What appliances require a real grounded outlet?

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  #1  
Old 01-10-13, 08:36 AM
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What appliances require a real grounded outlet?

A lot of the outlets in my house (a 1955 Cape Cod, Milwaukee) are old two pin. I want to change them to accept a three pin plug and to be safer for the users.

My research so far is revealing I can legally replace them with GFCI outlets with stickers that say "no equipment ground".

This is appealing to me as it's something I could do myself rather than paying an electrician to run new grounds from the circuit breaker box to over half the outlets in the house.

I understand that some items do require a genuine ground though - in order to protect the equipment itself. I've read that Laptops are a case in point. But what I can't find is a good list of other things that you should only use with a genuine grounded outlet. Can anyone provide me with such a list?

Thanks!
 
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  #2  
Old 01-10-13, 08:42 AM
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From Article 250.114 of the NEC:

(3) In residential occupancies:
a. Refrigerators, freezers, and air conditioners
b. Clothes-washing, clothes-drying, dish-washing machines;
ranges; kitchen waste disposers; information
technology equipment; sump pumps and electrical
aquarium equipment
c. Hand-held motor-operated tools, stationary and
fixed motor-operated tools, and light industrial
motor-operated tools
d. Motor-operated appliances of the following types:
hedge clippers, lawn mowers, snow blowers, and
wet scrubbers
e. Portable handlamps
(4) In other than residential occupancies:
a. Refrigerators, freezers, and air conditioners
b. Clothes-washing, clothes-drying, dish-washing machines;
information technology equipment; sump
pumps and electrical aquarium equipment
c. Hand-held motor-operated tools, stationary and
fixed motor-operated tools, and light industrial
motor-operated tools
d. Motor-operated appliances of the following types:
hedge clippers, lawn mowers, snow blowers, and
wet scrubbers
e. Portable handlamps
f. Cord-and-plug-connected appliances used in damp or
wet locations or by persons standing on the ground or
on metal floors or working inside of metal tanks or
boilers
g. Tools likely to be used in wet or conductive locations
Exception: Tools and portable handlamps likely to be used
in wet or conductive locations shall not be required to be
connected to an equipment grounding conductor where
supplied through an isolating transformer with an ungrounded
secondary of not over 50 volts.

This would be in addition to any equipment that says a grounded circuit is required in the instructions.
 
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Old 01-10-13, 08:45 AM
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Deleting this post because of much better answers above and below it.
 
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Old 01-10-13, 08:49 AM
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Generally surge protectors need a ground. Some audio video equipment (though I have never been completely convinced). The laptop sounds bogus, especially because it runs on low voltage isolated from a ground. It is a good idea to plug any computer or electronic equipment into a surge protector and that surge protector needs to be grounded.
Laptop chargers have an internal surge protection circuit and the ground is also bonded to the outside of the barrel connector.
 
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Old 01-10-13, 09:32 AM
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Thanks for the quick response everyone!

So if I'm reading it right. GFCI "no equipment ground" outlets would be fine for:

Uplighters
TV/DVR/DVD
Bedside lamps
Bedside clocks
Battery chargers
Phone chargers
Laptop
Toaster
Coffee maker
George foreman

And I would need real grounds for basically anything with a motor in it (eg. power tools and vaccum cleaner), kitchen appliances and anything that stands a chance in hell of getting wet or damp?

Can someone also verify that GFCI is good safety protection for the user? I'm reading that in most cases an ungrounded GFCI is potentially safer than a grounded non GFCI, so honestly I'm thinking about just putting them all over the house. Is this info correct?
 
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Old 01-10-13, 09:54 AM
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A GFI will add additional safety over a non-GFI receptacle. There are still conditions that will allow you to be shocked without the GFI tripping.

An GFI on an ungrounded system should be labeled "no Equipment Ground".

Items with 2 prong cords do not require a grounded receptacle.
 
  #7  
Old 01-10-13, 10:06 AM
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I wonder if most manuals say you must plug into a grounded outlet because (for liability reasons) the assumption is the user will use a cheater plug? I've certainly never read "Or an ungrounded GFCI outlet is acceptable".
 
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Old 01-10-13, 10:32 AM
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Not sure Vic, seems like so much is done just to limit any potential liability.
 
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Old 01-10-13, 11:30 AM
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A lot of the outlets in my house (a 1955 Cape Cod, Milwaukee) are old two pin. I want to change them to accept a three pin plug and to be safer for the users.

My research so far is revealing I can legally replace them with GFCI outlets with stickers that say "no equipment ground".
You don't need to, and probably shouldn't, install more than one GFCI protection device per circuit. If you replace the first receptacle downstream from the panel with a GFCI receptacle and connect the wires feeding the rest of that circuit to the LOAD terminals on that receptacle, everything downstream of it is GFCI protected. You can, and probably should, just install standard receptacles there, and put two stickers on the faceplate for each of those. One is the "No Equipment Ground" sticker and the other is the "GFCI Protected" sticker.

