How to ground main breaker box?

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Old 05-29-18, 11:53 AM
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Can somebody confirm main breaker box grounding?

Hello
I'm new here and i'm aware this issue has been addressed for other people but I also assume every case is different and wanted to confirm. It's come to my attention that a house I own and have rented out for a while (recently moved into) isn't grounded. Two hot water heaters have burned out in the past, and now surge protectors in the outlets show ungrounded lights on them. This wasn't the case about 5 years ago. I suspect the last tenant made some kind of change. None the less, I'd like to fix it. Upon looking in my breaker box (pics attached) I don't see a grounding wire at all. I'm wondering if I can just run a 6 gauge (wrong, addressed in later edit) copper wire from the neutral bus to an 8ft ground rod outside (although I read somewhere that now 16ft is recommended/required?). I'd appreciate any clarification/guidance as this is a worrying issue. I don't want to lose another water heater, talk less of my big screen lol.

Label in the breaker box identifies the bus bar on the opposite side of the one near the braided neutral cable as where to ground the box when needed. So do I just run a ground wire from that bus bar to a grounding rod?
Apologies for poor post format and thanks for any insight.
 
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Last edited by ajw864; 05-29-18 at 01:24 PM.
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Old 05-29-18, 01:01 PM
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Also, I'm aware of the unacceptable old wires on three circuits. Replacing those are my next step. Also, I notice at some point or another that black main cable was too hot and melted that plastic. If there's an obvious fix or explanation for that, I'd really appreciate somebody explaining but that I intended to get a real electrician to fix regardless as I assume that would at least require getting the house's power turned off while that cable is refitted into it's position.
Again, thanks for any help given in advance.
Quick edit:
I said 6 gauge wire because I had a diagram up implying that's a typical ground wire. That can't be possible, I'm sure. I assume standard is closer to 12 or 10.
 
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Old 05-29-18, 02:39 PM
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First find the first whole-house disconnect switch or breaker for the house and located in or on the house. This is where you connect the grounding electrode conductor going to the ground rod(s). Six gauge copper is the standard, not 10 or 12. In this panel or box connect the GEC to the ground bus bar (terminal strip). (If there are no whole house disconnect switches anywhere upstream including on a utility pole you may connect the GEC to the neutral bus bar.)

No ground is probably not the reason for an all electric water heater burning out. There is nothing in household wiring that would cause overvoltage to a full sized (and 240 volt) water heater due to an error in wiring. More likely the cause of burnout is letting the heater kick on with a lot of air in the tank after draining exercises or draining tests.
 
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Old 05-29-18, 02:42 PM
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Is there a disconnect at the meter? Grounding rods (normally 2 needed) connect there, not to a remote panel.

There looks to be enough wrong that you probably should start over with a new panel.
 
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Old 05-29-18, 02:54 PM
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Originally Posted by AllanJ View Post
First find the first whole-house disconnect switch or breaker for the house and located in or on the house. This is where you connect the grounding electrode conductor going to the ground rod(s). Six gauge copper is the standard, not 10 or 12. In this panel or box connect the GEC to the ground bus bar (terminal strip). (If there are no whole house disconnect switches anywhere upstream including on a utility pole you may connect the GEC to the neutral bus bar.)

No ground is probably not the reason for an all electric water heater burning out. There is nothing in household wiring that would cause overvoltage to a full sized (and 240 volt) water heater due to an error in wiring. More likely the cause of burnout is letting the heater kick on with a lot of air in the tank after draining exercises or draining tests.
No main switch/breaker. It's a locked meter can with a round plug in smart meter. Pulling the meter is how everybody I've ever seen turn the power off to their house, although I've never seen it done with a smart meter (new to this area). I wouldn't know what's on the pole, except for nothing reachable without a ladder (visible). I should have mentioned the water heater is an electric tankless. Last tenant apparently complained about their own stuff burning out but I don't have any details on that.

Originally Posted by Astuff View Post
Is there a disconnect at the meter? Grounding rods (normally 2 needed) connect there, not to a remote panel.

