House wiring problem

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Question for the gurus. I just tested my housewiring (at the wall outlet) and found that I have 120V AC between the hot and return, only I can't tell which of the top two "slots" is hot and which is return. They both show 59.4 VAC with referrence to the third (GND) terminal, on the bottom. Huh? Anyone have any idea what might be going on with my house wiring? It's an old house, built in '49 or '50, and has had numerous pieces added and modified. I was in the attic once, installing the wiring for a bathroom outlet, and got bit by the *white* wire, which should have been my first clue something was wrong. When I asked someone else about that though, was told that it might be normal, depending on what had been put in place. :/
Any ideas or feedback are welcome. Hoping someone can explain this. Also hoping I don't have to rewire my house...
Dave
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Dave wrote:

Floating ground. It is likely that there is no ground wire at the outlet, and that the origional 2 prong outlet was replaced with a "grounded" outlet, even though there was no ground wire to connect to the ground connection.
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So how do you explain the potential difference between the other 2 wires and ground?
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Phantom voltage. if you tested it with an old analog meter, it would likely show 0V.
easy way to tell, just pull the recep out of the wall, beer of your choice says that it is wired with 2-wire Romex or some other similar wiring method, so that there is no ground present.
At least your PO didn't do what mine did, which was to bootleg all the ground connections to the neutral to fake out the home inspector's little tester gadget. Unfortunately for me, I know in my heart that the people that we bought the house from didn't do this (they weren't that handy) and it was likely the owners before that, so I really didn't have any recourse. Discovered a lot more shady wiring when I went up in the attic to "just replace a few ceiling boxes" to allow the girlie to install ceiling fans. I posted about that here before...
old houses... love 'em (built like masonry outhouses) but hate 'em too (previous owners can do horrible stuff)
nate
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Hey Bob,
Floating ground... Okay. That would fit with what I saw up in the attic, about the wiring used in the house. sigh At least it's nothing really wierd. Always thought I ought to rewire the house, just didn't want to tackle that project. Wondering if I can live with it... :)
Many thanks.
Dave
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Dave wrote:

I did my house bit-by-bit. When I felt energetic, or I had a problem with insufficient circuits, or I was remodeling a bathroom, I rewired the appropriate circuits. The major issues with ungrounded outlets are the lack of a safety ground for grounded equipment, and no ground path for surge protectors, which could help prioritise replacements.
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....

    I once worked for a photographer. He was in his second studio. The original one burned down. Guess who had floating grounds.
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wrote:

Hmm. Okay, so how could floating grounds result in your house burning down. Seriously. Never heard of that.
Dave
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Dave wrote:

Hi, If you know what GFCI does, then your question is answered. Ground wire is for extra safety.
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wrote:

Hey Tony,
No idea how a GFCI works, but I understand it shuts off the power really fast upon sensing evidence of a short to ground, or some such. Can you go a little further for me?
Thanks,
Dave
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A GFCI senses the difference between the current going to the load and the current leaving the load. If the current is not the same then it assumes the current is going through you. It then turns the current off.
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wrote:

A GFCI senses the difference between the current going to the load and the current leaving the load. If the current is not the same then it assumes the current is going through you. It then turns the current off.
Aah. Thank you. Much appreciated...
Dave
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Tony, please explain the fire without the abstract talk-around. Could you please explain it? Please explain a floating ground and how it can spark a fire.
--
Nonny
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wrote:

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wrote:

Yes, *Please explain.* Otherwise you are just wasting all our time (and especially mine.)
Dave
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We lived, somehow, for years with non polarized two prong sockets. We had some problems, but everyone does.
--
Christopher A. Young
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On Fri, 2 Apr 2010 19:43:40 -0400, "Stormin Mormon"

We had an Emerson radio with a plasstic case that was chipped, so the metal chassis on the bottom touched the metal table that the radio was on. The table touched the metal edging around the formica kitchen counter, and touching that anywhere along the 10 feet of it gave a small tingle. Wouldn't have happened these days.
But otoh, it made me strong. The electricity stimulated the growth of dendrites and chest hair, so now I'm the man I am.
I actually don't think it was a big problem, but otoh, for new construction all theese changes have cost very little.
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wrote:

And r eversing t he plug on the Emmerson AA5 (universal) radio would have totally eliminated the "tingle"
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Now days, kids who grow up without electricity. and just look at them. Baseball hats on sideways, and droopy pants with underwear showing. Some of them, I'd like to hook them up to the 220 volts until they shape up.
--
Christopher A. Young
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On Fri, 2 Apr 2010 19:43:40 -0400, "Stormin Mormon"

    It was not the floating ground directly that caused the problem. It was his total ignoring the general electrical flaws, many of wich he personally wired that was the most likely cause of the fire.
    As a person and a boss, I greatly respected him. But he just did not understand mechanical things. He could pick up a first communion photo and name all the kids in the 30 year old photo.
    I mixed photo chemicals to save a few pennies, but he would rip up any photo that could or should be better. He treated his employees and customers like family.
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