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Old 07-20-2008, 11:06 AM   #1
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What should I be looking for in receptacles and at wall panel?


I'll be closing on a home in the next 2 weeks and I'll be going in tomorrow to take a look at some of the electrical sytems. I'm doing this because I noticed in some of the rooms there were only the 2 pronged outlets. The seller has stated that the panel was updated to 100 amps but my home inspector says it is 200 amps. Not sure what's up there and I'm also not sure why they updated the panel but not the outlets.

I was planning on unscrewing one of the wall receptacles to see if there was a ground wire. If there is it should be an easy fix to add a 3 pronged outlet, right? Not having the ground wiring in the box makes me nervous as I believe it could be costly to fix that problem.

What are some of the things I should be looking for when it comes to the panel and wall receptacles? The house was built in 1970. Thanks for your input.

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Old 07-20-2008, 11:42 AM   #2
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What should I be looking for in receptacles and at wall panel?


I reckon that your new house was updated to 200 amps - not 100 amps - because most houses here were built in the 70's with 100 amps. 60 amps used to be the standard in the 50's I think.

If it was updated to 200 amps, there is still no need to replace all the wiring to add a ground to what is there already. Ideal? yeah sure, but not entirely practical.

You might be in situations where you will be running an appliance to a receptacle that should be grounded but isn't...again, not ideal, but acceptable. Something you might just have to accept.

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Old 07-20-2008, 01:45 PM   #3
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What should I be looking for in receptacles and at wall panel?


How old is the house?
When I don't see 3-wire receptacles, I think the dreaded knob & tube wiring!
If the house was built in the 50's, then you shouldn't have any of that. Just some old BX or AC.

You won't see a ground wire in the box if it is wired with BX or AC. Metallic cables are supposed to be secured to the box with fittings that provide both a secure mechanical and a good electrical ground to the box.

Our house is 80 years old, and was wired with AC, which has cloth covered rubber insulated conductors. This stuff is worn out now, and every time I have to change an outlet, switch, or light fixture, I have to worry that the insulation will be flaking off, and I'll have to rewire the circuit.

You might want to bring along a voltmeter to test the ground. Just having a metal box with BX cable doesn't mean you have one.
One example was in my home, the receptacle in the living room had BX, a metal box, and no ground. I got basically an open circuit when testing this box to a known good ground.
When I followed the cable, I found it went into a J-box which was nailed backwards (it's open end was against the floor joist), and the cables coming into it had no fittings.
I ripped everything out and rewired the circuit.

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Old 07-20-2008, 02:06 PM   #4
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What should I be looking for in receptacles and at wall panel?


FW-

Glad to hear that I'm not the only one. I ran into the garbage truck one day and the guy quipped "how much armored cable do you have in that house?!"

A lot of it is gone now but there's still some left on the second floor that I'll get to when construction gets up there. Nothing like rotted rubber insulation raining down on you from a ceiling box!
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Old 07-21-2008, 06:54 PM   #5
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What should I be looking for in receptacles and at wall panel?


Ok, so I got into the house today and took some pictures of the panel and one of the 2 pronged wall receptacles. Although the seller had stated they upgraded the panel to 100 amps it appears as though on the panel there is a series of switches that say 200 amps. That would be a plus if it was 200 amp service.

Upon pulling out the outlet there were 4 wires, 2 black and 2 white. All 4 of them were attached to screws on the receptacles. Also, in the back there was a bare copper wire that appeared to be connected to a screw in the the lower portion of the metal box, ground wire maybe?

Is it possible to upgrade these receptacles to 3 prong and tie in the copper wire that was attached to the box to the green screw on the new outlet to ensure grounding? Assuming this were the case and I tied in black to brass and white to silver and copper to green what would I do with the 2 remaining, black and white wires that wouldn't be attached? I'm new to all of this and I'm looking to see how much I can do on my own. Thanks for your help.
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Old 07-21-2008, 07:40 PM   #6
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What should I be looking for in receptacles and at wall panel?


