Home PC, ungrounded outlet and CFCI

Discussion in 'Electrical Forum discussion & Blog' started by MrFizzbin, Apr 2, 2015.

  1. MrFizzbin

    MrFizzbin New Member

    Joined:
    Apr 2, 2015
    Location:
    Quebec
    Greetings all. This is my first post by the way. I am a novice when it comes to wiring, so I thought it would be a good idea to do some reading, on-line research as well as to seek out some knowledgeable people in the field of home electricity DIY. Here is my situation. I have an older home, built back in the 50's. The outlets , according to my circuit tester, have an "open ground" . I want to be able to protect my home electronics, particularly my office computer. No, I have been told that a power bar with a circuit breaker will be of no use in the even of a power surge, as the power can't be shunted through the ground .. So ... will a GFCI be of any use in this scenario? Is there a way to ground the outlet somehow, without doing major re-wiring. Any assistance will be greatly appreciated
     
  2. cacher_chick

    cacher_chick Test, Don't Guess!

    Joined:
    Jan 5, 2008
    Occupation:
    Test, Don't Guess!
    Location:
    Land of Cheese
    If there is not a equipment ground conductor in the box, there should not be any receptacles installed with the 3rd hole for the ground. This would be a code violation.

    The only way it is allowed is IF they are GFCI and marked "No Equipment Ground".
     
  3. Sponsor

    Sponsor Paid Advertisement

     
  4. Reach4

    Reach4 Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Sep 25, 2013
    Location:
    IL
    The power strip with a surge protector will be useful, but not as useful as if there were a good ground. That strip will typically have 3 protects-- between the 3 conductors. Only one will be there to short across.

    There are some protectors better than others. Cheap and intermediate units are going to only use MOV protection. Some will use more sophisticated means, and will probably cost more. I have not searched one out for you. I am not using one of the better units myself.

    There is an unofficial way by running the safety ground line to a nearby water pipe that is connected by metal all of the way out of the house . This will probably raise some red flags from electricians, because I think that is forbidden by code. But it would work to make things better.

    The GFCI function will probably not help save your computer etc, but it won't hurt. Its purpose is to save people from shock. What it will do is let you put a 3-hole outlet in place without a safety ground being connected. Rules require you to put a label to that effect (there is official wording) on the outlet. So everybody will agree that this would be proper. The extra ground wire is the one that will not be accepted by those who believe in strictly following the rules. I am not an electrician. I might or might not run that impermissible ground if I were in your shoes.
     
  5. jadnashua

    jadnashua Retired Defense Industry Engineer xxx

    Joined:
    Sep 2, 2004
    Occupation:
    Retired Systems engineer for defense industry.
    Location:
    New England
    A good surge suppressor would still help. But, in this case, for the best protection, you'd get a UPS. Not one that switches from line to battery supplied acv, but one that always uses the UPS to generate the acv that the load requires, and only uses the incoming line voltage to keep the batteries charged. NOw, is this worth it? If you want the best protection. A good surge suppressor with a good rf noise filter would be almost as good.
     
  6. DonL

    DonL Jack of all trades Master of one

    Joined:
    Mar 30, 2011
    Occupation:
    Rocket Scientist
    Location:
    Houston, TX
  7. jadnashua

    jadnashua Retired Defense Industry Engineer xxx

    Joined:
    Sep 2, 2004
    Occupation:
    Retired Systems engineer for defense industry.
    Location:
    New England
    That UPS switches from ac coming in to UPS generated acv when it detects the incoming line voltage is deficient (low or missing). One like what I"m talking about, ALWAYS drives the outlet receptacles via the internal sine-wave generator - powered by the batteries, so there is NO switching. http://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/product/887781-REG/APC_smc1500_Smart_UPS_C_1500VA_with.html is an example. As you can see, they are more expensive, but provide the best protection. They are available in smaller versions and by other manufacturers - CyberPower is a decent brand. Now, whether you need one of these would depend on your actual application, but it will work. One thing I haven't checked, is if they will constantly issue an alarm if there is no ground...you'd want to check that carefully before springing for one. If I didn't need backup power, I'd just get a good surge suppressor. APC and Panamax are my favorite brands, but look at their warranty and equipment guarantees and the amount of joules of energy they can absorb - more is better, and good ones typically can absorb over 4,000. One thing you might consider is a whole-house surge suppressor on your power panel where a ground is likely available. There can be internally generated spikes in a home (big motors) that one on the panel may not protect an individual branch, but they do work for the incoming power from outside. Mersen is a good brand that isn't overpriced - they're more into commercial stuff, but do make some suitable for a typical residential dwelling. Properly installed, most of them require two free slots in your power panel (one dual-pole breaker suitable for 240vac) so that both legs are protected. While it will work, but is not recommended, is to put the leads on an already used pair, but you then risk shutting one off and losing protection plus, some breakers won't allow you to insert multiple conductors (solve that with a splice).
     
