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Old 01-16-2008, 11:55 AM   #1
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Converting to a grounded outlet


Iím new to the sight and new to DIY electrical work. I recently bought a home with ungrounded (2 prong) outlets through out most of the house. After discussing how to upgrade to conventional grounded outlets with a few friends/neighbors who had addressed the problem in the past, I ran a bare copper wire to the metal box and the other end to the grounding screw on the outlet.
How safe is what I did, and are there better ways to upgrade the outlets? Specifically, what are the disadvantages to what I did, and how would I go about doing it the proper way?
Thanks,


Last edited by pdesjardins; 01-16-2008 at 03:07 PM.
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Old 01-16-2008, 01:29 PM   #2
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Converting to a grounded outlet


I think that's fine IF the metal box is grounded. Do you have a multi-tester? Check for continuity between neutral (the white wire) and the metal box. If your house is wired with BX cable, the metal sheath can serve as a ground if it's attached securely to every box, and not interupted on it's way back to the main panel.

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Old 01-16-2008, 01:56 PM   #3
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Converting to a grounded outlet


If there is no ground wire in the cable, the box will not be grounded and the wire you installed is worthless. You can clearly see if there is a bare grounding conductor in the box.

The best thing to do would be to have GFCI circuit breakers installed at the panel to protect the entire circuit.....no ground required.
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Old 01-16-2008, 03:07 PM   #4
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Converting to a grounded outlet


Thanks for the replies.
How bad is the set up i have now with basically no ground? Isn't it just as bad (no worse off) as what was in the house for the past 40 years, except I can now use 3 pronged plugs?
Is installing GFCI breaker into my existing breakers something i can do myself or do I need a pro? I'm willing to take a crack at it, but if I'm going to cause more harm then good I would just assume gets it done right.

Thanks
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Old 01-16-2008, 09:47 PM   #5
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Converting to a grounded outlet


If the house is that old, there is a possibility that you may have MC in there. Look for flexible metallic runs to your panel. If it is like this, then your installation would be grandfathered in. The jacket on the cable functions as a bond between your boxes and your panel ground. Do you have metal boxes? Again, metal boxes, MC wiring and your bonding jumper should be fine. Note: before I get jumped on, I know that this is not CURRENT code compliance, but this is an old install.

Your other option, is to replace your breakers with the GFCI type.
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Old 01-17-2008, 12:26 AM   #6
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Converting to a grounded outlet


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Isn't it just as bad (no worse off) as what was in the house for the past 40 years, except I can now use 3 pronged plugs?
It IS worse. Someone could assume that you had a grounded, safe system, plug in their grounded cord and get electrocuted via a faulty tool or appliance. It IS a stretch but that is why the code is there. If it has a gound pin it must be grounded or GFCI protected.

Installing GFCI breakers MAY be "easy" and it may be tough. It may be impossible in some cases (3 wire home run). If your panel is very clean (not a clustered mess) and you have enough room to move things around, and if you have no multi wire branch circuits (look for red wires) and if you have a means of disconnect so you can work on it....you might be able to do it.

The GFCI circuit breaker have both a hot and neutral connection along with a pigtail that will attach to the neutral bus. You need to identify the circuit, remove the neutral from the bus and attach both the hot and neutral to the breaker. In many cases the neutral wires may not be long enough and you will have to extend them or move breakers around.

It aint rocket science but it aint like making cookies.
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Old 01-17-2008, 06:05 AM   #7
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Converting to a grounded outlet


Couldn't he also replace his ungrounded recepts. with GFCI recepts? This is more $$$ but maybe easier for him.
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Old 01-17-2008, 09:18 AM   #8
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Converting to a grounded outlet


Ah yes,....the old friends and neighbor advice.
Just make sure your homeowners insurance is paid up, if you get more advice from that crowd.
Did you ever think to ask someone who REALLY knows what they are doing....like the city inspector, or a licensed electrician...better safe than sorry...
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Old 01-17-2008, 09:57 AM   #9
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Converting to a grounded outlet


