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power issues

1321 Views 7 Replies 7 Participants Last post by  DonoMan
not exactly sure where this fits, but this section seems to fit the best:

My friends and I just signed the lease for a house we'll be renting starting fall semester. When we were looking at it we discovered that it has fairly old wiring, old enough that most of the outlets don't have the 3rd (ground) hole in them. The guys living there now use lots of those little orange adapters that go from 3 prongs down to 2. I'm the proud owner of an HDTV, 360, fairly expensive surround sound, and various other home theater components. In addition to the home theater we all have some fairly expensive gaming PCs, what kind of danger are we putting ourselves in using this old power with only the 2 prongs (and the few outlets in the house with 3 I'm not sure would have the ground connected anyway). What can we do outside side of buying some decent surge protectors for a reasonable price? I know for a fact that asking the owners to upgrad the wiring is out of the question because the house is scheduled to be torn down at the end of next year to build a new dorm. Any help you guys can give would be greatly appreciated. Thanks!
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i undestand contacting an electrician for the safety issue and all, but we're on a college student budget, and i was more or less asking for advice of whether i should be worried about it much at all. is the lack of a ground going to be putting our equipment in a good deal of danger. the people who live there this year haven't had a problem with computers and whatnot. whats the worst case scenario if we were just to use surge protectors with the connector to make them fit into the 2 slot outlets? seems to me chances are we'll be fine as they haven't had a problem all year, but what would be a scenario where all our stuff gets fried compared to if we did have grounded outlets?
I don't think a surge protector is going to work without a ground. I think the danger to the equipment is less than it is to the user. That is, the external metal parts of the equipment could be at a potential other than ground (such as by reversing the neutral and hot of the outlet), and the user could ground himself (e.g., via holding a faucet), which gives the potential of a nasty shock or electrocution.
You have some options that will help depending upon whether you have really old knob and tube wiring or newer armored cables or metal conduit.

If you know that it is knob and tube (two separate wires on stand off insulators) and the wire is protected by a fuze rather than a breaker you can still install a GFCI in the outlet. It will protect against shorts to ground but not against shorts across the hot and neutral. Still much safer than nothing.

If the panel has breakers GCFI or GCFI/AFCI breakers can be installed.

If the wire is in armored cable or metal conduit (not flex conduit through which the wires were pulled by the installer) you can replace the two prong receptacles and ground the replacements to the metal outlet box using a bare wire and clip. Better still put in a GFCI and ground it to the box. This assumes the cable sheathing is properly connected to the outlet box and panel. Get a simple checker to confirm this.

Do remember to turn off the power before attempting anything.
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ok...... first I want to clarify how a GFCI outlet works. A outlet is composed of a Hot a neutral and a ground. With a GFCI it monitors the current going through the hot wire and back out the neutral. So if there is a imbalance in current the built in breaker trips. GFCI's were intended on protecting people from being shocked.

So let's say you are outside with your power drill and it is raining. You are standing on the ground, and since the drill is wet there is a path from the hot wire inside the drill through you to ground . If electricity flows from hot to ground through you, it could be fatal. The GFCI can sense the current flowing through you because not all of the current is flowing from hot to neutral as it expects -- some of it is flowing through you to ground. As soon as the GFCI senses that, it trips the circuit and cuts off the electricity.

With surge protectors they don't ONLY work from hot to ground you have to look at manufacturers specs. When I was looking at surge protectors last year some would say protection from hot to neutral in the specs too. So I would look in the specs for this before I buy.

In California the proper way to get a 3 prong outlet without changing the wiring is to make it a GFCI. This doesn't ensure your equipment is safe either.

Since you are renting the house I would say put in a GFCI and do some research on serge protectors.

I have been living for the last 4 years like this without a grounded outlet. I haven't had anything blow up yet. knock on wood...
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Since it is a rental this is all on the landlord.
Yes, the landlord is responsible for making improvements to the house itself. But he is not responsible for any of your property that gets damaged, so you might want to look into renters insurance.
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