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I am selling an eighty year old house that someone put in grounded plugs but it only has two wires (no ground wire). I have been told that I will need to change all thirty outlets. Is there a plug that can be inserted in the ground hole which would inactivate it?

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I am selling an eighty year old house that someone put in grounded plugs but it only has two wires (no ground wire). I have been told that I will need to change all thirty outlets. Is there a plug that can be inserted in the ground hole which would inactivate it?

I've heard about people squirting epoxy in the ground holes for that purpose, but you're really not supposed to do that. You'd be altering a UL listed device. If there were a fire, I could well imagine an insurance company declining coverage because of that.

If you've got 3-prong receptacles that aren't grounded, there are three acceptable courses of action, according to the National Electrical Code.

1. You can remove them all and repalce them with 2-slot receptacles. Some inspectors will tell you that this isn't allowed. I disagree. I think it's an option.

2. You can leave the three-slot receptacles in place and provide GFCI protection to each one. This doesn't mean that you have to have a GFCI device at each one, just that a GFCI device has to protect each one. If you do this, you're supposed to label each of the outlets with a little sign that says, "GFCI Protected. No Equipment Ground."

3. You can have an electrician run new wiring to each receptacle so that they're all grounded.

- Jim Katen, Oregon

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I am selling an eighty year old house that someone put in grounded plugs but it only has two wires (no ground wire). I have been told that I will need to change all thirty outlets. Is there a plug that can be inserted in the ground hole which would inactivate it?

apparently not bx cable?

Jim, in scenario #2, wouldn't you have to run a 2 conductor with ground back to the panel to make that work? (Just for the GFCI receptacle)

I pulled an outlet yesterday in the course of remodeling that had a jumper from the neutral side to the ground screw!?!

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I am selling an eighty year old house that someone put in grounded plugs but it only has two wires (no ground wire). I have been told that I will need to change all thirty outlets. Is there a plug that can be inserted in the ground hole which would inactivate it?

apparently not bx cable?

There could be some, but the grounding can be unreliable with BX, so it would be false security, IMO.

Jim, in scenario #2, wouldn't you have to run a 2 conductor with ground back to the panel to make that work? (Just for the GFCI receptacle)

Not Jim: The GFCI receptacle in this case is installed ungrounded in the first outlet of the circuit. They say it will still offer some protection, better than none. And it covers the use of 3 hole receptacles in a clumsy way. You are right, pulling a grounded feeder to that first outlet would be a big improvement.

I pulled an outlet yesterday in the course of remodeling that had a jumper from the neutral side to the ground screw!?!

That is known as a "bootleg" ground. It uses the neutral, which is grounded back at the panel, to supply a false ground to the third pin. However, the neutral often carries some current downstream of the panel, so it is very wrong to do that. Remove any that you find.

Another point about 2 wire systems is that surge protectors for electronics don't work without a ground. So it is always best to install a few grounded circuits at least, and always run grounded circuits to the kitchen and bathroom, so that the GFCI's can be correctly grounded.

It is not that hard to pull new wire into old houses. For one thing, the walls are usually hollow. Ballooon framing is pretty common. Big wide baseboard trim can be cut to receive new outlets. Then you use those holes to access the basement.

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I am selling an eighty year old house that someone put in grounded plugs but it only has two wires (no ground wire). I have been told that I will need to change all thirty outlets. Is there a plug that can be inserted in the ground hole which would inactivate it?

apparently not bx cable?

Ha!

Jim, in scenario #2, wouldn't you have to run a 2 conductor with ground back to the panel to make that work? (Just for the GFCI receptacle)

Nope. The GFCI will work just fine without an equipment grounding conductor.

I pulled an outlet yesterday in the course of remodeling that had a jumper from the neutral side to the ground screw!?!

In some areas, that seems to be very common. I hardly ever see it in my area. When folks around here want to screw with their electrical systems, they do it out in the open, where everyone can see it. We're honest that way.

- Jim Katen, Oregon

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. . . The GFCI receptacle in this case is installed ungrounded in the first outlet of the circuit. They say it will still offer some protection, better than none. And it covers the use of 3 hole receptacles in a clumsy way. You are right, pulling a grounded feeder to that first outlet would be a big improvement.

I wouldn't argue that it would be a good thing to provide grounding at as many of the receptacles as you could. However, when it comes to protecting people from being shocked or electrocuted, an ungrounded GFCI-protected receptacle is far better than a grounded non-GFCI-protected receptacle. With or without an equipment ground, the GFCI will prevent you from being harmed if your body creates a ground fault. A grounded non-GFCI-protected receptacle won't provide any protection to you under the same circumstances. Nothing will trip until your body starts conducting 15 or 20 amps.

In most households, GFCIs are the only devices whose sole purpose is to protect people from being electrocuted, and they don't need a grounding conductor to work perfectly. All of the other safety features of our electrical systems are, primarily, intended to prevent fires, not electrocutions.

- Jim Katen, Oregon

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. . . The GFCI receptacle in this case is installed ungrounded in the first outlet of the circuit. They say it will still offer some protection, better than none. And it covers the use of 3 hole receptacles in a clumsy way. You are right, pulling a grounded feeder to that first outlet would be a big improvement.

I wouldn't argue that it would be a good thing to provide grounding at as many of the receptacles as you could. However, when it comes to protecting people from being shocked or electrocuted, an ungrounded GFCI-protected receptacle is far better than a grounded non-GFCI-protected receptacle. With or without an equipment ground, the GFCI will prevent you from being harmed if your body creates a ground fault. A grounded non-GFCI-protected receptacle won't provide any protection to you under the same circumstances. Nothing will trip until your body starts conducting 15 or 20 amps.

In most households, GFCIs are the only devices whose sole purpose is to protect people from being electrocuted, and they don't need a grounding conductor to work perfectly. All of the other safety features of our electrical systems are, primarily, intended to prevent fires, not electrocutions.

- Jim Katen, Oregon

All good advice but I wouldn't give such praise to the option of GFCI protection installed in lieu of grounding conductors. Grounding isn't a device, just a feature but it does provide some protection from shock by bypassing fault currents and tripping the breaker. There's John K's comment about surge devices being nothing more than an illusion of protection if grounding isn't provided there, which can fool people into thinking that they have surge protection, result in the loss of valuable electronic products and eventually upset a client.

Don't forget that if you make contact with the metallic flange of a GFCI receptacle while testing the device and your body happens to be grounded somewhere at that moment, you may experience an electrical shock.

The OP should keep all of this in mind when deciding what to do.

Marc

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