testing a GFCI where no ground is available?

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Hi all
am looking for a hopefully easy to obtain, not too expensive method of demonstrating that a receptacle is GFCI protected... long story short. Am selling house, got offer. Home inspector came through and wrote up two receptacles as being "ungrounded" despite them actually having the blue stickers on them that said "GFCI Protected - No Equipment Ground" (duh) before you ask, it would be fairly difficult to pull grounds to these boxes, otherwise I'd not be fighting. Also there are a approximately 5 or 6 other receps throughout the house that I haven't grounded yet that are in a similar situation, and I don't want to open that can of worms whereby accepting that the lack of a ground at these receps is a fault that needs to be corrected leads to the request to ground *everything.* (house was built in 1948, before you ask. I did update a good bit of the wiring already, just not all of it. Everything is to the best of my knowledge code compliant at this time, and in fact I got a permit for the rewiring I did on the 2nd floor a while back.)
SO.
I scanned the page of the NEC (2008 edition, which is what my AHJ is using these days) addressing the replacement of ungrounded receptacles; called the head inspector to confirm that there were no local addendums to the code (he said no) and so I have a case, right? I just need to demonstrate that the receps are in fact downstream of a GFCI.
Here's where I had a moment of dumbass. I figured I would just stop by the Local Hardware Sellin' Emporium and get one of those plug in cube testers - kind of like the one I already have but this time the fancy one with the little button on the top to test a GFCI. That should do it, right? Well I get it home (not the house for sale, my current temporary residence) and plug it in to a kitchen recep, push the button, GFCI pops. Then I read the instructions - says it may not work on ungrounded receps. Of course it wouldn't - it probably just has a resistor that the button inserts between hot and ground so that it allows a current slightly higher than 5 mA @ 120V. duh!
So the question is - is there a tester available that I could use to demonstrate the principle to someone who's not really clueful about such things that the GFCI really works? I could use a test lead to connect the ground pin to a faucet or something, but I have a feeling that that wouldn't really help the case that I know what I'm talking about and did a proper job in front of people who aren't really clueful about electricity and have never heard of the NEC...
any ideas?
thanks
nate
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The GFCI works by compairing the current on the hot wire to the neutral wire. If they are not ballanced, it assumes that current is going to ground somewhere and opens the circuit.
The only way to test it is to create an unbalanced condition. Many testers put a resistor from the hot wire to ground. To test the ones without a ground such as you have, you will need to run a wire from the ground pin of the socket or tester to a grounded item. Such as to a grounded receptical or other grounded device.
To demonstrate the recepticals are protected, put a lamp in them and go to the testor and plug it into the GFCI that protects them. When you trip that socket, it should cut off the current to the other ones if the GFCI socket is grounded.
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On 06/07/2011 07:07 PM, Ralph Mowery wrote:

Right, I just don't know if that constitutes "proof" to someone who really doesn't know what's going on. I don't have the couple grand to pay an electrician to "fix" all this, nor do I have the free time between now and closing to do it myself.
nate
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On 06/07/2011 08:07 PM, Nate Nagel wrote:

just thought, how much current do those neon testers draw? could demonstrate that to faucet etc. if it'll make it trip. don't have one handy otherwise I would have tried it already.
nate
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In

I think you can argue this one yourself by simply arranging a vist to the office once you have your head firmly around the requirements of the NEC. Try googling for "gfci design" WITH THE QUOTES to learn more about how they work in 2-wire setups. Then be sure your receptacles/markings are all in place as the NEC requires for 2 and/or 3 wire receptacles or whatever else might be being protected. The gfci should also be properly current rated of course.
HTH,
Twayne`
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Nate Nagel wrote:

Plug your tester into the allegedly-protected outlet. It will show that it's otherwise properly wired but with a missing ground. Press the "TEST" button on the GFCI that protects it, it will trip, and the light on the downstream outlet tester will go out.
-Bob
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The GFCI is actually in a grounded location (original homeruns were BX) but the receps that the inspector wrote up are not (wiring inside walls is ungrounded NM)
nate
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In typed:

Right.
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Nate Nagel wrote:

That's excellent that it all worked out. Thanks for posting a follow-up.
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It doesn't seem to me that it matters if the gfci works. The inspector wrote the outlets up as ungrounded. They are ungrounded. Proving the gfci works is not going to prove there is a ground, there is not one.
You want to say that is not an issue. So just say it. If the buyers want to use that as a negotiation point then you'll have to deal with that.
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I'm following you. Contract says that "electrical, plumbing, and HVAC." should be in good working order or words to that effect. The inspector's report pissed me off because he wrote up some stuff that we were not contractually obligated to fix (a door was replaced and the strike didn't line up quite right, etc.) He also wrote up the ungrounded receps and directed us to "provide ground." I have a real problem with this because in my mind "compliant with the latest version of the NEC" = "good working order." I'm certainly not going to agree to "fix" them but am looking for a way to demonstrate proper GFCI function to the satisfaction of all involved.
nate
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On 6/8/2011 10:09 AM, N8N wrote:

