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D725A 07-08-2012 08:12 AM

Old ungrounded two-prong outlets
Parents have a 1950s house in NY; most of the electrical outlets are the old two-prong, ungrounded type. The cable is old romex type with no third wire, so the ground screw of each receptacle is unconnected. When the outlet is tested it comes up 'open ground'. Been this way for years with no incident. Except that nowadays things are done much more safely. (As you all know in even older houses, if the cable is BX, a ground is available from the shielding.)

As the house will be sold in a few years, I asked the electrician about the cost of converting all the outlets, and it's quite expensive. The new owners can certainly deal with this. If I was going to buy a house and knew that I'd have to start chopping almost every wall in the house to put through new lines at signficant cost that might make me hesitate.

What are the potential safety hazards here?(Years ago some electrician must have installed about a dozen 'false' three-way receptacles, which come in handy for certain appliances with the three prongs.) One we can remove the false three-prong receptacles or two we can bring the house up to date or three leave it all alone and let the new owners deal with it.

Note: a number of strategic outlets are grounded but vast majority are not.

kok328 07-08-2012 08:52 AM

I would go with options 1 & 3.

NorthernSparky 07-08-2012 08:27 PM

I would just leave the whole system alone, especially if you have no plans on keeping the house. The dozen or so receptacles that were replaced, are not hurting anything, they are just not doing anything either.

D725A 07-08-2012 08:36 PM

Thanks for the replies. I guess from reading the other threads on this subject, it would seem that the replaced false three-prongs should at least be labeled 'no equipment ground present'.

nealtw 07-08-2012 08:40 PM

When sold, the house will be ready for a face lift anyway so a few thousand kick back to the buyer will work. If your worried about safety for your parents you could install a few gfi plugs, they will work on two wire.

CallMeVilla 07-08-2012 10:05 PM

Modern electronics are sensitive to no grounding, particularly in lightening-prone areas. That includes computers, flat screen TVs, and all the other toys. The cost of wall chopping and re-wiring is expensive so you have to weigh the risk against the possibility of a catastropic failure.

Tough call in your case.

asbestos 07-08-2012 10:32 PM

I have a house that is 1950's and so no grounded outlets (except for a few in the kitchen grounded with a 14GA wire run outside the romex) I was told by my friend (licensed electrician) that replacing those outlets with a GFCI is acceptable. Still no ground so should be labeled as such, but a convenience.

NorthernSparky 07-09-2012 05:48 AM

If you are going to install GFCI, just know they are for protecting that plug and all devices down the line. If you put more than 1 GFCI on a circuit they are going to trip off each other.

The only reason I said to leave it alone is that once you start changing plugs and such, your system is no longer in the grandfather clause (it was done to code in the 1950's and that stand until anything is updated).

If you are going to do anything do it right and have a licensed electrician pull the entire house, upgrade the panel and I would assume change the service.

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