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Old 05-01-2011, 01:16 PM   #1
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Supplemental Outlets in 1950's House


Normally, I would ask these questions to the building inspector. However, we now have a new electrical inspector who is just learning the ropes (he worked for the village as a plumber for the water department until an accident left him disabled. He lost a leg, but was re-hired as the electrical/plumbing/mechanical inspector after recovery and being fitted with a prosthetic limb.

He is supposed to be highly qualified in the area of plumbing and some aspects of HVAC, and I liked him when I need some help planning some plumbing work. Unfortunately he has very little experience with electrical issues and has only taken a house wiring class at a night school and a few HVAC classes which dealt with electrical wiring.

Any electrical question that needs any type of real-world experience or code interpretation takes him a day or two to answer since he has to look everything up or call another inspector from a different jurisdiction for an answer. Fortunately, when it is time for a walk-thru for electrical, this other inspector is always tagging along to help -- partly because of the new inspector's limited mobility due to the artificial leg. The village is paying something for this other inspectors assistance.

Unfortunately, the new inspector sometimes answers verbal questions wrong, and in final walk through with the more experienced inspector, has to reverse his earlier statements. Written specifications are currently sub-contracted to an engineering firm for review after first being reviewed by the new inspector, so the only issue is when you ask him a question.

I think part of the problem is that when you ask him a question, he re-phrases the question when asking his more experienced inspector, the other inspector answers and the answer is again re-phrased by the local inspector when he tells you what to do. Niether the engineering firm nor inspector from the other county will answer questions directly about code issues in our area.

Now My Situation:

I want to supplement the existing 1950's 2-wire, 15 Amp lighting and outlet circuits in my house. There is room and capacity in the electrical panel to do this, since the main service and panel were previously upgraded by the last homeowner. In most areas, there are an inadequate number of outlets, and I want to add outlets to meet or better the current "12 foot rule" and minimum wall-width rules wherever practicable. I don't intend to do a perfect job by trying to correct every possible problem area. In it's current form, the existing outlets are legal in a "grandfathered" state.

There also are only a few grounded outlets in the house and this has greatly restricted places where I can connect my computer equipment and some other items which need grounded circuits. I don't want to run extention cords all over the place, use adapter plugs, dummy up 3-prong outlets by connecting the ground to the neutral, or take other illegal actions. I really want the grounded conductor for sensitive electronic equipment and therefore don't want to use GFIC outlets with floating ground terminals. Currently, all three-prong outlets in the house are legitimately grounded by grounded wiring all the way to the panel. Two prong outlets are used everywhere else.

Now My Questions:

1. Can I legally install new grounded outlets on new circuits to supplement the existing outlets? The new outlets wouldn't be installed on every wall, but would be installed where access is easiest. For example, about half the walls on the second floor face attic areas where access is easy. While I would prefer to change everything over to grounded wiring, that is not practical at this time, due to available time, money, and "the mess" issue. In some cases, the existing outlets would require a great deal of work to remove and rewire. Overhead lights and light switches would also be very difficult to upgrade now.

2. Should I use the Arc Sensor breakers on the old ungrounded circuits which are used in the bedrooms and other areas where the Arc protected circuits are now required or should they only be used on new grounded circuits? I understand that the Arc Fault Sensors are a "safety feature" and should be used on new wiring, but can a room have some outlets and circuits protected by Arc breakers and some not? I would think the safe way to go would be to use the Arc Fault breakers on all lighting and general purpose outlet circuits, or as many as possible if not all circuits. It also seems to me that the older, 2-wire circuits could be more prone to failure due to age, poorly made wiring changes, other issues than new circuits.

3. The house originally had two lighting and outlet circuits. New grounded circuits were added in a kitchen upgrade and in the basement. I would like to split up whats left of the old lighting and outlet circuits. Can I run a new feed (14 AWG -- 15 Amp) from the breaker panel to a juction box where the existing circuits can be spliced to the new feed? I would think I should use grounded wire for this, and ground the metal box where the splice is made. I was told by an unlicensed "house inspector" who does inspections for potential buyers, that any ungrounded circuit must be ungrounded all the way to the panel. He explained that this is so a future inspector won't think the entire house has been rewired and is grounded based only on wiring at and leaving the panel and looking at the outside of illegally installed 3-prong outlets.

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Old 05-01-2011, 08:48 PM   #2
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Supplemental Outlets in 1950's House


If you install new outlets (receptacles) among the old ones, it would be a good idea to install enough of them positioned so the room will meet code if the old receptacles are decommissioned.

But it is okay to add a new receptacle here and there.

You may put 3 prong receptacles in selected locations in an ungrounded circuit and run ground wires from those locations to the panel. The ground wire here need not follow the exact route of the circuit wires.

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Old 05-01-2011, 09:49 PM   #3
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Supplemental Outlets in 1950's House


Actually, there are two sources of requirements that some un-grounded receptacle outlets in existing structures be grounded before use, both pertaining to the type of cord connected load they serve.

First, there is 250.114, Equipment Connected by Cord and Plug
Under any of the conditions described in 250.114(1) through (4), exposed non–current-carrying metal parts of cord-and-plug-connected equipment likely to become energized shall be grounded.

Exception: Listed tools, listed appliances, and listed equipment covered in 250.114(2) through (4) shall not be required to be grounded where protected by a system of double insulation or its equivalent. Double insulated equipment shall be distinctively marked.

(3) In residential occupancies:

a. Refrigerators, freezers, and air conditioners

b. Clothes-washing, clothes-drying, dish-washing machines; kitchen waste disposers; information technology equipment; sump pumps and electrical aquarium equipment

c. Hand-held motor-operated tools, stationary and fixed motor-operated tools, light industrial motor-operated tools

d. Motor-operated appliances of the following types: hedge clippers, lawn mowers, snow blowers, and wet scrubbers

e. Portable handlamps
Note that it’s the load, not the wiring of the branch circuit, which imposes this requirement, so an ungrounded outlet cannot be “grandfathered” into compliance if it powers one of these loads.

The second pertains to appliances required by their manufacturer to be powered from a grounded receptacle outlet.

This includes not only many of the types of “information technology equipment” in b) above, but also to many other types of electronic equipment, for example some home audio and video equipment.

For this reason in my area some AHJs require that only grounded receptacle outlets be installed in new or existing “home offices”, media rooms and similar locations, as it is assumed that devices required by their manufacturer to be powered from a grounded receptacle will be powered from circuits in such areas.
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