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Outlet Grounding Upgrades

How to Ground an Ungrounded Outlet Circuit: In some cases, a separate ground wire may be installed for the ungrounded circuit or device and connected to the bonded ground system.

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Grounding an Outlet Circuit
Electrical Question I have a home with a mostly two prong outlets, which I would like to replace with 3 prong outlets.

BTW, if I can’t find a better solution, I will install GFCI outlets, but I’d prefer not to have to do that as the outlet boxes already installed are too shallow and would have to be replaced, which I have heard can be a real pain.

Thanks so much for any assistance you can provide.

This electrical wiring question came from: Jay, a Homeowner from Denver, Colorado.

Dave’s Reply:
Thanks for your electrical wiring question Jay.

How to Ground an Ungrounded Outlet Circuit

Skill Level: Beginner to Intermediate. This electrical wiring project is best performed by a Licensed Electrical Contractor.
Tools Required: Basic Electricians Pouch Hand Tools and a Voltage Tester.
Estimated Time: Depends on personal level experience, ability to work with tools and the number of outlets that will be replaced.
Precaution: Identify the outlet circuit, turn it OFF and  Tag it with a Note before working with the wiring.
Notice: Installing additional outlet wiring should be done according to local and national electrical codes with a permit and be inspected.

Installing a Ground System

  1. When testing to a metal outlet box or to the ground prong does not produce a normal voltage reading, or if a plug in circuit analyzer shows that a ground is not detected then these readings mean that the circuit wiring does not have a ground wire, so the circuit is not grounded.
    • If there are other circuits in the home that do in fact have a ground wire and they test normal then the ground system at the main panels should be OK, but should be verified.
    • If an older home has grounded outlets they should to be tested with a circuit analyzer and inspected to make sure that the grounding method is legal.
    • The method of installing a jumper wire from the neutral to the ground screw of a receptacle outlet is an  illegal and dangerous practice which can cause problems for the home electrical system, can damage the devices that are plugged in, and creates a dangerous potential shock hazard for the user.
  2. Installing a self-grounding outlet or any three prong or grounded outlet or a GFCI outlet  will not magically produce a ground, all it does is provide a ground prong which has no connection to a grounded source, so it is in fact an illegal installation.
  3. The circuit wiring may be replaced and upgraded with new cabling which has a ground wire.
  4. In some cases, a separate ground wire may be installed for the ungrounded circuit or device and connected to the bonded ground system.
  5. Installed ground wires must be connected to the bonded ground system of the main electrical panel of the home.

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