If you avoid the temptation to use GFCI circuit breakers to provide this protection, then you can install AFCI protection in the panel. AFCI protection is required for the majority of the circuits in most homes by current code, and can only be provided in the panel.

Don't forget to provide GFCI protection, without AFCI protection, where it's needed for it's own properties: the two 20A small appliance branch circuits above the kitchen counter, all bathroom receptacles, all receptacles in the garage, the unfinished basement, the attic, or outside, etc.

For a more complete explanation of what's needed where, I like Mike Holt’s Illustrated Guide to Understanding the NEC Requirements for GFCI and AFCI Protection. For better information on your electrical system in general, including why as well as how things are constructed and connected the way they are, the latest edition of Wiring Simplified is both authoritative and inexpensive.
 
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Old 01-10-13, 12:14 PM
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Thanks Nashkat,

I had read about wiring up the first receptacle as a GFCI and using it to protect those downstream. But how do you go about figuring out what is the first in a circuit and what is downstream without embarking on what seems to me would be a pretty large discovery process, probably involving getting into the walls?

Is there a danger or problem in wiring multiple GFCI for single outlet protection only all in the same circuit? I figured that would provide the protection without having to go through the discovery process but I certainly don't want to do it if it will cause issues.


I haven't heard of AFCI before (can you tell how wet behind the ears I am at all this?). I presume since it's in the panel, a licensed electrician is required to install it?
 
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Old 01-10-13, 12:32 PM
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The search for the first receptacle is an Easter egg hunt. First you determine what is on the circuit. You then open a receptacle and see if one pair or wires has power. You now know what is downstream. Try to open the receptacles closest distance wise to the panel.

Multiple GFIs can be used, but are unnecessary. If you were to use more than one you would only use the LINE terminals.

AFCI is recent technology to look for arcs caused by wiring faults and loose connections. When an arc is detected the breaker shuts off the power.
 
  #12  
Old 01-10-13, 01:01 PM
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Last question first: AFCI is Arc Fault Circuit Interruption. It has to be in the panel because it is required "for each circuit serving..." That means from the breaker out. You might want to hire someone to do it, but the materials are usually a bit pricey and it's doubtful if you could find someone willing to do it in stages - but you could. It's really just a matter of replacing standard breakers with AFCI breakers. We can guide you through it.

You should read the Mike Holt article I linked to right away.

how do you go about figuring out what is the first in a circuit and what is downstream without embarking on what seems to me would be a pretty large discovery process, probably involving getting into the walls?
Make a rough drawing of your house and mark all of the receptacle, switch and light outlets on it with symbols. Include a symbol showing the panel location.

In the panel, choose a breaker marked "Receptacles" or "Outlets" or "General Service," or something like that, switch it off and test to see what you killed. Then mark each corresponding symbol on your drawing with the number of that breaker. Turn that breaker back on and go to the next. An inexpensive tool called a circuit breaker finder can help you with this, or you can just turn all of the lights on and plug a radio in somewhere.

Once you've got your "map" completed, look for the receptacle on each circuit that's closest to the panel. Kill the breaker, pull that receptacle, and look for two or more sets of wires. If it only has one set of wires, it's at the end of the line. Put it back in the wall and pick another one.

When you find the one that's close and also wired with two or more sets of wires, disconnect all the wires, bend them out to the sides and put a cap - a wire nut - on each black or red wire. Turn the breaker back on and see if that whole circuit is still dead - or at least all of the receptacles on that circuit. If not, kill the power, put that one back together and take a different one apart.

Once you've found the receptacle where taking the wires apart kills the whole circuit, use an inexpensive analog multimeter to determine which set of wires is the hot feed. Connect that set to the LINE terminals on your GFCI and any other sets to the LOAD terminals. Use a GFCI tester (which can be the one built into your circuit breaker finder) to test the other receptacles down line.

Note that I haven't mentioned opening any walls in this process.
 
  #13  
Old 01-10-13, 01:10 PM
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GFCI receptacles aren't inexpensive. Cutting down on the number of those you install will give you more cash to spend on AFCI breakers.
 
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Old 01-10-13, 03:16 PM
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Depending on the age of the wiring your boxes may be too small to fit a GFI receptacle in the box.
 
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Old 01-10-13, 04:27 PM
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If that turns out to be the case could I just replace the whole box instead?
 
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Old 01-10-13, 04:28 PM
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If that turns out to be the case could I just replace the whole box instead?
Yep, that's what you'll have to do.
 
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Old 01-10-13, 05:36 PM
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Use a Sawzall between the box and the studs to cu the nails holding the box to remove it and replace with a deep old work box.
 
