Old 02-10-12, 01:04 AM
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I went to Menards 2 days ago and the green grounding screws are HUGE! They sell in packs of 100 (what am I gonna do with 100 in my home?)

Grounding Screw, Indented Hex Head at Menards

They had a bag of 25 for under $2 and they were a smaller diameter but I don't see it online. They also had green grounding clips but those seem weird.
 
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Old 02-10-12, 07:09 AM
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Can you stop an electrical contractor and ask for a ground screw?

They should be 10-32 screws.
 
 

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