You could provide the 'inspector' with the relevant code section that says that a grounded receptacle can be used downstream from a GFCI if labeled "no ground" and "GFCI protected".
Ask the 'inspector' the basis of his report since the receptacles are NEC compliant?
I would be real annoyed if he did not accept the NEC.
You could replace the grounded receptacles with ungrounded ones.
Are 'inspectors' licensed/registered/regulated?
--
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Agree with the above. From what was stated, the home inspector is objecting to the fact that the receptacles are ungrounded. Are they the old two prong type, or did someone replace those with 3 prong ones that appear to have a ground, but do not? If they are the 2 prong type, you aren't required per NEC to make them grounded.
If you just want to demonstrate that the GFCI works, one of the previous posts suggested demonstrating that the upstream GFCI trips when the test button is pressed and that the receptacle in question goes off when it is tripped.
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wrote:

They're three prong type. This is one of those things that pissed me off when I bought the house. Turns out that probably prior to the previous owners buying the house (because the people we bought it from seemed like good people but weren't particularly handy,) someone of questionable integrity replaced all the receps with grounding type receps but instead of installing GFCIs or repulling the wire, they jumped the ground terminal to the neutral terminal at all the ungrounded receps thus making it appear that the house had been properly updated. They all tested fine with the inspector's little cube tester at our home inspection as well. When I went in to replace a few receps that didn't hold a plug well is when I discovered the mess... so I immediately replaced all receps in the house (figured it was time for a change, they were all builder grade crap and backstabbed) and installed the GFCIs. I then ended up rewiring about half the second floor myself (I did pull a permit) a couple years ago when I went up in the attic to replace a light fixture box with a fan rated box in one of the bedrooms and discovered some really, really shady wiring that had been done whenever one big bedroom was split into two small ones. It's all correct now; the new wiring that I did is properly grounded, and there are only two circuits with ungrounded receps in the whole house and both of them have GFCIs at the first position. The problem is that the inspector is saying that there is a requirement for those two receps to be grounded whereas NEC 2008 406.3(D)(3) explicitly allows the current configuration (and the city inspector that came out to inspect the 2nd floor work agreed - althought they were using the previous NEC @ that time, nothing substantially changed.)
So, long story short, the house actually appears to be "less updated" than it was when we bought it, but is far, far safer and more correct than it was... don'tcha hate when that happens?

I guess I just don't know if that will truly make them happy. But I guess we will find out. My concern is that if I can't convince them that I'm right and I "admit" that the ungrounded receps are a "problem" then they could come back and ask us to ground *everything.* That would probably involve at least a few holes in the walls, not to mention a lot of work, and it just offends me when someone makes my life difficult over a made-up problem.
nate
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wrote:

re: "If they are the 2 prong type, you aren't required per NEC to make them grounded."
You are not implying that if they are 3 prong receptacles then you are required per NEC to make them grounded, are you?
It sort of sounds like you are implying that, but I'm sure you know that you are not required to provide a ground if the receptacle is GFCI protected.
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So, the gfci does not NEED a ground in order to work?
If yes, then would the presence of a ground make the gfci work (a) any better and (b) would downstream be any safer?
Thanks!
David
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Nate Nagel wrote:

It sounds like the only issue is what to do in terms of making sure that the house sale goes through. The inspector just noted that the two receptacles are "ungrounded". That doesn't necessarily indicate any basis for the buyer backing out of the deal unless your agreement of sale says otherwise.
But, what I would do is simply replace the two cited outlets with GFCI receptacles and put the same sticker on each of them ("GFCI Protected - No Equipment Ground"). That would be easier than trying to prove through some test that the existing receptacles are already GFCI protected. And, it would enable the buyers to plug in any appliances etc. that use 3-prong plugs. All of that would be code compliant, so there would most likely be no basis for the buyer to try to get out of the deal since there would be no defect that needs to be corrected. Also, if they later asked to have the other 5 or 6 two-prong receptacles changed to 3-prong GFCI outlets in the same manner (with the stickers) I would just do that.
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see previous post - everything is already using 3-prong receps that are properly GFCI protected. Inspector just plugged in his cube tester and said they were ungrounded - and apparently disregarded the blue stickers! This is the level of knowledge that I am apparently dealing with here... I don't like the idea of using two GFCIs on the same circuit - seems to me that would be a problem for the buyers if they actually did trip one.
nate
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On 6/8/2011 11:34 AM, N8N wrote:

That is the problem when inspection went from common sense to "I am from the government, I have no experience and I have to exactly follow my instructions".
I know of a bunch of homes that were simply torn down because of this. These are homes that would have been great homes for someone as a first home or for someone who wanted to build some sweat equity.
Usual deal I am familiar with is someones parents pass on. They don't need a house so they list the house for sale. House is well built and in good condition. So when a prospective buyer arrives inspectors follow and then they produce a shopping list: according to the current code the rise of the stair treads is 1/4" too much, according to the current code there are insufficient electrical outlets, according to the current code the sewage stack is incorrect, according to the current code the bedroom windows don't meet egress standards and on and on. So it simply makes more sense to knock the place down than to do all of the work that is noted as necessary.
So
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Actually the city guy was cool. this is a privately contracted home inspector that is working for the prospective buyers. I guess I can at least be glad that he *didn't* start scrutinizing the number of receps (I can think of at least three that would need to be added by current code, in inconvenient locations) or stair construction...
I guess I could just suck it up and pay an electrician and kiss any proceeds from the sale buh-bye but I ain't goin' down without a fight
nate
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