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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Jun 2014
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    4

    Default 1950's electrical in a house

    Hi Folks,

    Purchased a house built in the 1950's in the metro Detroit area. The home has mostly two prong ungrounded outlets in most of the house, except in bathrooms, kitchen and garage. Since I want to plugin modern electronics, I figured I'd either have to installed GFCI receptacles and mark as not grounded or rewrite the whole house. Well, I opened up a few of the boxes today and found that there does appear to be a ground wire in the back of the boxes. Is it as simple as going out and buying new receptacles and somehow connecting them to either the ground wire or the screw at the inside top of the box? I've included some pictures-

    http://i.imgur.com/2Gj8Dzf
    http://i.imgur.com/F93SWaw.jpg
    http://i.imgur.com/gvAFaCv

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Jun 2007
    Location
    Fayette County, Ohio
    Posts
    5,836

    Default Re: 1950's electrical in a house

    Yes, providing they are connected to the ground buss in the panel and the panel is grounded.

    Jack
    Be sure you live your life, because you are a long time dead.-Scottish Proverb

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Jul 2010
    Location
    SoCal
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    6,736

    Default Re: 1950's electrical in a house

    Yes, go back to the panel and see if there's a heavy ground wire from the panel to a copper rod in the ground.

    Without this, the receptacles are not grounded. And living in the mid west, you should have a ground that meets code.

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Dec 2007
    Location
    Tennessee
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    1,778

    Default Re: 1950's electrical in a house

    First, check you circuit breaker or fuse paned for two busses, one should have all the white wires attached to it, the other should have all the bare wires. These two may be connected together or you may even have just one buss with all the white and bare wires attached.

    Then check your meter box outside, it should have a heavy copper wire that goes to at least one pod pounded into the ground.

    If you have all that, then you are good to go. Get your three prong outlets. Shut off the circuit breaker to the outlets to be changed. Connect the black insulated wire to the brass terminal, the white insulated wire to the silver terminal. Then unwrap the extra bare wire from the outlet box, but leave it attached to that screw. The rest of the bare wire gets attached to the green terminal of the new outlet.

    Carefully fold the wires and slide the new outlet into the box. Do not apply power until the outlet is secure and the faceplate is back on. You can use a GFCI on the first outlet in the chain and it will protect the whole chain of outlets, the first outlet will usually be the one closest to the main box.

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Sep 2012
    Location
    Boston
    Posts
    1,004

    Default Re: 1950's electrical in a house

    you're outlet boxes are grounded which in turn will ground the outlet. the bare copper wire is connected to the box which in turn is attached to the outlet via the screw and tab which holds the outlet in the box. if you had a plastic box then the bare wire would have to be attached directly to the green screw on the outlet in order to ground it.

    your panel has to be grounded in order to have the electrical service working in your home. whether or not it's grounded up to today's code and standards is something you'll have to determine and the above answers give you some ideas to see if it is.

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Jun 2014
    Posts
    4

    Default Re: 1950's electrical in a house

    Quote Originally Posted by JLMCDANIEL View Post
    Yes, providing they are connected to the ground buss in the panel and the panel is grounded.

    Jack
    How can I test this?

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Jun 2014
    Posts
    4

    Default Re: 1950's electrical in a house

    Quote Originally Posted by keith3267 View Post
    First, check you circuit breaker or fuse paned for two busses, one should have all the white wires attached to it, the other should have all the bare wires. These two may be connected together or you may even have just one buss with all the white and bare wires attached.

    Then check your meter box outside, it should have a heavy copper wire that goes to at least one pod pounded into the ground.

    If you have all that, then you are good to go. Get your three prong outlets. Shut off the circuit breaker to the outlets to be changed. Connect the black insulated wire to the brass terminal, the white insulated wire to the silver terminal. Then unwrap the extra bare wire from the outlet box, but leave it attached to that screw. The rest of the bare wire gets attached to the green terminal of the new outlet.

    Carefully fold the wires and slide the new outlet into the box. Do not apply power until the outlet is secure and the faceplate is back on. You can use a GFCI on the first outlet in the chain and it will protect the whole chain of outlets, the first outlet will usually be the one closest to the main box.
    I am not at the home yet (haven't moved in yet), but this is a picture from the home inspection I had done before moving in. Does this look as expected for grounding? I can check the other items next time I am there.


  8. #8
    Join Date
    Dec 2010
    Location
    Houston Texas
    Posts
    2,969

    Default Re: 1950's electrical in a house

    Look for the ground wire.

    Look for a heavy ground wire that goes to a grounding rod / pole or is connected to your plumbing.

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Jun 2007
    Location
    Fayette County, Ohio
    Posts
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    Default Re: 1950's electrical in a house

    In the picture I can see the common buss, where most of the white wires are connected. I can't see the copper wires. It could just be the clarity of the picture. I would suggest as a start you connect the copper in the boxes to to a 3 pronged receptacle that you install then buy a tester At any big box store or hardware store and plug it in the lights will give you an indication if it is grounded and several other problems. They are quite cheap. Then the only thing you need to do is check and see if the panel is properly grounded. The home inspection should tell you that.

    Jack
    Be sure you live your life, because you are a long time dead.-Scottish Proverb

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Dec 2007
    Location
    Tennessee
    Posts
    1,778

    Default Re: 1950's electrical in a house

    I see a bundle of bare wires connected just above the upper right branch CB but I can't tell if they are the ground wires from the branch circuits or the return wire from the transformer. I suspect the latter. This panel looks like it is not original so there should be ground wires from each branch circuit in there somewhere.

    If you don't see the ground wire coming from your meter to a ground rod, you can have that put in pretty easily. As for the outlets, hook up the copper wire to the green terminal anyway, even if you do have a metal box. The copper wire must ground to bot the box (if metal) and the outlet terminal.
    Last edited by keith3267; 07-02-2014 at 07:16 PM.

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