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atkearns 11-23-2008 09:39 AM

Old Wiring, New Outlet
Hi all,

To start off with, let's get this out in the open.. I'm pretty inexperienced with electrical work.

I have to replace an outlet in my 1930's house. When I took the old outlet off, the wiring didn't look like what I was expecting. I was hoping to see a black, white, & ground wire, but instead I just just have 2 black wires. (see attached picture)

Please help me understand how I can differentiate which one is hot and which one is neutral. Also, what should I do about not having any ground wire. Does it matter what kind of plug I use? (Right now I have a 15A 3-prong plug)

Thanks in advance for the help!

atkearns 11-23-2008 09:43 AM

Forgot to attach the picture. I uploaded it here:

Stubbie 11-23-2008 10:54 AM

Do you have a voltage tester? One like this would be fine..... Your wiring appears to be armored flex either bx or ac which will likely be sufficient for a ground. Test each wire individually to the metal box. The wire that lights the tester is your hot wire. If neither wire lights the tester then you do not have a good ground and we will try something else.

jerryh3 11-23-2008 10:56 AM

It looks like the one on the left is the white.

Yoyizit 11-23-2008 11:22 AM


Originally Posted by Stubbie (Post 188981)

And with this (neon?) tester, if they both light it try a 4w bulb for a tester (assuming there is no 240v on these wires).

atkearns 11-23-2008 11:56 AM

Thanks for the quick response.

I don't have a voltage tester like you showed, but I do happen to have a Circuit Alrert GVD-504A ( It beeps & lights up next to the wire on the right. So that would mean it's hot, correct?

Now, what about grounding? Is it OK to just to just hook up these 2 wires w/out a separate grounding wire?

handifoot 11-23-2008 12:03 PM

I have one of those testers you show and I think they are difficult to determine a hot wire from a non hot when they're in close proximity. As long as you have the wires exposed, I would get the other type suggested above and use it. They're pretty inexpensive

atkearns 11-23-2008 12:13 PM

Hmm.. well I just went back & tested again, it's obvious which one is hot. I spread the 2 wires apart.. It definitely indicates the right wire, & nothing on the left.

So my only question is about if it's OK to install w/out a ground wire. I read on 1 site that you should use a GFI plug if there's no ground wire. Can anyone corfirm/deny this?

HouseHelper 11-23-2008 12:27 PM

You can replace with another two prong receptacle or a GFCI receptacle. If using the GFCI, you must label the receptacle with the "no equipment ground" label found in the GFCI package.

rgsgww 11-23-2008 12:33 PM

GFI is allowed by code and is the only way to install 3 prongs on 2 wire circuits, unless you have bx with a bonding strip...but that is usually found in 1955-1965 homes...

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