GFCI breakers on old two wire system?


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Old 02-07-02, 07:32 AM
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GFCI breakers on old two wire system?

We're having some electrical work done on our house, some of which involves reconfiguring our panels.

Our house has some older Romex wiring, and some of the newer 3-wire stuff. It looks like the person that had the house before us replaced all the outlets with the 3-prong outlets, even on the old 2-wire circuits.

The electrician suggested that to fix this we replace the regular breakers in the panel with GFCI breakers.

Does this make sense? It would be cheaper (by far!) to simply track down those outlets myself and replace them (or at least the first one in the series) with a GFCI outlet.

I'd put the GFCI breakers in if I thought it would do anything, but would it provide any real safety for these "non-grounded" outlets? Or would they just pop all the time and be more of an annoyance than a help?

Any and all input is GREATLY appreciated!

Curt
 
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Old 02-07-02, 09:19 AM
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Your plan to place a GFCI receptacle is the way to go, if you can determine which is the first in the line. It will only work if all of the other receptacles on that circuit breaker are fed through the 1st recept.
If the circuit comes from the circuit breaker to a central distribution point (ie maybe a light fixture box), then goes out to the receptacles, it will not work. You would need to replace the circuit breaker with a GFCI type.
A GFCI circuit breaker does the same thing as placing a GFCI 1st in line for the rest of the cirucit. The breaker is more expensive. They limit current to 5 milli amps or so.
 
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Old 02-07-02, 09:28 AM
resqcapt19
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Ron,
They limit current to 10 milli amps or so.
All GFCIs, both breakers and receptacles, are required to trip at between 4 to 6 mA. There are GFP breakers used for heat trace that trip at 20 or 30 ma, but these are not GFCIs and do not provide "people" protection. The GFPs only provide equipment protection.
Don(resqcapt19)
 
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Old 02-07-02, 09:33 AM
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Right after veiwing the post I realized my error.
Thanks
 
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Old 02-07-02, 10:08 AM
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GFCI breakers provide the same level of protection as the GFCI receptacles. GFCI breakers are spendy. Plus you are protecting every outlet on the specific circuits downstream of the service panel. Is the two-wire romexes between the receptacle circuits and your service panel?

If they are, here are your choices:

1. install non-grounding type receptacles (two-wire type).

2. install GFCI receptacles in place of the two-wire ones.
Mark the receptacle "No equipment ground." Do not connect the equipment grounding conductor (green insulation or bare conductor) from the GFCI receptacle to any other outlet supplied from the GFCI receptacle.

3. install grounding type receptacle (3-wire) where supplied through a GFC interrupter (circuit breaker). Mark the receptacle "GFCI protected" and "No equipment ground." Do not connect the equipment grounding conductor (green insulation or bare copper) between the grounding-type receptacles.

Note: GFCI protection is required for kitchen counter top, bathroom, outdoor and garage receptacles. If you have those applications then provide GFCI protection.

The next options require more manual labor than the above:

4. Connect the equipment grounding conductor of a grounding type receptacle to any accessible point on the grounding electrode system ( no more than 5 feet from where the main metallic water line enters your house). Same wire size as the branch circuit's hot and neutral.

5. Any accessible point on the grounding electrode conductor (this is the conductor that's routed from your service panel
to the main metallic water line in #4). Same wire size as the branch circuit's hot and neutral.

Are there any lighting circuits fed from the same receptacle circuits? If yes, then try to feed the lighting circuits ahead of the GFCI receptacle. My post is based on the 1999 NEC because it is still enforced where I live. It might be a good idea if you talk to your electrical inspector and see what he/she recommends. Hope I didn't confuse you. Post back
if you need more info.
 

Last edited by thinman; 02-07-02 at 10:29 AM.
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Old 02-07-02, 11:16 AM
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Is there an easy way to "map" the outlets so that I can see which are upstream from the box? I figure I switch off the breaker, see which outlets are affected, then disconnect one. When I turn back on the juice, if that's the one that's wired into the box, none of the others will work. Is there an easier way?

And the Romex wiring runs from the box out into the nether regions of the walls. I'm pretty sure that most of it is upstairs in our house, not downstairs.

Thanks for the help...

Curt
 
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Old 02-07-02, 01:22 PM
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You've got the idea. It is time consuming.
Once you determine which outlets are effected by turning off a circuit breaker, consider the logic that the installer would have used during original installation. Outlets closest to the circuit breaker might be first in line.
 
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Old 02-09-02, 01:33 PM
Wgoodrich
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In older homes that are wired with 2 wire circuits without grounding conductors almost always ran to the light fixture then out to the receptacles. I will bet you will find that no receptacle if removed on that circuit will kill all the other receptacles on that circuit. There will be no first receptacle on any circuit if wired in an older home. That was the wiring style back then. Power from panel to light box then to all receptacles from that light box. The only way you can use a GFI receptacle making it the first receptacel on that circuit to protect all other receptacles on that circuit is to install a GFI receptacle below the panel then route the branch circuit from the panel through that GFI receptacle then out to the house wiring that is existing on that branch circuit. You would have to install a new GFI receptacle below the panel hitting the GFI first then out the each branch circuit existing wiring one GFI receptacle for each circuit.

If it were me I would pay the dollars for the GFI breakers. They will work same as the GFI receptacles yet be a bit more expensive. At least then you will know the whole branch circuit will be GFI protected no matter what wiring design you have.

If you want more protection then you can install the GFI receptacles below the panel routing each branch circuit from the panel through that new GFI receptacle mounted below the panel then out to each existing branch circuit one for each branch circuit. Then you can buy the new arc fault breakers to be installed in the panel. That way you have the GFI protection protecting short circuits or leakage. Then the arc fault breaker will be monetor each branch circuit for any arcing due to a loose connection that may cause a fire. That way you have the best of both worlds concerning safety of your home both protecting from shock and from fires due to bad junctions hidden within your walls or in boxes where you are not aware that loose connections exist but may be cooking now.

I have been researching a lot about the arc fault breakers and have been quite impressed the hell the testing laboratories have been putting them through and they seem to be passing all tests. They may be new. They may be a pain if they are installed and start tripping. But if you have faith it may be tripping because it is sensing arcing within your walls that you are not presently aware of. Sounds like a good deal to me. Also sounds like they are going to become more popular in Code rules than the GFI in the next couple of Code cycles as they prove themselves.

Reports are saying that many more lives than you can imagine have been saved by the GFI since it came onto the market years ago. I am now convinced these arc fault breakers will be preventing many more houses from damage due to fires than we can imagine in the future. Just to satisfy yourself do some research to find what the most common fires are caused by. You will find loose connections in branch circuits to be the biggy cause of a major part of those fires in existing homes.

I am in the process of proceeding with all my rental properties right now of upgrading to arc fault breakers where ever I can. I have seen way too many results of bodily and property harm due to fires. This seems to me to be a new product that will make me feel much more confident concerning fire safety. I am not a saleman of these units nor am I trying to sell them to anyone for any reason other than maybe if one life is saved by what I say about the arc fault breakers in would be worth my while. Especially if that one life I save is a close contact of mine like a my daughter. Preventing one horror of death by fire in my mind is worth all the arc fault breakers I can buy, I have seen the results of death by fire and NEVER want to see another ever again.

I have great expectations of this new arc fault breaker especially after the results that I obtained investigating the research, development, and testing regions that have been out there since 1993.

Hope this helps

Wg
 
 

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