Upgrading 2 Prong Receptacles

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Old 11-22-17, 10:51 AM
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Upgrading 2 Prong Receptacles

Good Afternoon! My home was built in the 1940's - I have no ground wire throughout the house and most of my receptacles are 2 prong. I am looking to safely upgrade majority of my 2 prong receptacles to 3 prong and I have a couple of questions. From my research I learned that I should use GFCI receptacles since I don't have a ground wire OR place a ground wire in the outlet as long as it can be screwed to a metal outlet box. Is this correct?

If the above is correct, what is the safest way for me to go about this? I don't particularly want GFCI receptacles in areas that constantly need power such as my internet modem or computer as I don't want these items shut off improperly.

My kitchen already has GFCI receptacles, however when I replaced one recently I found that there is a ground wire screwed into a metal outlet box. If it has the ground wire, do these need to be GFCI? I notice that a lot of kitchens and bathrooms have GFCI so is this normal?

Thanks in advance for any input!
 
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Old 11-22-17, 10:57 AM
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You either need to put GFCI on the circuit or actually ground it - screwing a wire to a metal box does not ensure that has occurred. Tell us more about the wiring in your house.

Yes, kitchen circuits must be GFCI protected regardless of grounding.
 
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Old 11-22-17, 11:15 AM
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I have Square D breaker panels, there are some GFCI breakers in there, would they work in a case like that if he also had a Square D panel?
 
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Old 11-22-17, 11:17 AM
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GFCI can be a receptacle or a breaker. The receptacles tend to be more common because of price, IMO.
 
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Old 11-23-17, 10:38 AM
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From my research I learned that I should use GFCI receptacles since I don't have a ground wire OR place a ground wire in the outlet as long as it can be screwed to a metal outlet box. Is this correct?

You can install one GFCI receptacle as the first receptacle on each circuit and then install grounding type receptacles downstream of the GFCI receptacles although you still have no grounding conductor. The catch is, you also have to install a label at each receptacle stating "No Eqpmt Grd". The next catch is, you'll have to make your own labels, no one makes and sells sheets of these labels.
 
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Old 11-24-17, 05:38 AM
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Thanks for the responses.

stickshift: My breaker is only 100 amps max and I have old cloth wiring. All of my receptacles are 2 prong except the GFCI receptacles in the kitchen and bathroom.

Casualjoe: So if the first receptacle on the circuit is GFCI, the rest that are downstream can be regular 3 prong receptacles? With or without any type of ground wire? Is there a trick to figuring out which receptacle is first in the circuit or is it just a trial and error game to figure it out?
 
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Old 11-24-17, 09:39 AM
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So if the first receptacle on the circuit is GFCI, the rest that are downstream can be regular 3 prong receptacles?

That is correct, but each receptacle, including the GFCI receptacle, must have the label affixed to the plate where it is clearly visible.


With or without any type of ground wire?

If you have a ground wire you wouldn't need to GFCI protect the circuit. This procedure is used if you DO NOT have a ground wire.


Is there a trick to figuring out which receptacle is first in the circuit or is it just a trial and error game to figure it out?

It's sometimes a hit and miss project to find the first receptacle. Use your head and look at the area the circuit serves and try to visualize how the circuit was most likely run. In older houses you have to remember that sometimes the circuit was run to the ceiling boxes as junctions before branches fed the receptacles. You really don't need to GFCI protect the lights, but in an older house sometimes you will have to in order to protect all the receptacles. As a last resort you could always install GFCI circuit breakers.
 
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Old 11-24-17, 12:33 PM
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Thanks, Casualjoe. I should be good to move forward with this project now, but I'll post if I have any further issues.
 
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Old 11-25-17, 11:58 AM
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Upon further inspection, I did have one GFCI receptacle connected in the master bedroom, however this is not the first in the circuit. I went to the 2 prong receptacle on the other end of the room and it actually has two hot and two neutral wires connected - when I disconnected this one, the only receptacle that stopped working was a single 3 prong I have in my master bathroom. The rest of the receptacles and even the lights and fan in my bathroom still operated.

Am I doing something wrong here to try to find the circuit path? The results from this test don't seem to add up. Why does one of the two prong receptacles have 4 wires attached to it instead of 2 like the others? My guess would be that they ran two more wires to power the 3 prong receptacle in the bathroom as an upgrade years after the home was built, but why do none of these receptacles seem to be on the same circuit?
 