There looks to be enough wrong that you probably should start over with a new panel.
I considered that but it's not an option right now. Will have to budget for that over the next 6-12 months. Just trying to fix what I can until i can afford a new installation.
 
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Old 05-29-18, 03:11 PM
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Not sure whether whole house disconnect or not

Just went outside to double check. I don't know what this disconnect is and how upstream it is to the main breaker panel, simply because alot of this was here in the first place and I'm not sure what changes have been made in the years since I've been in the house.

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Last edited by PJmax; 05-29-18 at 03:21 PM. Reason: reoriented pics
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Old 05-29-18, 03:16 PM
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That black service wire is burned because there were strands cut off, no pentrox (anti corrosion) was used and by looking at the burned screw.... the screw is loose.

At the bottom of the panel you have cables coming in with no proper clamps. Cables cannot be just stuffed thru a sharp metal knockout without a clamp.
 

Last edited by PJmax; 05-29-18 at 04:12 PM.
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Old 05-29-18, 03:19 PM
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The more you show the worse it looks. Start getting quotes from electricians to clean this up.
 
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Old 05-29-18, 03:24 PM
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The lower disconnect was probably fed from the right meter and may have been for a water heater. I see what looks like a possible ground wire but it doesn't seem to enter the disconnect.

The left disconnect looks to have no pull out in it so it isn't doing anything either.

With the way that service is set up.... there should have been at least a water main ground to the inside panel.

I agree on a total service change.
 
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Old 05-29-18, 03:34 PM
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My best guess is that before, when I was here (roughly 5 years ago, before anything was saying it was ungrounded) there was a ground wire run to the inside panel connected to the pipes...and since then, somehow that wire has been removed, probably with a pipe repair. There were multiple busted pipes over the years, but I haven't had a chance to get in the crawl space (in the two weeks or so I've been back) and see what it looks like under the house in regards to pipes having been changed but I think it's a safe assumption.
 
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Old 05-29-18, 03:55 PM
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It appears that neither of the pull outs by the meter are being used as a disconnect. The left one has no pullout, the bottom one has nothing on the load side.

If there really is no main breaker (perhaps in another panel) you have much bigger issues then an ungrounded panel. You have unfused wires running through your house. This needs to be addressed before the ungrounded issue. That panel is a disaster.
 
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Old 05-29-18, 05:06 PM
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Appreciate everybody's help. Scheduled some local estimates.
 
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Old 05-29-18, 05:31 PM
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FYI - The ungrounded receptacles you found has nothing to do with grounding the service. It means the ground pin on the receptacle is not connected back to the panel. The silver cables look like old ungrounded NM so receptacles on those circuits would not have a ground. Maybe they did tie the (receptacle) ground to a water pipe but that is no longer allowed.
 

Last edited by Astuff; 05-29-18 at 07:09 PM. Reason: added receptacle stipulation
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Old 05-29-18, 05:54 PM
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ground to a water pipe but that is no longer allowed.
Huh ?

If it's a metal water supply it still gets connected to the panel along with ground rods.
 
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Old 05-29-18, 06:43 PM
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Specific rules apply to use of the cold water supply pipe as a panel ground (as a grounding electrode). The nearest water pipe does not count as a ground for individual otherwise ungrounded receptacles and fixtures.

I would not rely on a smart meter with remote turn off capabilities to kill the power so I can work on the wiring.
 

Last edited by AllanJ; 05-29-18 at 08:15 PM.
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Old 05-29-18, 06:50 PM
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Old 05-29-18, 07:04 PM
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I meant that the ground from receptacle to nearest water pipe is not good.

GEC to water pipe = OK and required - normally needs to be within 5 feet of point of entrance
EGC to water pipe = not OK unless to 1st 5 ft so counts as connected to GEC.
 
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Old 05-29-18, 07:53 PM
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No receptacles are connected to the pipes though. Silver cables are room circuits (lights, light switches, original receptacles). Those circuit receptacles are rarely if ever used. The yellow romex circuits in the pictures are the receptacles used, which I guess were added by the previous property manager. They're grounded to the breaker box far as I guess somebody thought (ground wire goes to the neutral bus bar, as seen in the pictures). I assume that person did so in the presence of a water main ground also being connected to the neutral bus bar as indicated by the breaker box's manufacturer label.
 
