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darlingm 11-28-2011 10:01 PM

Attic wiring - ceiling lighting uses 14/2 cable without ground
 
Sort of a follow-up post to post "Fixing multiple attic electrical issues before blowing insulation".

Cliff notes of that post is that my attic electrical wiring needs some work, and that we don't have the money to hire an electrician. I've done a lot of learning, video watching, and more looking in my house. Definitely up for the task.

It looks like the house-flipper told a half truth when he said the entire home's wiring was redone. The panel is new, and new looking romex is ran everywhere in the basement and main floor. It's a 1 story ranch, so that just leaves the attic...

And, they completely ignored the attic. Everything up there is marked "COLUMBIA 14/2 TYPE NM 500". Sadly, it's truly "14/2" with NO ground.

Good news is the wiring in the attic only goes to the ceiling lights. (EDIT: All ceiling lights are up to 100watt sockets, currently with 13watt CFL bulbs. Not recessed.) I've verified all the outlets are using new-looking romex. They have a ground. Outlets near water have functioning GFCI outlets.


Question 1 - How unsafe is it for light switches & ceiling lights to not have a ground? (Interested in electricution & fire risk.)

Question 2 - Is it against code for light switches & ceiling lights to not have a ground? Or, is there an exemption that allows this for older wiring, since people won't be near these circuits often? (I can hope, right?)

Question 3 - My dad had a thought that I can't see anything wrong with, except that it might not be allowed by code. The cleanest way is obviously to run new romex from the panel, and re-wire everything in the attic. But, since the ground wire is effectively shared among the entire house, could we run a single ground wire up from the attach point on the water pipe to the attic, and have it connect into all the ground leads? I know this isn't the clean way to do it, but is this allowed under code to make old work better? Or is this something that makes you want to cringe for good reason, and say OMG don't do that?

Question 4 - This 14/2 NM cable looks metallic, but it's actually a braided fiber or paper with a silver and shiny finish. Any reason why this type of outside is less safe than the plastic that today's romex uses?


Cost is a big factor, but at the same time, I'm willing to do what I need to do to make the house safe. Taking a shortcut of running a separate ground wire and putting all splices in the attic into junction boxes would save money that we need and time. But, please let me know if there's something really wrong with this that means I really need to just run new romex and re-wire everything.


Question 5 - If I have to run new romex, it would be very difficult to use the existing cable routes. I can't access half the attic wiring on the basement side due to a permanently installed ceiling that looks like a drop ceiling -- but isn't. (Well, it's not permanent in the sense that I can rip it down and put up something else, but that project is further down my to-do list.) Could I figure out how many light circuits I have, run that many 12/2 NM with ground cables from the box into the utility room 10 feet away, then all up together in a wall cavity into the attic, then dispurse from there? (Dropping down from above to hit the light switches.) I think the worst case scenario is adding 20 feet to one or two of the circuits. Right now, I think the cables go up near their light switch, then to the ceiling light. I'm not sure if this distance matters in the end. And, I'm not sure if it's unsafe to run so many cables and circuits right next to each other.

(Click this image to see a larger version of it)

http://img263.imageshack.us/img263/8678/cable1000px.jpg

ddawg16 11-29-2011 05:47 AM

Darling....I remember your other posts.....kudos to you for jumping in like you are....I do have to commend you for you attention to detail and doing what many fail to understand.....

see my comments in a different color....

Quote:

Originally Posted by darlingm (Post 781071)
Question 1 - How unsafe is it for light switches & ceiling lights to not have a ground? (Interested in electricution & fire risk.) My house is wired the same way....unsafe? Need input from the experts.

Question 2 - Is it against code for light switches & ceiling lights to not have a ground? Or, is there an exemption that allows this for older wiring, since people won't be near these circuits often? (I can hope, right?)
As I mentioned above...my house is the same way. That is how it was done back then. My understanding is that you can leave it this way. Once again, we need to hear from the experts.

Question 3 - My dad had a thought that I can't see anything wrong with, except that it might not be allowed by code. The cleanest way is obviously to run new romex from the panel, and re-wire everything in the attic. But, since the ground wire is effectively shared among the entire house, could we run a single ground wire up from the attach point on the water pipe to the attic, and have it connect into all the ground leads? I know this isn't the clean way to do it, but is this allowed under code to make old work better? Or is this something that makes you want to cringe for good reason, and say OMG don't do that?
I see no reason to rewire your lights. Once again, waiting for the experts to chime in...but when it comes to code...you do not need to change it.

Question 4 - This 14/2 NM cable looks metallic, but it's actually a braided fiber or paper with a silver and shiny finish. Any reason why this type of outside is less safe than the plastic that today's romex uses?
The cable in my house looks the same. As long as the outside is not damaged, it's fine. They didn't have the plastic back then....

Cost is a big factor, but at the same time, I'm willing to do what I need to do to make the house safe. Taking a shortcut of running a separate ground wire and putting all splices in the attic into junction boxes would save money that we need and time. But, please let me know if there's something really wrong with this that means I really need to just run new romex and re-wire everything.


Question 5 - If I have to run new romex, it would be very difficult to use the existing cable routes. I can't access half the attic wiring on the basement side due to a permanently installed ceiling that looks like a drop ceiling -- but isn't. (Well, it's not permanent in the sense that I can rip it down and put up something else, but that project is further down my to-do list.) Could I figure out how many light circuits I have, run that many 12/2 NM with ground cables from the box into the utility room 10 feet away, then all up together in a wall cavity into the attic, then dispurse from there? (Dropping down from above to hit the light switches.) I think the worst case scenario is adding 20 feet to one or two of the circuits. Right now, I think the cables go up near their light switch, then to the ceiling light. I'm not sure if this distance matters in the end. And, I'm not sure if it's unsafe to run so many cables and circuits right next to each other.

As I said....your wiring sounds just like mine. I'm in the middle of a 2-story addition to my house....I'm starting to tie in my existing circuits to the new wiring (hard to do when you also living there and have 3 kids....thank God and granny and granddad). I am installing new romex up to the first box of each branch.....then after that I am leaving the existing wire as is. Nothing wrong with it. Exception is the kids rooms...I am installing new romex into their rooms only because I want to put them on AFIC breakers.

So the real question of the day....do your light fixtures require a ground? Lets wait to see what the experts say.

AllanJ 11-29-2011 06:30 AM

Grounding the light fixtures or the circuit serving them is not mandatory so long as nothing new is daisy chained onto that circuit.

You are safe provided you are careful touching the fixtures, say, to change the light bulbs. If you lay a rubber mat on the floor before setting down your step stool or stepladder, and wear rubber gloves, you are very safe. If you put a ground fault interupter in the circuit (for example a GFCI breaker) you will make it safe even with no ground wire.

3. You can run a single ground wire (one per branch circuit) daisy chaining among (or teeing off to) any or all fixtures and receptacles served by that circuit. This ground wire must go all the way to the panel (or to the fat ground wire between panel and ground rod/water pipe) although it need not follow the route of the hot and neutral.

5. Although there is a limit (based on cross section of the space and number./size of wires and cables, there is no problem dropping several Romex cables down one wall cavity (stud bay). The added distance from the breaker box to the chosen wall cavity and then, upstairs, over to the part of the house served will not cause a problem.

HouseHelper 11-29-2011 09:01 AM

I would leave the existing wiring as is, just make sure all the circuits are on 15A breakers. For added safety, you could replace the existing breakers with arc-fault breakers.

If you are going to go to the trouble of adding a ground wire to every fixture, you might as well go ahead and replace the existing wire with new as it won't be that much more work.


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