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Old 11-25-17, 02:04 PM
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The first thing you need to do is to turn the circuit off and identify everything that is now dead. Usually this establishes a pattern you can follow. Since the circuits start at the panel..... usually the closest dead device is the first in the circuit,

Since the circuit goes from one device to another..... it is very common to see two wires in and two wires out. Where there are only two wires will usually be the end of the circuit.

I use the word "usually" as nothing is written in stone.
 
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Old 11-25-17, 02:39 PM
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PJmax: I identified everything that was off from that particular circuit breaker, but when I disconnect the wires from what I believe to be the first in the circuit, the other receptacles still work. I tried this with each receptacle at opposite ends of the room. There's only three receptacles so I assume it wouldn't be the one in the middle of those two.

I also realized that my GFCI receptacle is not going to fit in the current outlet box that held the old 2 prong receptacle. Is upgrading to a larger box something an amateur can do? Seems simple enough, but I don't want to get myself into a mess.

Will it be dangerous to leave the GFCI receptacle connected if the cover will not go flush against the wall? I intend to fix tomorrow, but don't want to reconnect the old two prong unless I need to.
 
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Old 11-25-17, 03:57 PM
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Pretty strange to find only three receptacles on a circuit. Back then they put several rooms on one circuit. It would seem that you have missed something on the circuit.

1940's wiring can be old style Bx (metal clad) cable or cloth covered Nm (non metallic) cable. Either one is going to be brittle to work with.

The BX is tougher to replace a box on.
 
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Old 11-27-17, 10:29 AM
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I might be missing something - I can't figure it out. Either way, I decided to put the old receptacle back in as everything seemed so fragile and I did not want to get into a mess. Hopefully the other receptacles I am looking to replace won't be too small, but I'm not getting my hopes up.
 
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Old 11-27-17, 10:47 AM
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Here's another option you may like to try. Rather than installing expensive GFCI breakers or trying to find the first receptacle on each circuit you could also install a deadfront GFCI device for each 120 volt circuit you wish to protect at the panel. Then, simply route each circuit through a single GFCI device and then on to the rest of the circuit. This is what a dead front GFCI device looks like. Almost the same as a GFCI receptacle, but it has no slots in which to plug something in.

https://www.lowes.com/pd/Eaton-20-Am...tlet/999930556
 
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Old 11-27-17, 11:40 AM
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Casualjoe: Wouldn't I still need to find which is first in the circuit if I went with the dead front GFCI? Where would I install it?

I'm starting to lean more towards installing the GFCI breaker. There have been many comments on the cost of this, but I think I can do this for around $100 or less which would be within my budget. Does this seem accurate if I only am replacing a few breakers with the gfci? The real question is, is this something that I can do without professional help?
 

Last edited by TJRussell24; 11-27-17 at 12:09 PM.
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Old 11-27-17, 04:45 PM
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Wouldn't I still need to find which is first in the circuit if I went with the dead front GFCI? Where would I install it?
I believe what CasualJoe is suggesting is installing a junction box near the breaker panel and pull cable from the breaker panel and install in this new junction box and running new cable to the breaker panel. Then you can install a dead front GFCI in that junction box.
This may be more work than you want.

I agree that GFCI breakers will be much easier than trying to figure out which is the first outlet from the breaker. Also that outlet may end up behind a furniture, which makes it hard to reset the GFCI in the future. The only downside is the cost.

One other thing to consider is many houses with 2 prong outlets are either on fuse or discontinued breaker unless they were upgraded. If you have a fuse panel or discontinued breaker, there are no GFCI breaker available.
 
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Old 11-28-17, 07:28 AM
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I don't think I have a discontinued breaker and I definitely don't have fuses. I have a Siemens panel and I was able to find some GFCI breakers that are compatible online.
 
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Old 11-28-17, 08:46 AM
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Casualjoe: Wouldn't I still need to find which is first in the circuit if I went with the dead front GFCI? Where would I install it?
No, the first receptacle on the circuit is a non-issue because the new dead front GFCI device becomes the first device in each circuit. The wiring is run from the breaker to the dead front device and then continues on to feed the original circuit. Typically when this system is used a 1900 box is attached directly to the grounded panel box with a chase nipple or offset nipple. You can put two dead front devices in each 1900 box and use a raised cover on each box.
 
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