You actually have several options... you can as 221 said use gfci breakers and as twilight said install a gfci in place of the two prong outlet. These options give you added protection against electrocution but this does't give you a grounding wire back to the main panel. And it will not facilitate the tripping of a breaker on a ground fault. If you are wanting a grounding means for connection of computer equipment or other electronic devices you will need to get a ground wire to the box or boxes where you want 3 prong grounding type outlets. Some types of older metal clad cables such as BX can be used for the grounding path back to the main panel. You will have to test to see if you have a ground path existing such as metal conduit. If you have romex type cable and no ground wire exists then you do not have grounding. I'll put up a diagram from Mike Holt showing the acceptable ways to replace a 2 prong outlet with a 3 prong outlet. Using a gfci receptacle first in the circuit will allow you to replace all downstream 2 prong outlets with three prong if you connect the cable going to them to the load terminals of the gfci. If it is too difficult to locate the first receptacle in the circuit you can go back to the circuit breaker panel and if possible change the breaker to a gfci breaker as 221 stated and explained. Or you can find the cable that leaves the panel going to the circuit you are wanting to use 3 prongs and install a gfci receptacle and then connecting the downstream cable to its load terminals will allow you to change out the 2 prongs downstream to 3 prong grounding type receptacles. Remember though none of these methods give you a ground fault path for tripping of a circuit breaker in the event of a fault or to facilitate the needs of some equipment. If you must have a ground post back and we can go over those options.

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Old 01-17-2008, 06:23 PM   #10
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Converting to a grounded outlet


Quote:
Couldn't he also replace his ungrounded recepts. with GFCI recepts? This is more $$$ but maybe easier for him.
1) It would be a lot more work.

B) GFCI's will BARELY stuff into an older box and then, only if there aren't multiple cables in there.
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Old 01-19-2009, 02:34 PM   #11
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Converting to a grounded outlet


using the search function and bringing back an older thread:

My house was built in the late '50s. I have two prong outlets but I do have bare copper wires that are attached to the box (seen when removing the cover of the outlet. I assume I just need to run a short (3-4") wire from the green terminal on the 3-prong outlets to the bare copper wire that is secured to the back of the outlet box. In this fashion the plug and box are both grounded. Is this adequate?

Thanks
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Old 01-19-2009, 02:46 PM   #12
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Converting to a grounded outlet


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Originally Posted by tondar View Post
using the search function and bringing back an older thread:

My house was built in the late '50s. I have two prong outlets but I do have bare copper wires that are attached to the box (seen when removing the cover of the outlet. I assume I just need to run a short (3-4") wire from the green terminal on the 3-prong outlets to the bare copper wire that is secured to the back of the outlet box. In this fashion the plug and box are both grounded. Is this adequate?

Thanks
Since your replacing your receptacles anyways, I would buy self grounding receptacles and loose the headache of trying to bond the box to the receptacle with a grounding conductor...

THis of course if you actually have a ground at the box to begin with.
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Old 01-19-2009, 02:55 PM   #13
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Converting to a grounded outlet


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Originally Posted by goose134 View Post
If the house is that old, there is a possibility that you may have MC in there. Look for flexible metallic runs to your panel. If it is like this, then your installation would be grandfathered in. The jacket on the cable functions as a bond between your boxes and your panel ground. Do you have metal boxes? Again, metal boxes, MC wiring and your bonding jumper should be fine. Note: before I get jumped on, I know that this is not CURRENT code compliance, but this is an old install.

Goose, first off , its not MC, its BX, but the NEC calls it AC Type Cable ART. 320, Now, MC actually contains a grounding conductor, where BX ( AC type Cable) uses the outer jacket as the grounding conductor, but this is ONLY TRUE if the BX contains a bonding wire inside the metal jacket.




Older BX Wire on Top, BLK, RED, & WHITE conductors, no bonding conductor so you cannot use the jacket as a ground.
New Type AC Wire on Bottom, contains bonding wire, jacket can be used as a grounding conductor.




Top picture is older style BX (AC) type wire with bonding wire. Jacket can be used as grounding conductor.

Middle Picture is MC type cable

Bottom is newer AC type wire with bonding wire installed


Last edited by chris75; 01-19-2009 at 03:01 PM.
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