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Old 01-10-13, 06:18 PM
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If you don't have a reciprocating saw (a Sawzall), and don't want to rent or buy one for this project, you can cut the fasteners by hand using a Sawzall blade in this handle: QUIK-LOK™ Job Saw™ 48-08-0401.
 
  #19  
Old 01-10-13, 07:31 PM
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AFCI protection is required for the majority of the circuits in most homes by current code, and can only be provided in the panel.
Unless you use AFCI receptacles.

Arc Fault Circuit Interrupter (AFCI) > Electrical Wiring Devices > Products from Leviton Electrical and Electronic Products
 
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Old 01-10-13, 09:13 PM
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Unless you use AFCI receptacles.
Okay. I'm curious, Joe. How does an AFCI receptacle meet the requirement to protect "the circuit serving..." And, if the OP decides to use those, how does he provide both the GFCI and the AFCI he needs on several of his branch circuits? With a GFCI breaker and an AFCI receptacle?

I'm curious because this may offer a path to making these upgrades that I didn't know about before. To add to the discussion, here's something from Mike Holt on the subject: Article 210, Branch Circuits, Section 210.12, Arc-Fault Circuit-Interrupter (AFCI) Protection.
 
  #21  
Old 01-11-13, 06:18 AM
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Nash, the AFCI receptacle would be installed in a box just outside the panel. As it is second in line behind the breaker or fuse it is considered to be protecting the circuit. The same could be done with a GFI device, either alone or in conjunction with, the AFCI to provide the GFI protection.

The GFI protection provided by the AFCI is Class B, 30 mA, not the 5 mA Class A that is required.
 
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Old 01-11-13, 10:33 AM
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Nash, the AFCI receptacle would be installed in a box just outside the panel. As it is second in line behind the breaker or fuse it is considered to be protecting the circuit.
PC, I'm imagining this multi-gang box mounted next to the panel with one AFCI device per circuit mounted in it! What you describe will certainly work, but I think I'd opt for AFCI breakers inside the panel and GFCI receptacles in the first outlet down line instead.
 
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Old 01-11-13, 10:50 AM
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That would be fine if the panel would accept an AFCI breaker. As the requirement for a circuit extension to have AFCI protection if the current code calls for it I think we will be seeing this more often, especially with older panels. For example a Bulldog Pushmatic is in the home, but the circuit neds to be extended. Either you change out the panel or you can install the AFCI receptacle.
 
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Old 01-11-13, 11:53 AM
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I think you're right, and it's nice to have that ace in the hole. It's certainly something the OP could consider doing in this project.

Unlike the greater availability of higher-efficiency light bulbs we're seeing now, I don't think we'll be seeing more AFCI breakers developed for older panels. They're pricey enough as it is, and developing new models for a limited and shrinking market, it seems, would only increase costs.

I'm curious now. What panels are you aware of that won't accept AFCI breakers? Some of the narrow ones, or the split-bus models? I've been installing GFCI breakers as a matter of course for 30 years, at least. I don't recall ever encountering a panel that I couldn't put one of those in and, AFAIK, an AFCI breaker will fit anywhere a GFCI one will.
 
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Old 01-11-13, 02:41 PM
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FPE, Bulldog and Zinsco would be the ones I would think do not have GFI breakers.
 
  #26  
Old 01-11-13, 05:57 PM
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And the argument against replacing those is...?
 
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Old 01-11-13, 07:21 PM
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I'm curious, Joe. How does an AFCI receptacle meet the requirement to protect "the circuit serving..."
I couldn't resist, Nash, I had to do it! We just had a thread about these new AFCI receptacles and I agree with you, it would in most cases be easier to use an AFCI breaker. Now that these long awaited devices are on the market, I am wondering how often we'll see them and in what applications.
 
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Old 01-11-13, 07:30 PM
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I couldn't resist, Nash, I had to do it! We just had a thread about these new AFCI receptacles and I agree with you, it would in most cases be easier to use an AFCI breaker. Now that these long awaited devices are on the market, I am wondering how often we'll see them and in what applications.
Oh, okay! [pulling leg back in to match the other one]

I agree. I'n just worried that we'll see them used in ways that don't provide the required protection, because "hey, it was cheaper!"
 
  #29  
Old 01-11-13, 07:58 PM
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Here is some interested language from the Leviton product bulletin.

Units. Where branch-circuit wiring is modified, replaced, or extended in any of the areas specified in 210.12(A), the branch circuit must be protected by:
(1)
A listed combination AFCI located at the origin
of the branch circuit; or
(2)
A listed outlet branch circuit AFCI located
at the first receptacle outlet of the existing branch circuit.
Similar to GFCIs, AFCI receptacles provide feed-through protection and are able to detect
downstream arc-faults, both parallel and series, as well as upstream series arc-faults.
 

Last edited by pcboss; 01-11-13 at 08:46 PM. Reason: format quote
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