Ungrounded vs Grounded Power Outlets

Discussion in 'Off Topic' started by cw42, Dec 18, 2008.

  1. cw42

    cw42 Diamond Member

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    The apt I moved into has ungrounded (2 prong outlets) and grounded (3 prong outlets). The area where I want to put my Plasma TV/Xbox only has a 2 prong outlet. What is the danger of connecting my electronics to this outlet? And how can I remedy this?

    Rewiring everything is not a solution for me as i'm renting.
     
  2. jagec

    jagec Lifer

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    The danger is that if there is a failure which causes the chassis of your electronics to become charged, you could get a shock if you touch them. With a ground they would simply blow a circuit when plugged in, with no danger to the user. Also, if lightning strikes a line there is more of a chance of getting a shock or blowing equipment.

    That said, people have been dealing with ungrounded lines for ages. It's a risk, but it's unlikely that anything will happen. Get one of those 3->2 prong adaptors, use the screw in the middle of the socket to give yourself a "might-work" ground, and have fun.
     
  3. flxnimprtmscl

    flxnimprtmscl Diamond Member

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    How would you "ground" to that screw?
     
  4. Fear No Evil

    Fear No Evil Diamond Member

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    In theory the screw is touching the metal box the outlet is mounted in and that is (hopefully) grounded.
     
  5. zinfamous

    zinfamous No Lifer

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    You could also just buy 3-prong plates and replace the two-prong plates. That's what I did in my completely un-grounded apartment surrounded by concrete slabs and an inaccessible crawlspace. (meaning, impossible to wire a legit ground :().
     
  6. zinfamous

    zinfamous No Lifer

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    yes, it is the cheap workaround. I think it instills some confidence more than it actually works, though...
     
  7. nakedfrog

    nakedfrog Lifer

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    Swap in a GFCI outlet box?
     
  8. BigJ

    BigJ Lifer

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    Unless you have armored cable (ex: BX) and metal boxes or the box has a grounded wire running to it (thanks Greenman, was late and it slippted my mind), you're doing nothing. If you really wanted to have some sort of protection, you would wire the first receptacle on the circuit with a GFCI receptacle with a sticker that states there is no ground present. You could then replace all the ungrounded receptacles on the line with grounded receptacles and label them as having no ground AND GFCI protected.

    Without a ground, a surge protector will do nothing.
     
  9. Fear No Evil

    Fear No Evil Diamond Member

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    Although if a house still has 2 prong outlets, it likely does have armored cable and metal boxes.. not guaranteed though.

     
  10. BigJ

    BigJ Lifer

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    With electrical, the only time "likely" should be used is "likely to get you killed" if you don't know for sure.
     
  11. vshah

    vshah Lifer

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    the 360 has a two prong plug....
     
  12. jagec

    jagec Lifer

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    :thumbsup:

    Certainly the best way, since this will provide REAL protection instead of the "Maybe" protection of using the 3->2 prong adapter and screw.

    In some ways GFCI is safer than actually having a ground...
     
  13. Paperdoc

    Paperdoc Golden Member

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    The way I'd bet is: if the outlets are 2-prong, it is UNlikely the wiring has a ground connection to the metal box in the wall. So replacing 2-prong outlets with 3-prong, or using an adapter with the ground connected to the cover's screw, is WORSE than doing nothing. It leaves some people believing that the outlet really is grounded when it is not!

    If you want to find out for sure, get a 3-prong outlet or one of those adapters and install properly. Then get a simple outlet checker - the ones with three colored LED's on them. You plug it into the outlet and its light pattern tells you many things, including whether or not there is a good ground connection present.

    The best alternative to completely rewiring is what BigJ said. You convert to GFCI protection - not quite the same as proper grounded, but very close an almost as good. And like he / she said, the strategy is to find the first outlet box in the circuit. There you install the type of GFCI that had "output" terminals to feed the rest of the downstream circuit (many GFCI's come this way). Then all of the outlets will be protected, whether they are 2- or 3-prong. However, replacing all with 3-prong will allow you to plug in anything.
     
  14. WHAMPOM

    WHAMPOM Diamond Member

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    I am pretty sure grounded three prong outlets are required by code in rentals. Get your landlord to upgrade.
     
  15. JEDIYoda

    JEDIYoda Lifer

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    depends on when it was built. Also as long as the landlord does no electrical work in the apartment he does not have to conform to code that has been updated.
     
  16. Jeff7

    Jeff7 Lifer

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    I'm in a similar situation.

    Some of what I have found out, which is hopefully true:

    - If there is a fault in the chassis or wiring, and it charges the chassis with power (hot-to-chassis), the only way you'll get a shock is if you complete the circuit - if you're grounded or contact anything with a different potential.

    - My grandmother grew up in a house that has only two-prong outlets. She is still quite alive. :)

    - If you swap in a GFCI outlet to an ungrounded wire, you may need to have it labeled as "GFCI Protected, Ungrounded" to avoid violating some electrical code. GFCI does add some protection, but it's still not the same as having a grounded outlet.

    - Get an awesome landlord.
    I talked to mine about the wiring, and shortly after I moved in, he got an electrician in to add some grounded outlets and new circuits where I had requested them. The livingroom has two outlets on separate circuits, one for my computer and one for an air conditioner. The kitchen has a GFCI outlet dedicated to the microwave. Upstairs, there's a circuit to my wood shop to run equipment and an air conditioner (though not at the same time); that circuit also splits off into the bedroom. And the outlet by the bathroom sink was ungrounded and not GFCI protected; both issues have been corrected there.
    That was about $500 spent right off the bat. :)



    It might do something; they do have circuit breakers in them, and varistors, though the breakers probably just act against accidental overloads; not sure on that aspect. The surge protector itself may also act as a fuse - so instead of your entire computer blowing up, only 70% of it will die. ;)



     
  17. Deviant Grasshopper

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  18. SunnyD

    SunnyD Belgian Waffler

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  19. Fritzo

    Fritzo Lifer

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    Wrap a copper wire around a gas line (near a joint is best), then attach it to the green ground screw on a 3 prong outlet.










    Nonono...don't actually do this :D There was an incident in our neighborhood about 15 years ago that resulted in an explosion heheheh.
     
  20. imported_Greenman

    imported_Greenman Diamond Member

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    That's incorrect. It was common practice to run a #16 ground wire to every box. I've seen it done hundreds of times.
     
  21. DisgruntledVirus

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    The cold water line is acceptable IIRC though.
     
  22. Fritzo

    Fritzo Lifer

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    It is, and usually how it's done in older houses. However, this idiot used a gas line, there was a leak and a spark, and..well...
     
  23. Modelworks

    Modelworks Lifer

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    Don't worry about it.
    Unless the device you are plugging in has a metal chassis you are fine. I don't know of any TV that are metal encased :)
    The main thing to have grounded are appliances.

     
  24. Squisher

    Squisher Lifer

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  25. lupi

    lupi Lifer

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    Gfci outlets are only a couple bucks each, buy several, turn off your breakers, commence upgrading.