  8. MrFizzbin

    MrFizzbin New Member

    Joined:
    Apr 2, 2015
    Location:
    Quebec
    Thank you all for all the replies. Most appreciated. I realized after the fact that I might have left out some information. The CFCI outlet I'd like to install would only protect that one outlet, and not those down stream in the circuit. While there seems to be a bare copper ground wire running from the breaker panel to the ground connection on the outlet, then out to the rest of the circuit, I'm guessing it's not really grounded as I do get that "open ground" reading from circuit checker.



    So the wiring into the GFCI outlet would be: the 2 neutral (white) lines pig-tailed together and a line coming from the pig tail into the neutral (silver) "Line" connector of the GFCI, and the 2 hot (black) lines pig-tailed together with a line coming from the pig-tail into the hot (gold) "Line" connector of the GFCI. The grounds would be pig-tailed as well, with a line from the pig tail going to the green connector. There would be no connections going into the GFCI's Load connections. The outlets down stream will not be protected by the GFCI (which is what I want). If I understand you all well, the outlet will not be grounded. The only way to truly ground it, would be to re-wire it to the breaker panel with a ground line.

    DonL, the CyberPower unit you mentioned.. will it work on an outlet that is not grounded?
     
  9. jadnashua

    jadnashua Retired Defense Industry Engineer xxx

    Joined:
    Sep 2, 2004
    Occupation:
    Retired Systems engineer for defense industry.
    Location:
    New England
    That is probably NOT the best way to install a GFCI receptacle!

    One cable will be from the panel, one will (normally) be a feed-through to the rest of the daisy chain. For maximum GFCI protection of that circuit, you have two choices - use a GFCI circuit breaker and protect everything on the circuit, or, find the first receptacle on that run, and install one there. Normally, what you'd do is determine which cable is powered, and run that to the LINE inputs of the GFCI. THen, connect the other cable(s) to the LOAD side. THen, that GFCI would protect that receptacle and any further down the daisy chain.

    IF you have a ground cable coming in...and it reads open to ground, you have a loose or broken cable somewhere before that electrical box, and I'd search for that. Turn the circuit breaker off that feeds that receptacle and then search out any other things that now do not have power and check all of the connections. If you don't use a quality wire stripper, it's not hard to nick the wire, and it can often then break off at the nick. Or, a loose screw or wire nut. Find that, and you may solve your ground problem.
     
  10. DonL

    DonL Jack of all trades Master of one

    Joined:
    Mar 30, 2011
    Occupation:
    Rocket Scientist
    Location:
    Houston, TX

    Yes it will work without the Ground.

    I just put a ground lifter on one to test it, just to make sure it would work, and it does.

    It works fine, but the wiring Fault LED stays lit.

    There are pros and cons with the Pure Sine Wave UPS systems, That do not have switch over.

    Battery life and efficiency are a little of a drawback on the ones that do not switch, because the unit is always running on battery, While the battery is being charged. And the Inverter is always being used, If it does not have auto switchover when the power fails/ Gets restored.

    I agree that APC is a good brand, If you have a few more bucks to spend. For a Server it may be worth the extra bucks.


    Good Luck.
     
    Last edited: Apr 3, 2015
  11. MrFizzbin

    MrFizzbin New Member

    Joined:
    Apr 2, 2015
    Location:
    Quebec
    But Jadashua, I do not want to protect the entire circuit, just that outlet .. is what I am proposing safe and appropriate?
     
  12. Reach4

    Reach4 Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Sep 25, 2013
    Location:
    IL
    I did not see that coming. Any chance you would be able to troubleshoot and fix that ground wire? It might not be hard.
     
  13. DonL

    DonL Jack of all trades Master of one

    Joined:
    Mar 30, 2011
    Occupation:
    Rocket Scientist
    Location:
    Houston, TX
    A volt/ohm meter may be better to check with.

    Ground to Neutral should measure a dead short, if it is connect properly. And no voltage difference from Ground to Neutral.

    What kind of tester are you using ?
     
