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    Outlets(receptacles) not grounded "properly"... what to do?

    Asked Sep 26, 2005, 12:17 PM 4 Answers
    I embarked on a project to replace all the 15amp duplex wall receptacles in my living room yesterday because I wanted white outlets instead of the black ones that were installed. So I turned off the power and started to swap them out. They are 15amp duplex, 125-volt u-grounded receptacles. Much to my surprised, when I got the cover plates off and the receptacles out of the wall, NONE of them were grounded! Two hot and two neutral connected to the receptacles, but the ground was not connected. I'm not sure if there was even a ground in there. If I looked to the back of the box, there were two cables coming into it. Each had a copper wire wrapped around the cable just above where the insulation was removed. Out of each cable came the hot and neutral wires that were connected to the receptacle.

    I'm a little concerned that my outlets are not grounded. Should I be concerned? What are some issues I might encounter as a result of the outlets not being grounded? The copper wire that is wrapped around each cable coming into the box, is that the ground wire? Should I pigtail these and attach them to the receptacle ground screw?

    Thanks in advance for help/advice.

    Last edited by desalad; Sep 28, 2005 at 06:49 AM.
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    labman's Avatar
    labman Posts: 10,580, Reputation: 551
    Uber Member

    Sep 26, 2005, 02:00 PM
    As long as nothing else goes wrong, the lack of a ground might lead to interference with some electronic devices, but not much else. However things do go wrong. Code does requires the ground wire now because people have gotten killed when something did go wrong. The ground is connected to metal cases through the 3 wire cords and so forth. That way if the hot wire ever shorts to them, the fuse blows or the breaker trips instantly. In addition to connecting the ground wires at the outlet, they must be connected at the breaker box. That is up a level for DIY. Even if you throw the main breaker before removing the cover to the breaker box, the incoming power leads are exposed and hot. In older boxes the grounds, are connected to the same buss as the neutrals. If they are not connected, shove each one under a screw and tighten it up.

    After you are done, check for 120 volts between the grounds and the hot wires. You are lucky you decided you like white.
    tkrussell's Avatar
    tkrussell Posts: 9,638, Reputation: 722
    Uber Member

    Sep 26, 2005, 03:58 PM
    And just to add to Labmans sound detail, I think I can help with the outlet box end of the cable.The ground is the bare wire, and you are seeing a shortcut taken, even electricians did this back before the ground was given the repsect it needs. The clamp onto the roll of wound bare wire is intended to ground the box, and the outlets was allowed to not have a jumper to the ground screw.

    This is a popular shortcut,and is a poor method of providing a solid continuous ground back to the panel. This can be a dangeous situation, esp, since there are already three wire outlets which implies there is a ground present.

    Use a tester to test between the hot wire and the box, and the bare wire you see wrapped up under the cable clamp. You may find the box grounded. and you may find the bare grounded.

    You will find nothing grounded if this relies on another similar connection in the system.

    It would be best, if at all possible, hope you have a weekend to spare, or able to hire a pro, have the power shutoff to each circuit, open each device, outlet,switch etc. and pull out the wrapped wire, splice each one and pigtail to the box and the outlet.

    I am sure you have the third bare ground wire in at least that cable, and if any other work was done by the same installer, additional incidents of poor workmanship exist elsewhere.

    The chore, times how many device must be opened and rewired, I have recommended is tedious, difficult for untrained fingers, and very critical to your system. Think twice before tackling this job yourself.
    desalad's Avatar
    desalad Posts: 8, Reputation: 1
    New Member

    Sep 28, 2005, 05:37 AM
    Labman and tkrussell, thanks for your input. I did a little more investigating last night when I got home. I was confused previously when I plugged my 3-wire circuit analyzer into the outlet and it displayed a correct wiring - I knew the ground was NOT connected to the receptacle. So I spoke with someone here at my office happens to be a licensed electrician (previous job required it - he's a programmer now.) I told him about what I was seeing, showed him a picture of the receptacle and the wiring, and he suggested that the ground was actually attached to the metal box through the clamps and the screws of the receptacle connected to the metal box. He suggested I plug in the analyzer and remove the receptacle from the wall while its still live.

    Low and behold, the analyzer reported an open ground when I did so. This confirmed what both you, tkrussell, and my colleague Joe had said. TK - would the next step, as I think you mentioned, be to loosen the clamps, unwind the grounds from the clamped cables, pigtail them, and attach to the receptacle?

    Here is that pic

    Thanks again.
    tkrussell's Avatar
    tkrussell Posts: 9,638, Reputation: 722
    Uber Member

    Sep 28, 2005, 01:05 PM
    What did they use to make the outlet hole, a shotgun?

    Yes, and since many other devices need to be checked and corrected, think about who needs to do this chore. Try one for yourself, take a pic , and send it back so I can see if you can do this correctly.

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