House wiring problem

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Dave wrote:

If done properly, it should be a 2 prong ungrounded receptacle, or a GFCI receptacle, or downstream from (protected by) a GFCI receptacle. If downstream from a GFCI it can be a grounded receptacle even though there is no ground. That could be what you have (but not likely).
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You know, something's jogging my memory. I remember now I once tested a different outlet and got the same results, right after we had the house remodeled. And I wonered about it but never persued it. Before the house was remodeled I worked on an outlet to replace the hardware, and it tested normal. In between these two, when the house was remodeled, the contractor (or whoever) had to hardwire their floor sander into the service entrance because we didn't have any 220 VAC outlets, even though we had the normal two "hot" wires (each 110 or 120 but 180 out of phase with each other) coming from the pole. We have central air, and the outside unit (compressor?) is wired for 220 (or 240, whatever, I don't remember) but it is the only thing on the property that is. I am wondering now if they changed something at the service entrance when they hard-wired their floor sander in.
I just filed for a bunch of insurance reimbursements, and we are expecting some extra cash as a result. I need to get an electrician out here to check this out. Anyone have any ideas as to what I might expect to have found? All ears...
Thanks,
Dave
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Dave wrote:

A house of that vintage is very likely to have no ground to the outlets. If you open up the breaker box (fuse box?) and look at the wires coming into the box for the appropriate circuits, you will probably see that each 110V cable entering into the box has 2 wires (black, white) but no associated bare ground wire.
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probably has nothing to do with your problem, there's generally no need to have 240VAC receptacles in your average house unless you have large window A/C units, an electric range, or an electric clothes dryer.

I expect you will find simply a lot of old wiring without an earth ground conductor. Didn't become code until sometime in the 50's or 60's. You can either have an electrician repull everything (and possibly add some receps in strategic locations if you so desire) or else simply install a GFCI recep in the first box on each circuit, your choice.
If you go for the complete rewire route I would also go ahead and get a couple cases of "spec grade" receps and switches and then your house will be all good for the next 30 years or more. Be aware that if you do the full rewire you will also have to install AFCIs on all circuits serving the bedrooms. If you have an obsolete breaker panel that is no longer supported, then you're looking at a panel replacement as well, so you may want to assess that before making a decision.
If you're reasonably handy, this is something you can do yourself (I have, although I still have more work to do.) However it is not something to mess around with, make sure you know exactly how to "do it right" so you don't end up causing more problems than you solve.
nate
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N8N wrote:

I agree it was probably not the cause.

You can also add separate ground wires. Not necessarily a lot easier.

Time has marched on. AFCIs are now required essentially on all 15/20A 120V circuits that aren't required to have GFCIs.

Couple other options, but still a problem.

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So far, you seem to have one bad outlet, but only one. I'd fix it.

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wrote:

In fact as the problem was described here, I think you only have to take the receptacle out and change the way the wires are connected. Or put a two slot receptacle back in.
Even if you have to do the whole house, how hard could that be?

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I do have to do the whole house. Every plug is this way. And, the AC compressor that uses 240? It's on *three different breakers*. If any of them are on, it comes on when called upon. I'm thinking that the problem must be in the service entrance, or the whole house wouldn't be bass-ackwards with 59 VAC between every slot and the GND terminal (which is not connected to anything.) I am thinking the person who said this was the same thing you woud see with an PC that had an RF filter and no ground knew what they were talking about. Wish I did. I can almost wrap my mind around everything but the three breakers for the AC. And no, I am not making this up. Whoever wired this house, or rewired it, had to have been either stupid, crazy or on drugs (pick two out of three.)
Dave (who is not happy right now.)
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On 04/03/2010 12:26 PM, Dave wrote:

As others have stated, use an incandescent test light or analog meter to test voltage to "ground." I bet there really is none. This is not a "problem" per se but you really should be using GFCIs on any ungrounded circuits with grounding type receptacles.
Three breakers for the A/C sounds hinky though. You should have one double breaker for the A/C, period. If you can't figure that one out yourself, you may wish to call an electrician to look at it - something ain't right there.
nate
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Yep, I hardly ever use a meter. I have two light bulbs wired in series. If they light dimly its 120, if the light bright its 240.
Jimmie
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Yep, I hardly ever use a meter. I have two light bulbs wired in series. If they light dimly its 120, if the light bright its 240.
Jimmie
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Three double pole breakers can be quite normal for a heat pump compressor, it's air handler, and it's supplemental resistive heating elements. Two double pole breakers could be normal for a central air conditioning compressor, an air handler, and a condensate lift pump or other accessory. Are the three breakers single or double pole. What are the breakers ampacities. -- Tom Horne
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wrote:
[snip]

One double breaker (although I've seen 2 singles instead. They should be next to each other) and another (single) for the blower?
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yabbut, he said that if any of the breakers were on that it'd work, that can't possibly be right.
nate
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yabbut, he said that if any of the breakers were on that it'd work, that can't possibly be right.
nate
Hey nate,
Hate to say it, but that is the way it is. If any of those three breakers is on, the outside compressor comes on when called upon. This is why I said that whoever wired this house had to be stupid, crazy or on drugs (maybe all three.) Please tell me why you say it can't possibly be, and help me understand this mess.
Thanks,
Dave
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I didn't say it couldn't *be,* I just said it couldn't be *correct.* And it's not. That's why I suggested you have an electrician check it out. It sounds like maybe the equipment got inadvertantly connected to two different circuits somehow, which is a code violation, as there needs to be a single disconnect for each circuit. Otherwise if you kill the breaker marked "A/C" and don't subsequently test it, you could get a nasty surprise.
Since you apparently have a meter, I would do the following: turn off each breaker one at a time and see if there's voltage on the wire connected to the output of that breaker. If there is, you got a problem that ought to be fixed.
nate
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I didn't say it couldn't *be,* I just said it couldn't be *correct.* And it's not. That's why I suggested you have an electrician check it out. It sounds like maybe the equipment got inadvertantly connected to two different circuits somehow, which is a code violation, as there needs to be a single disconnect for each circuit. Otherwise if you kill the breaker marked "A/C" and don't subsequently test it, you could get a nasty surprise.
Since you apparently have a meter, I would do the following: turn off each breaker one at a time and see if there's voltage on the wire connected to the output of that breaker. If there is, you got a problem that ought to be fixed.
nate
==========
Aah. My misunderstanding. I'll check it out as you describe, with my analog meter. That will at least point me in the right direction for isolating the problem, I would think.
Many thanks.
Dave
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Are you absolutely sure it is 59.4V and not 59.4 millivolts?
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Agreed. AND I'd double check with an analog meter to rule out inductive ghost voltages.
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On 4/2/2010 11:12 AM mike spake thus:
>

It's getting *really* annoying hearing this same answer regurgitated every time someone reports a problem involving weird voltages in their home's wiring.
One would think that a DMM (digital multimeter) is a totally unreliable instrument, prone to erroneous measurements due to cosmic rays and pixie dust.
This is not the case. I just measured my unit's voltages with my DMM. Got 122-something volts between hot and ground, and 0.0 between neutral and ground, just like you're supposeta.
The OP has some screwy wiring, perhaps a floating ground, maybe something else.
(This isn't to say that it isn't *possible* for a DMM to misread due to stray capacitance or induced voltages, but it is nowhere near as terrible a problem as you hear here.)
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