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cmyers1007 03-05-2010 07:47 AM

Problem with Open Ground Outlets
I moved into an older home (built in early to mid 70's) about a year ago. I had a space heater plugged into one of the outlets in the living room, recently we noticed a burning smell and finally found it was coming from the heater, the cable plugging the heater into the wall was warm and when I unplugged it from the wall outlet one side of the outlet was blackened. I tested the outlet and discovered it and several other outlets through out the house are testing as "open ground". The effected area in my living room seems to also be tied into a couple of outlets in my kitchen (includes the disposal and over sink light).

Best I can tell when I flip the breaker off to kill the power to that line, it kills the power to the over sink light, the disposal, two outlets to either side of the kitchen sink and the two outlets in the living room.

With the power on, the two outlets in the living room test as open ground, the two outlets in the kitchen and the outlet under the sink where the disposal plugs into, all test correctly.

One outlet in the living room (which only had one pair of wires running to it) was a 2 prong outlet, I pulled the outlet out to find a ground wire that wasn't connected to anything. I replaced the outlet with a 3 prong outlet and connected the ground wire to the green screw on the outlet.

The other outlet in the living room was a 3 prong outlet, it has two pairs of wires coming into the box (with the ground wires twisted together. The hot and neutral wires were pushed into the back of the outlet and the ground wires were connected to the outlet. This was the outlet that the heater was plugged into. I replaced this outlet and connected all the wires using the screws on the side of the outlet rather than pushing them into the back of the outlet and connected the ground wire to the green screw on the outlet.

Once these two were replaced, I turn the breaker back on and tested the outlets again. They are still testing as an open ground.

Is there something else that I can test or replace, I don't understand why 3 outlets on the line test fine while two test open ground. There is a bookcase covering a section of the living room wall (along the same wall between the two open ground outlets) that I don't know if a plug is behind it or not, I'll be moving that tonight to see.

Could the switch to the over sink light be causing the problem? There is a switch that controls an outside deck light near one of the open ground outlets (I suspect it is tied into the same circuit), could that be part of the problem?

kok328 03-05-2010 08:56 AM

For the outlets with open ground, somewhere, they are obviously not connected to a ground source. A light switch should only interrupt the hot wire, the neutral may pass thru the switch and best practice is to ground the switch also but, it appears that this was not done. Are their any wires in the breaker panel that just bring in the hot & neutral without a ground wire?

cmyers1007 03-05-2010 09:29 AM


Not sure about the wires in the breaker panel, I'll look at that tonight. I'll double check the switches and ground them if they are not already. If I see a connection not grounded in the breaker panel, is that something that I can safely resolve myself?

cmyers1007 03-05-2010 09:38 AM


Addtional question to your reply:

If there is a grounding problem in the breaker panel, would it still be possible for 3 of the outlets I mentioned (in the kitchen) to test correctly while 2 test as open ground (in the living room). If the panel wasn't grounded correctly, wouldn't all the outlets test as open ground?

kok328 03-05-2010 11:40 AM

An ungrounded circuit in the breaker panel can be resolved if your extremely careful.
You'll need to strip back the jacket until you find the ground wire, splice the wire and attach it to the ground buss bar.
Im thinking that the panel itself is grounded but, possibly not the circuit supplying the ungrounded outlets. More likely, those particular outlets were not grounded for whatever reason. Not much you can do in that case due to the ground wire being cut back beyond accessibility.

Wuzzat? 03-10-2010 08:44 PM


Originally Posted by cmyers1007 (Post 41840)
one side of the outlet was blackened.

You need to replace any outlet that does not firmly grip the plug inserted into it.

triple D 03-16-2010 11:09 PM

look closer....
Start in the kitchen with the closest outlet to living room, or problem area. Look in back of box for ground wires not hooked together. One of the plugs has two grounds in box that are not connected, or a j-box in crawl, closet, or attic near by. I've never came across a house in the 70's that had no ground in the 12ga or 14ga. I've seen 10/3 with no ground back then as well as 6/3 without it. Good luck, let us know....

LUCY1957 06-27-2014 08:52 AM

I am purchasing a home from which have most of their outlet open ground. What can I do Is this a electrtical hazard and will it bring problem WHEN I CONNECTED AIR CONDITIONER IN HOME , BECAUSE FTHEIR NO CENTRAL AIR.

nealtw 06-27-2014 10:01 AM

Welcome to the site.
Have you tested the outlets or do you mean that the outlets only have 2 slots. For the latter you want to be carefull, depending on the type of wires, the house may be in need of a rewire.

Wuzzat? 06-27-2014 11:09 AM


Originally Posted by LUCY1957 (Post 107168)
I am purchasing a home from which have most of their outlet open ground. What can I do Is this a electrtical hazard and will it bring problem WHEN I CONNECTED AIR CONDITIONER IN HOME , BECAUSE FTHEIR NO CENTRAL AIR.

Our room AC has a GFCI built into its humongous plug.
If you have GFCIs in the house and/or no small children the risk is reduced, but these gadgets tend to trip when powering motors.

There should be a label on them which says "No equipment ground". I wouldn't get a whole house GFCI because finding out why it tripped can be pretty tedious. Almost certainly our room AC would nuisance-trip an ordinary GFCI.

Your odds of electrocution in any case are 15x less than the risk of being in a vehicle and if you smoke almost nothing is more dangerous.

It's not clear to me as to whether you can snake bare #12 wires from outlets, under quarter round and under baseboards and finally to a good ground in your basement. The NEC may not specifically prohibit this but I'd like to see a non-ad-hominem post from an electrician.
Perhaps some company makes a similar product that is UL tested.

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