  14. LLigetfa

    LLigetfa DIYer, not in the trades

    Joined:
    Feb 6, 2011
    Occupation:
    Semi-Retired
    Location:
    NW Ontario, Canada
    I'm not really understanding what the OP wants to protect himself from. I've never heard of a CFCI but if it is anything like a GFI, they only trip when current leaks to ground so a large voltage surge could go undetected unless it is so high a voltage as to arc over to an adjacent ground at which point I think the damage would already be done. Kind of like closing the barn door after the horses got out.
     
  15. MrFizzbin

    MrFizzbin New Member

    Joined:
    Apr 2, 2015
    Location:
    Quebec
    Didn't notice the typo in the Subject title.. sorry about that. It should be GFCI.
    As for what kind of tester I am using.. well .. ummm.. I'm really out of my element here. It's the cheap 3 prong kind you simply plug into the socket. The devise has three led's, depending what lights up and where, you refer to the chart on the detector, and it tells you if it's Correct, Hot-Ground inverted, Hot-neutral inverted, open hot or open ground. I also have a pen-like devise called a "NCVT- 1 voltage tester" It simply lights when positioned near a line that is hot.

    The whole house has open ground wall sockets from what I can see. Not going to start opening walls to run new lines to properly ground everything. Just want to know if I re-wire a GFCI on that one outlet, is the way I proposed it okay?
     
  16. jadnashua

    jadnashua Retired Defense Industry Engineer xxx

    Joined:
    Sep 2, 2004
    Occupation:
    Retired Systems engineer for defense industry.
    Location:
    New England
    You do not have to find the first item on the run from the breaker to that receptacle...but, there's no good reason NOT to protect anything beyond that receptacle when you can easily. Yes, you can use the line side of the GFCI as a feed-through terminal, but why not just hook the feed-through cable to the LOAD side, then anything beyond that will also be protected? If the thing uses screw terminals, it may not accept two leads, so it's far easier to just do it this way.

    FWIW, on pretty much all new construction, GFCI protection (along with AFCI) is required for a reason...they are safer.

    But, if you do have a ground wire in the box and it runs in the cable back to the panel, I'd find out where it is broken and fix it.
     
  17. DonL

    DonL Jack of all trades Master of one

    Joined:
    Mar 30, 2011
    Occupation:
    Rocket Scientist
    Location:
    Houston, TX
    If you have a bare ground wire in the outlet boxes, It could be that the Ground and Neutral is not bonded properly in the Main breaker panel.

    A GFCI will really not help anything for providing a safety ground.
     
    Last edited: Apr 4, 2015
  18. MrFizzbin

    MrFizzbin New Member

    Joined:
    Apr 2, 2015
    Location:
    Quebec
    I want to protect that 1 outlet because further down the circuit I have another computer. I do not want to run the possibility that the GFCI trips and cuts power to that second computer. Also, I have been told (True or false, I'm no expert) that the more outlets that are covered by that GFCI, the more susceptible it is to ghost or normal power fluctuations.
     
  19. cacher_chick

    cacher_chick Test, Don't Guess!

    Joined:
    Jan 5, 2008
    Occupation:
    Test, Don't Guess!
    Location:
    Land of Cheese
    A GFCI is generally required where the receptacle is in a wet area, such as a bathroom or a basement. It will not protect from lightning, brownouts, or surges.

    If you have 3 pin receptacles and there is no working equipment ground, you have an illegal installation or a wiring problem that needs to be fixed.
     
    LLigetfa likes this.
  20. Reach4

    Reach4 Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Sep 25, 2013
    Location:
    IL
    If you have the bare ground wires, the fix is probably in a box and not in a wall.
     
  21. cacher_chick

    cacher_chick Test, Don't Guess!

    Joined:
    Jan 5, 2008
    Occupation:
    Test, Don't Guess!
    Location:
    Land of Cheese
    If the entire home is effected, the ground and neutral are not bonded at the panel.
     
Similar Threads: Home ungrounded
Forum Title Date
Electrical Forum discussion & Blog Homeline panel/breakers Jul 18, 2020
Electrical Forum discussion & Blog Redirecting service drop to home Jul 9, 2020
Electrical Forum discussion & Blog 120v Generator to power a home Apr 21, 2020
Electrical Forum discussion & Blog Home Alarm system transformer question Jul 10, 2018
Electrical Forum discussion & Blog Conduit Entering Elevated Steel SIP Home Aug 24, 2016

Share This Page