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Old 10-07-2008, 11:16 AM  
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Default Open Ground Outlets

Hey Folks,

I just moved into my new (old) house, and found out that my outlets all have an open ground.

The house was built in 1948, but the wiring was upgraded in 1987ish. It was originally all the 2 prong outlets, but now they have been upgraded to the standard 3 prong outlet. There is still the odd 2 prong outlet in a couple of the rooms, but they have no voltage.

I went to hook up my computers and when I plugged in my surge protector the site wiring fault light came on. So I purchased one of those outlet testers and found that the outlet has an open ground. I tested all of the outlets in my house and all except for 2 in my kitchen have open ground.

Where my computer is going to go, I pulled the outlet out of the box and there are 3 wires coming in, black (hot), white (common), and copper (ground). Now the ground isn't connected to the box, but while I hear this will fix my ground problem, it isn't necessarily enough for a surge protector/UPS.

I opened up my panel and all the incoming wires, with the exception of my furnace, have the copper ground wire, and are screwed to the back of the panel. There is also a copper wire running from the panel to the water main pipe on the street side.

So it would SEEM like things are hooked up properly, but I must be missing something.

My thoughts are:

- If the ground isn't connected in one of the upstream outlets would that make a difference? (I'm not quite sure how resedential wiring works, are the outlets/light switches hooked up in series, and thus breaking an upstream connection would prohibit the rest from working?) If this is the case do I check just the outlets, or do I have to check light switches and even the boxes at the lights?
- Is there a way to check at the panel if the outlets are grounded properly?

Any advice, options, knowledge would be appreciated here. I'd really like to get my computers setup, but I know that isn't happening until I get this ground connection fixed.


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Old 10-07-2008, 05:36 PM  
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Open a receptacle box and look for the bare copper ground wire there. Usually, a new panel and service connects back to the old wiring system. They may have run 2-wire with ground as feeders from the panel but then spliced back to the existing wiring

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Old 10-07-2008, 09:47 PM  
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Default check this.....

Look at an outlet and see, are the grounds hoohed together?, and hooked to the green screw on outlet? If so then we are heading back to the panel. In the panel are all the ground wires hooked to a seperate place than the white ones ? If so, are there any other big wires besides the one going to the water pipe? And last, does the meter outside have a main breaker or disconnect in it? Let us know what you find out, and remember be careful! Good luck........
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Old 10-09-2008, 11:19 AM  
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So I opened a number of outlet receptacles to see what is going on and am more confused now than before. In some receptacles, the wires (3 wire, black, white and copper) coming in have the ground terminating on the receptacle, but not the outlet. In others, the wires coming in have the hot and common connected to the right places, and the copper wire goes to the ground connection on the outlet. It doesn't terminate in the box at all, but that shouldn't really matter.
I traced some of the wires running from the outlets in my basement and found that they typically terminate in junction boxes that also have the old non grounded wires as well from the lights. It's a bit of a mess and I couldn't tell which of the wires go back to the panel as it goes into a covered ceiling area.
In the panel though, all of the wires coming in are of the 3 wire variety (black, white, copper) with the copper being terminated against the back of the panel, and the panel has a copper line running to the water main.

Would it be possible that they ran new 3 wire stuff from the outlets to the junction boxes, and then 3 wire stuff from the panel to some junction boxes, but only have 2 wire stuff running from junction box to junction box?

Apparently there are a lot of people in this City (winnipeg, mb) that have un grounded circuits/systems in their houses. That just doesn't seem like a good idea to me, and isn't up to code.
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Old 10-09-2008, 06:07 PM  
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Sounds like they extended ungrounded circuits with grounded cable.
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Old 10-12-2008, 11:06 PM  
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Default Fixed

Well, sorta fixed. They ran new wire from the panel to some of the junction boxes, and then they ran new grounded 3 wire from the outlets to other junction boxes. The problem? They didn't upgrade the wire running between the junction boxes.
So I ran a ground wire from one of the on grounded junction boxes to the water main. That fixed the open ground on one circuit. The others are on junction boxes behind walls, and in the ceiling of the basement. Such is life, but this will work for now until I have the money to get someone in to rewire things properly.

Thanks for the advice.

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