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Bootleg Grounds


hausdok
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Editor's Note: The following was submitted via email by Jim Simmons; user name - Mr. Electric. Jim is a Master Electrician and regularly provides electrical training to home inspectors in the northwest. After you check out the photos, you might want to enter the raffle for a custom chopper that Jim is sponsoring for Ronald McDonald House Charities; the information is below.

Hi All,

I ran into this situation yesterday. It is a house that the owner installed 3 wire outlets in the house illegally. Thought you would enjoy the pictures. There is no ground with the branch circuit wiring.

The pictures show an outlet (all of them in the house were the same way) where the owner tapped off the neutral on the outlet so the plug would look like it was grounded. IT IS NOT GROUNDED!

A simple $7 tester will test this outlet as OK. The Ideal tester I use clearly shows FG on the display, or False Ground. I have seen it many times over the years but this is the first time I got good pictures of it. You can see the copper jumper from the ground terminal to the neutral.

Click to Enlarge
tn_200949132747_BootlegGround.jpg

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I use an Ideal - Sure test. It will find this situation (FG). I do not recommend that home inspectors go further than this with the tester (it will check voltage drop and other things) without a clear understanding of the tester, and what the additional information means to the customer.

Click to Enlarge
tn_200949132830_BootlegGround2.jpg

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Finding the false ground issue is important. The tester will also test GFCI and proper wiring so you don't also need the $7 tester. The other thing nice about it is the flexible cord (you can also use it without the cord).

Click to Enlarge
tn_20094913307_BootlegGround3.jpg

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Jim P. Simmons

Mr. Electric

360-705-4225

WIN A CUSTOM CHOPPER!!!

Buy a ticket for yourself or a friend! Only $25. See the Mr. Electric Custom Chopper and enter at this link. All proceeds go to Ronald McDonald House Charities.

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Editor's Note: The following was submitted via email by Jim Simmons; user name - Mr. Electric. Jim is a Master Electrician and regularly provides electrical training to home inspectors in the northwest. After you check out the photos, you might want to enter the raffle for a custom chopper that Jim is sponsoring for Ronald McDonald House Charities; the information is below.

Hi All,

I ran into this situation yesterday. It is a house that the owner installed 3 wire outlets in the house illegally. Thought you would enjoy the pictures. There is no ground with the branch circuit wiring.

The pictures show an outlet (all of them in the house were the same way) where the owner tapped off the neutral on the outlet so the plug would look like it was grounded. IT IS NOT GROUNDED!

A simple $7 tester will test this outlet as OK. The Ideal tester I use clearly shows FG on the display, or False Ground. I have seen it many times over the years but this is the first time I got good pictures of it. You can see the copper jumper from the ground terminal to the neutral.

Click to Enlarge
tn_200949132747_BootlegGround.jpg

17.44 KB

I use an Ideal - Sure test. It will find this situation (FG). I do not recommend that home inspectors go further than this with the tester (it will check voltage drop and other things) without a clear understanding of the tester, and what the additional information means to the customer.

Click to Enlarge
tn_200949132830_BootlegGround2.jpg

19.2 KB

Finding the false ground issue is important. The tester will also test GFCI and proper wiring so you don't also need the $7 tester. The other thing nice about it is the flexible cord (you can also use it without the cord).

Click to Enlarge
tn_20094913307_BootlegGround3.jpg

14.94 KB

Jim P. Simmons

Mr. Electric

360-705-4225

###########################

I get a reading that says 'false ground' when it is near a main or sub panel. Found out the hard way by not realizing SureTest would do this. I pulled the cover on outlet and sure nuf it looked properly grounded ( no jumper) checked other outlets in home showed it was properly grounded....

So when I find an older house 'pre 70's' with grounded outlets ( with my cheapy $7 tester) I pull out the SureTest and check a few outlets as far away from panel as possible... usually works

Any comments or caveats concerning SureTest or other test criteria???????

Jerry

Jerry

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False Ground and Reverse Polarity?
That's a nasty combination... hot covers and screws.

My older Sure Test will not identify that condition. I think it's a 61-155? or maybe 61-151

I know it won't because ITA provided a panel with various mis-wired receptacles and GFCI's for us to use in our class. The panel was plexiglass and if one studied the wiring (it had to be studied because I'm pretty sure Hansen wired it and it wasn't that easy to follow) one could spot a receptacle that was FG and reverse polarity, SureTest says "all good".

