replacing older electrical outlets

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Pop, that is the first thoughtful response to this thread I have seen. Thank you.
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wrote:

Why waste the bandwidth Pop. I read the pillow biter's rude response to the OP and just killfiled him immediately.
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My house was the same way, but I found that the outlets had a ground wire connected to the box, but not the outlet. I just pigtailed a longer wire to the ground wire and put in new 3 prong outlets.
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I was planning on pulling 1 of the outlets this evening and checking to see what I had to work with. I only bought the house about a year ago and I'm unfamiliar with the complete history of the outlets (ie I don't know their age). I do know the house was build in '54 (in RI) (and assume the outlets are original) and the 2 prong outlets are the polarized ones (one prong is bigger than the other). I'm told this this COULD mean there is a chance of a ground being there.
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Andy writes: Another solution, which will work but not meet code, is to get some of those 6 outlet taps which plug directly into the dual receptacle, and clip off the external ground plug so they can plug in. This will not require you to go into the outlet, and can be removed if you decide to sell the place. It does NOT provide a ground, and is therefore no safer than the two prong outlets, but it will work without permanent rewiring, and is very very easy to do. Many of these 6 prong outlets have a center screw that fastens into the dual outlet and keeps it from pulling out or falling off.
As I say, it doesn't meet code and provides no safety, but it works exactly like the adapter, only less likely to pull out.
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grodenhiATgmailDOTcom wrote:

No risks. Im sure it will violate your code though and when you sell the house they will request you install two pronged plugs or actually ground the third.

in an old house I would say its quite complicated. I'd rather sell my house than try it. Which is what I did...
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Thank you,



"Then said I, Wisdom [is] better than strength: nevertheless the poor
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On 30 Jan 2006 08:44:44 -0800, "grodenhiATgmailDOTcom"

Nobodies mentioned a major problem that can occur in older houses.
That's the use of cloth covered rubber insulated wire. My house was built in the early 50s too and the wiring is all this awful rubber insulation with a woven cloth covering. Hard drawn, solder tinned. The problem is that the wire's been exposed to air for the last 50 years and the rubber is just absolutely brittle. If you just think of pulling an outlet to change it, the insulation cracks and falls off.
Well, OK, its not quite that bad but you get the drift and you get an idea of what you might be in for.
The wire is usually just fine until you move it, at which time the insulation flakes off. I've managed to replace most of the wire in the house but on the stuff I havent yet replaced, I shudder if I have to open up an outlet box.
So be real careful when working with that old wire.
dickm
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I've tested the outlet with a circuit tester and it appears they are not grounded. To further the investigation I've pulled out the outlet (after shutting power) and pulled the outlet out a bit. There are only 4 wires coming in, 2 white and two black (both black wires on one side of the outlet, and both white on the other). The wires seem in good shape (pliable and rubber sheathing was in good shape and not cracky). I checked down in the basement and the wiring to the older plugs looked like the texture of a gaarden hose and was called Citex. My questions are:
1.) If I were to hire electrician APPROXIMATELY what could I expect to spend to get say 4-5 outlets converted (in the room right above the fuse box). The fuse box is only a few years old and properly grounded for the recently rewired kitchen/bath and newly finished basement. This is in the north east (RI).
2.) If the cost in question 1 is too high, I may use a GFCI outlet as the first in the series on the circuit and redo all the others with standard 3 prong (I'm told this is ok code).
3.) Worst case... Is it still possible to buy 2 prong outlets (this all started with wanting to replace the old panted over ones).
Thanks in advance!!
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On 30 Jan 2006 17:00:10 -0800, "grodenhiATgmailDOTcom"

