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theboys 04-22-2012 08:17 PM

100 year old home
I'm new to the forum and I don't mess with electrical issues. I leave it to the pros. My question, I'm looking at buying an older home. It is upgraded to a 200 amp panel, has 3 prong outlets, but the owner said he never ran a gound from the box. What are the pitfalls / safety hazards of not having grounded outlets? thanks,

k_buz 04-22-2012 08:44 PM

You NEED to have a ground. If there really isn't one, I would check with the local building department to see if there was a permit pulled for the upgrade. An inspector would not have passed the work if there wasn't a ground.

If there wasn't a permit, I would demand that a licensed electrician pull a permit, make sure the work was done correctly, and have it inspected. I would not buy the house if they wouldn't agree to those terms.

I might think again about pursuing this property if there wasn't a permit to begin with. My thinking would be, if they didn't pull a permit for something as important as the service, what other "little" things will come back to haunt me?

k_buz 04-22-2012 08:52 PM

I may have read too quickly...

If all the outlets have been replaced with 3 prong, but there isn't a equipment ground then I would reduce my offer by a couple grand. It would be illegal to install grounded recepts without an equipment ground present. If this is the case you have a couple options

Install GFCI's instead of the regular grounded outlets.
Install GFCI breakers for all branch circuits that don't have an equipment ground.
Rewire the house so there is an equipment ground (best option)

All of these could turn out to be expensive. I would bring in a licensed electrician to test the outlets and inspect the electric. Sure, you are going to pay for an hour or two of his time, but he would be able to tell you alot more than most home inspectors.

kwilcox 04-22-2012 08:53 PM

sounds odd, upgraded panel, three prong outlets but no circuit grounds. Maybe you aren't understanding what he meant which was that he didn't have an earth ground on the panel. That's a problem but certainly easier to fix then having no grounds at the outlets. Next time you go through the house, bring an outlet tester to check. It's a device with three lights on it that plugs directly into an outlet and can show a variety of issues including lack of ground.

If it shows good ground at the outlets then you're talking about establishing a water ground at the panel and driving in a set of earth rods. Not a big job for a qualified electrician.

No ground at the outlets is a bigger (more expensive to correct) issue, especially if there are three prong plugs installed. These shouldn't have been installed in ungrounded receptacles. In fact, they need to be removed I believe since they would be a code violation. At minimum you can protect downstream ungrounded outlets with GFCI outlets, but I've always considered that to be a workaround, not a fix. the real fix is to upgrade the wiring but that can be an expensive undertaking.

I suspect that this won't be the case here however but you need to find out before you float an offer.

ben's plumbing 04-22-2012 08:56 PM

don't seem right to have a new panel with out ground that was inspected...and without and inspection I doubt if you would have power....dig alittle deeper into your question......ben......... lower your bid if still intrested in still buying...

joed 04-22-2012 09:24 PM

Seems perfectly logical to have a new panel but no grounds on the circuits.
The receptacle need to be replaced with GFCI ones or the circuit need to have GFCI breakers to be legal. There will still be no grounds but it is OK to put three prong receptacles on ungrounded circuits if they are GFCI protected.

Red Squirrel 04-22-2012 09:47 PM

If you can take a visit, I would go in with a plug tester and test every outlet. If they indeed have no ground, start looking at how easy it would be to run new wire. Things like: is basement unfinished? Can you easily get to each outlet with minimum holes in walls, are you planing to repaint anyway? etc. Chances are it's knob and tube or something even older, so you'd want to rerun with romex.

Unless it's a really good deal I'd probably reconsider though, a 100 year old home is going to have tons of repairs to do in general. Look at the plumbing and foundation as well. Foundation alone can be very costly if it's having issues.

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