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Hi,

Like Jim says; you have to have a clear understanding of what information the device can give you. The manual that came with mine is very clear that within about 15ft. to the service eguipment it may give a false ground reading, even when there isn't a false ground, and it can't diagnose more than one problem at a time. For instance, if you've got reversed polarity it can't tell you whether there is a ground or not unless you correct the polarity.

It's still infinitely superior to one of those 3-light testers though.

ONE TEAM - ONE FIGHT!!!

Mike

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Is there a Suretest that also tests AFCI circuits? I am at the point where I need/want to test AFCI receptacles in the bedrooms rather than just at the panel. BTW here in Oregon, AFCI is only required in the bedrooms.

What are your recommendations for a AFCI tester?

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Is there a Suretest that also tests AFCI circuits? I am at the point where I need/want to test AFCI receptacles in the bedrooms rather than just at the panel. BTW here in Oregon, AFCI is only required in the bedrooms.

What are your recommendations for a AFCI tester?

I don't use a Suretest. I still pull a lot of cover plates in older places to check for proper grounding, and trip the AFCI breakers at the panel......

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  • 6 months later...

To pick this back up again...

Besides a booltleg ground what would be some of the other conditions that would cause the Ideal tester to show false ground?

I had a condo about a week ago where every outlet on the 2nd floor of the home showed a false ground while every outlet on the first floor was OK. The panel was in the garage so it was a lot more than 15' away. The home was built in the late 80's so proper grounding shouldn't have been an issue.

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To pick this back up again...

Besides a booltleg ground what would be some of the other conditions that would cause the Ideal tester to show false ground?

I had a condo about a week ago where every outlet on the 2nd floor of the home showed a false ground while every outlet on the first floor was OK. The panel was in the garage so it was a lot more than 15' away. The home was built in the late 80's so proper grounding shouldn't have been an issue.

Did you pull one cover and look?

Are you sure it was built in the late 80's? Somewhere around the middle of summer I had a building they told me had been built a little more than a decade ago. Outwardly, it looked like it was about a decade old but when I started digging into it I started noticing things like 5-panel doors, 70's vintage stoves, old service panels, etc..

It turned out that the ground floor was new but that the second level was nearly 80 years old and that the original one-story triplex had the original roof torn off, been jacked up and a new truss roof installed; so they could shove a series of garages and another unit beneath. So, there were lots of ungrounded 3-holers on the second level and 1970's panels where they'd replaced the fuse boxes; and on the ground level everything was newer and properly grounded.

ONE TEAM - ONE FIGHT!!!

Mike

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To pick this back up again...

Besides a booltleg ground what would be some of the other conditions that would cause the Ideal tester to show false ground?

I think that it shows FG in reaction to very low impedance between ground and neutral. That pretty much means that they must have made a connection between the two somewhere nearby, perhaps in a j-box.

I had a condo about a week ago where every outlet on the 2nd floor of the home showed a false ground while every outlet on the first floor was OK. The panel was in the garage so it was a lot more than 15' away.

It could be that the electrician let his apprentice wire the second floor and he joined some neutrals to some grounds here & there.

The home was built in the late 80's so proper grounding shouldn't have been an issue.

Hah! Yeah, right! It seems to me that, from 1973 to 1989, the motto of most home builders was, "Build it as stupid as you can."

- Jim in Oregon

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Hah! Yeah, right! It seems to me that, from 1973 to 1989, the motto of most home builders was, "Build it as stupid as you can."

More like build it fast and cheap, "stupid" was a foreseeable outcome though.

Tom

Yes. But what I see goes beyond that. I see lots of stupid stuff that would have been just as cheap and easy to do properly. Things like placing a vehicle barrier to one side of a water heater instead of in front of it. Or being free & easy with things like truss spacing; is it really more expensive or time consuming to place trusses on 24" centers instead of a progression like, 21", 26", 23", 22", 24" (Yay!), 20", etc?

It just seems like this kind of stupid stuff was rampant then. I blame it on the popular music of the time. It rotted people’s brains.

- Jim Katen, Oregon

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