This would be indicative if you had romex, but I don't think you do. Was there Romex in the 50's??
But if you have BX, wires through a spiral metal sheath, your boxes may well be grounded. If it is metal.
Did they have plastic boxes inthe 50's? I don't think so. So your box is metal, but make sure..
You have to check again.
If the box is grounded, the outlet is iiuc guaranteed to be grounded when it is screwed to the box -- but not when you disconnect the outlet to look behind it.
I hope you got a VOM, a volt-ohm meter, or a multimeter, which is also a volt-ohm meter with different words on the package.
Much more useful in general than other testers. Don't buy the cheapest one RS has if it uses a moving needle, but get a cheap digital one. There are times when that is not as good, but they will be rare. (If you have to, later you can get a wiggy?, or a meter with a needle.)
Set your meter to 120 volts AC or higher (200 is a common value on the AC voltage scale.) Stick one probe in one of the slots in the outlet and touch the other probe to that metal screw between the two halves of the outlet (or if the outlet is not screwed to the metal box, touch the other probe to the metal box.)
You have two slots, one that is hot and one that is neutral, and this test should show either no voltage with either slot, or no voltage with one slot and some voltage with the other.
If it shows no voltage between either slot and the metal box, the box is not grounded. (this test has to be done with the power on, (to an outlet that works (as I assume all yours do.))
If it does show voltage between one slot, probably the wider one, and the box (or the screw in the middle of the outlet) it will probalby show 117 volts, or 110, or 120. In that case the box is grounded, and the outlet will be when you screw it back in place (although check again after it is in place.)
If it shows something less than 110, post back here for more info.

GFCI outlets and circuit breakers trip if the ground is no good. That means you have to have a good ground to begin with. No one here has discussed, that I have read, using GFCIs with 2 wires in BX or metal conduit. How would that work, guys?

I think so. If not maybe you could buy 3 prong and fil the ground hole with epoxy. That would make the point that there is no ground, although I don't know anything about Code in this matter.

P&M, reply by post only.
Remove NOPSAM to email me. Please let me know if you have posted also.
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mm wrote:

Both circuit testers and meters will not test for a reliable ground because the test at a very low current. What tests good at low current may be high resistance and not be an effective ground. Actually a 100W lite bulb from hot to ground is more accurate - or measuring the voltage across the bulb.

GFCIs compare the current on the hot and neutral wires and trip if there is a 5 mA difference. They do not need and do not use a ground wire (the ground connection goes to the outlet only).

Yes they should be available.
bud--
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On 30 Jan 2006 08:44:44 -0800, "grodenhiATgmailDOTcom"

Not necessarily. You're supposed to attach the pigtail wire, or the little metal tab with the notch, of the adaptor to the center screw of the outlet.. In many most or all cases -- not sure which, but definitely sometimes -- , that screw will be grounded, and when you take out the screw, then screw it back in with the little metal fork underneath it, the adaptor is I believe as good as a 3 prong outlet.

Remove NOPSAM to email me. Please let me know if you have posted also.
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Ok, here's an outside the 'box' alternative- how to remove paint from outlet covers/faceplates. Get them wet, scrub with copper wool- I've done it. So no need to replace anything. Really, though, you want to have properly grounded circuits. It's safer. You've gotten some good suggestions- but why not just call an electrician, get a free estimate. Sometimes your local hardware store will give you a few names of local, reliable people if you don't know any. This way, you'll have the situation looked at, get cost estimates, recommendations re minimal/ ideal upgrades etc. You'll actually have an experienced person familiar with local construction look at your wires, as none of us can do. Then you make your decision.
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Grounded outlets are not really needed in all rooms. For rooms with lamps, tvs and stuff - not needed.
For computers, air cond. kitchen appliances and the bathroom ,they should be grounded. Often new wires can be run to those places if there is a basement because these rooms are often on the first floor. You lighting can stay as it is. Sometimes its easier to just add new outlets and only rewire the kitchen area. You can still buy non-grounded outlets too. They cost more.... go figure !!! If you got a garage or basement workshop, rewire them - they are usually exposed so easy to change. In a 50's home, the basement is likely conduit wired. Thats definately a good ground unless someone pulled the pipe apart.
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