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Old 05-29-18, 08:07 PM
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Grounding to a water pipe and rods is for safety but won't normally make a difference in the power strips showing bad ground. That alert means there is an open wire between the ground pin on the receptacle and your main electrical box. It is supposed to be the main disconnect which has both neutrals and grounds attached to the same bars. Maybe they replaced the receptacles and didn't hook up the ground?
 
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Old 05-29-18, 09:11 PM
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The lack of a grounding system like rods is a separate issue from grounding conductors for a circuit. They are for totally different functions.

in the one picture on the 3rd screw from the left looks like a #6.
 
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Old 05-29-18, 11:12 PM
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Originally Posted by Astuff View Post
Grounding to a water pipe and rods is for safety but won't normally make a difference in the power strips showing bad ground. That alert means there is an open wire between the ground pin on the receptacle and your main electrical box. It is supposed to be the main disconnect which has both neutrals and grounds attached to the same bars. Maybe they replaced the receptacles and didn't hook up the ground?
Originally Posted by pcboss View Post
The lack of a grounding system like rods is a separate issue from grounding conductors for a circuit. They are for totally different functions.

in the one picture on the 3rd screw from the left looks like a #6.
Ah I see. I was under a few false assumptions. 1, I assumed that the new(er) outlet circuits (the yellow romex) would most likely be correctly wired, being that they've got visible ground wires in the breaker box; and 2, I assumed that if they're wired to the breaker box, and showing a ground fault, the breaker box must not have been grounded, thinking the lack of ground would be upstream for lack of a better word. I didn't realize they weren't directly related.

I was obviously mistaken about thinking this was a matter of connecting a ground wire to where the box says to put it and running that to ground rod(s). We all agree that a new service is needed, there's no doubt about that.

On the chance it's not viable right now, financially. (Very likely but I've scheduled estimates anyway) Is there anything that anybody thinks can or should be done in the meantime until a service change can be arranged?

Also, somebody mentioned lack of main disconnect earlier. I called around and asked a few people in my area (Upstate SC) and nobody seems to have them (all older houses). Is it possible the meter itself is the intended disconnect? Everybody I asked how they would disconnect their house's power, they said pull the meter.
I appreciate everybody's advice and time, regardless.
 
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Old 05-29-18, 11:32 PM
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Any half-measures are strongly recommended against. You could probably add a disconnect without burning down the house, but if for any reason the house burned down after you touched it, you would be the person most likely held liable (i.e. "You touched it last").

If I were approaching this as a tradesman, I would hand them an estimate to fix it right, make it clear that I changed nothing, and then back away slowly. If this is your house, well, the sooner you get it done right, the sooner you can sleep again.

My opinion, FWIW.
 
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Old 05-30-18, 06:52 AM
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How did you determine this is a split-bus panel? All of the 2 pole breakers appear to have cables exiting the box.
 
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Old 05-30-18, 08:07 AM
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How did you determine this is a split-bus panel? All of the 2 pole breakers appear to have cables exiting the box.
I would have sworn there was a picture of a split buss panel. I don't see it now. Maybe I'm confused. I deleted my post. and will leave this to the unconfused.
 
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Old 05-30-18, 09:37 AM
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Originally Posted by ajw864 View Post
Is there anything that anybody thinks can or should be done in the meantime until a service change can be arranged?
The ungrounded receptacles are mostly a separate issue from the panel problems so you could work on that. Those with the old 2 wire cable should be replaced with 2 prong receptacles or GFCIs labeled "no equipment ground." Receptacles on the newer grounded cable should be troubleshooted and repaired.
 
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Old 05-30-18, 11:17 AM
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Originally Posted by Astuff View Post
The ungrounded receptacles are mostly a separate issue from the panel problems so you could work on that. Those with the old 2 wire cable should be replaced with 2 prong receptacles or GFCIs labeled "no equipment ground." Receptacles on the newer grounded cable should be troubleshooted and repaired.
Okay, that's doable. Rest I'll leave to an electrician.

Appreciate the clarification and advice.
 
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