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We just purchased a circa 1957 lake house for a song and are now singing more while we repair/modernize. The 125 amp service is Federal Pacific breakers (20 amp) that sometimes don't trip (trust me I have a set of fused cutters to prove it). All the wiring is cloth wrap 12?/2 with rubber sheathing in fairly good shape. Someone once spent a lot of money on building this place (the living room ceiling has leaf patterns pressed into the texture coat) and I assume that a good electrician did the initial work; the circuits I have been working on seem well designed and the services, mast etc. are well laid out and professional looking. The water pipes are all metal, mostly copper. My intent is to eventually replace the service, install modern breakers and tear the house apart and run 12/3 Romex. My other dream in life is to see the seven wonders of the world before I die and I don't have enough money to either rewire the house or see the Pyramids. Sooo ... , I am planning to put in a GFCI at the start of each outlet series and provide what protection I can. I have some specific questions if any of you have some thoughts, ideas or answers.

1. Can I protect ungrounded downstream outlets in this way with a GFCI?. An electrician did this in the kitchen and baths just before we closed on the house (see safe house below) and ran a little jumper from the "line" white neutral to the grounding screw on the GFCI. What is the right way to wire up to protect a series of circuits downstream and what are some of the limits to this plan?

2. There is a grounded wire running from about a foot from the water meter where the city water enters the house below grade. This seems kosher. How important is a 6' deep grounding bar in conjunction with this?.

3. Appliances (washer, range, fridge) all have a ground wire tied into the neutral. Because many are 220 with more amperage I am wondering if this is adequate protection. Also, the 1957 pink built-ins (range, stove, above counter fridge) all still work and that is a part of what makes the place so cool-daddy. (Annette Funicella's sweaters anyone?)

4. Online I note replacement breakers are available Fed Pacifics ($20 a pop) but like I said money is tight and I would rather work toward a whole new service with modern breakers. Do I need new 220 Fed Pacifics right away???? Can I put a new service in and just keep using the ungronded 2/12 until we get around to the Romex???

So, I know it is a cluster :censored: but it is my cluster :censored: and the view view of Flathead (Montana) lake is lovely. The budget is tight. We have about three days and a hundred dollars to work with. Please take a look a the hopes, dreams, problems and limits I have listed above. Then I would really appreciate a bit of good advice aimed at making my little world a bit safer and better.

P.S. None of the previous tenants have ever died from electric shock and when I was raising my concerns about the electrical the Realtor kept saying, "What do you mean?" One of the provisions of the final sale is that an electrician would make changes necessary to deem the system "safe" (yeah right).

P.S.S. I am a general contractor so I know enough about electrical to pose a significant danger the free world.
 

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The so-called electrician that installed a bootleg jumper from the neutral to the grounding prong should be shot. :furious::censored: This creates a dangerous condition that can put voltage on what should be normally non-current carrying parts like the metal boxes, appliance frames etc.

GFI receptacles can protect any device downstream as long as they as wired to the LOAD terminals.
 
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The last verse of the song should have been held back until the electrician completed his job. He needs to have gone through all of the receptacles, unhooking the ground from the neutral.

Here the GFCI units should have their green screws left empty until a separate ground wire (or brand new cabling) is run.

In most cities two ground rods at least 6 feet apart and driven in 8 feet are needed in addition to the water pipe grounding conneciton.
 

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1. Can I protect ungrounded downstream outlets in this way with a GFCI?. An electrician did this in the kitchen and baths just before we closed on the house (see safe house below) and ran a little jumper from the "line" white neutral to the grounding screw on the GFCI. What is the right way to wire up to protect a series of circuits downstream and what are some of the limits to this plan?
Absolutely, you can protect downstream outlets with a GFCI. However, jumping the neutral is not only dangerous but unnecessary. The GFCI will work just fine without a ground. (You are supposed to put a "this outlet is not grounded" sticker on it, but I'm guessing hardly anyone ever does.)

2. There is a grounded wire running from about a foot from the water meter where the city water enters the house below grade. This seems kosher. How important is a 6' deep grounding bar in conjunction with this?.
This should be OK for the time being, given that you said the plumbing is copper (unusual for that era). If it was galvanized, I'd be worried. But putting the ground rods in is not a big deal (as long as your soil isn't too rocky), so you should figure on doing that at some point.

3. Appliances (washer, range, fridge) all have a ground wire tied into the neutral. Because many are 220 with more amperage I am wondering if this is adequate protection. Also, the 1957 pink built-ins (range, stove, above counter fridge) all still work and that is a part of what makes the place so cool-daddy. (Annette Funicella's sweaters anyone?)
Congrats on still having the original appliances! If you ever decide to take them out, promise me you'll go over to automaticwasher.org and offer them for sale there. Grounding via the neutral was code for the dryer and stove at the time the house was built, but not for the 120V appliances. For those, figure on protecting them with a GFCI. When you do get around to re-wiring, figure on doing those 240V circuits first.

4. Online I note replacement breakers are available Fed Pacifics ($20 a pop) but like I said money is tight and I would rather work toward a whole new service with modern breakers. Do I need new 220 Fed Pacifics right away???? Can I put a new service in and just keep using the ungronded 2/12 until we get around to the Romex???
The Federal Pacific panel is a very dangerous piece of :censored:. There is nothing you can do to make it any better. The breakers have inherent design flaws and replacements may not work either, plus the busbars are likely to have been damaged. Replacing that panel is the very first thing you need to do. Seriously.

P.S. None of the previous tenants have ever died from electric shock and when I was raising my concerns about the electrical the Realtor kept saying, "What do you mean?" One of the provisions of the final sale is that an electrician would make changes necessary to deem the system "safe" (yeah right).
Any responsible electrician would have ripped out that Federal Pacific panel and run it through a car crusher to make sure that no one ever thought about using it again.
 
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