Wow! There is no way that service panel would pass here.
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Old 07-21-2008, 07:40 PM   #7
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What should I be looking for in receptacles and at wall panel?


No problem. You've got grounds, so you'll use a wire nut to tie them together. In that same wire nut, include two extra wires. One will pigtail to the green screw in the box, and one will pigtail to the green screw on the receptacle.
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Old 07-21-2008, 07:58 PM   #8
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What should I be looking for in receptacles and at wall panel?


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Wow! There is no way that service panel would pass here.
Could you elaborate?
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Old 07-21-2008, 09:30 PM   #9
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What should I be looking for in receptacles and at wall panel?


Yes, I would like to know what was meant by that as well. Any input on the wiring?
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Old 07-21-2008, 09:37 PM   #10
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What should I be looking for in receptacles and at wall panel?


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Wow! There is no way that service panel would pass here.

I know its missing the required supports, but looks like any other old service upgrade.
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Old 07-21-2008, 09:47 PM   #11
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What should I be looking for in receptacles and at wall panel?


I am not an electrician so my input is limited. However, I have been around when the electrician I use is getting our houses inspected and has been turned down for adding circuits to boxes like that one. Wants the wires cleaned up and supported by code. Even when he argued that he just added a circuit (and done right) he still had to bring it up to code. Can't imagine how that was inspected and passed. Or maybe our inspector is an ...
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Old 07-21-2008, 10:02 PM   #12
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What should I be looking for in receptacles and at wall panel?


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I am not an electrician so my input is limited. However, I have been around when the electrician I use is getting our houses inspected and has been turned down for adding circuits to boxes like that one. Wants the wires cleaned up and supported by code. Even when he argued that he just added a circuit (and done right) he still had to bring it up to code. Can't imagine how that was inspected and passed. Or maybe our inspector is an ...

Adding circuits to boxes like what? Wires not supported? And I really dont see how the inspector can make you change any existing violations.
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Old 07-21-2008, 10:28 PM   #13
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What should I be looking for in receptacles and at wall panel?


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Adding circuits to boxes like what? Wires not supported? And I really dont see how the inspector can make you change any existing violations.
The wires should be secured above the panel. Other than that, I don't see anything that bugs me with this panel.

The city inspector can't (or I should say "shouldn't") make you change existing violations, unless you do work that involves them specifically. Where we inspectors can get into hot water is when we allow someone to add a circuit in an unsafe panel, or add generator transfer gear to an unsafe panel, etc. Are we supposed to look at the new circuit but turn a blind eye to the adjacent ones that are not safely wired? I wouldn't. If you're adding to that gear in my jurisdiction, you're going to make it safe. Not necessarily fair, but fairness often has to take a back seat to safety when it comes to electrical work.

In my opinion, securing wires above a panel isn't going to kill anyone or burn anything down under normal circumstances, so I wouldn't require anyone to repair that unless they were doing an in-depth re-wire. Out-of-phase multiwire branch circuits, improper grounding/bonding, one breaker feeding two circuits, damaged gear....All things that would fit into the "I know it isn't fair but you're going to have to make it safe" category.

Last edited by Termite; 07-21-2008 at 10:32 PM.
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Old 07-21-2008, 10:36 PM   #14
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What should I be looking for in receptacles and at wall panel?


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Adding circuits to boxes like what? Wires not supported? And I really dont see how the inspector can make you change any existing violations.

If you will notice in my post I said here. Not there or anywhere else but here. And for the inspector telling him to change it or you don't pass, you change it. People have tried to appeal and have lost. Their way of thinking is if you touch it, you fix it.
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Old 07-21-2008, 10:58 PM   #15
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What should I be looking for in receptacles and at wall panel?


Ok I was going to create a whole new thread regarding this question, but the op posted a photo i'd like some input on. In the picture with the 4 200 amp breakers handle tied together, what exactly is going on there? Is this meant to be used with a 200 amp service or a 400 amp service? I have never seen the inside of a panel setup like this. The reason I ask is I am looking at houses and just tonight I saw a panel that had 4 150 amp breakers handle tied like in the picture above.

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