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Old 11-12-2003, 12:46 PM   #1 (permalink)
Location: Initech, Iowa
More Electrical questions

I see we have some electrical experts around here.

I got a 150 year old house with some real old wiring in it. It appears the house went through some renovations in the 1920's and 1950's so I have a mixture of wiring around here. Problem is that the only grounded wires I have are in the kitchen which was renovated about 3 years ago and the wiring to the HVAC. The box is new also and rated at 150 amps. I doubt if I'll be able to replace all the wiring but would like to get a lot of it done. Is there an easier way to ground these circuits without running new wires all the way back to the box or am I out of luck. I was thinking of trying to collect the grounds and run them to a cold water line and ground them there instead of trying to run new wire down three stories to the basement. Note: No inspection is needed. I won't say a word if you don't.
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Old 11-12-2003, 10:25 PM   #2 (permalink)
LewisCouch's Avatar
Location: Pacific NW
Have you verified that you do indeed have a grounded three wire service to your home? You can check by looking where the power lines are connected to your home, most likely on your roof. If you do have a three wire system, the correct fix is to pull a new ground wire (essentially rewire the home), or the next best is to use GFCI outlets on selected circuits, however, there will be no equipment ground and the outlets must be marked as such. Here's a link to an article that explains this better than I can.


If you only have a two wire service from the pole, then you need a service change and a rewiring job. This can be pretty pricey and definitely requires permits, at least in my neck of the woods.

Hope this helps.
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Old 11-13-2003, 09:34 AM   #3 (permalink)
Blistex's Avatar
Location: Tiger I Turret
Dude, replace the whole deal! Better to shell out a bit of cash to have a nice safe and stable electrical foundation rather than have it fry your computer or burn the place down.

New wiring = longer life for your electronic appliances.
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Old 11-13-2003, 04:39 PM   #4 (permalink)
If you are pissing around with your electrical change the whole works over. If it is as old as it sounds it is probably knob & tube. The old wiring gets brittle and if you try to connect to it it tends to break. It does not always break where you are working either. You don't want to pull short ground to your plumbing. If you get a short to ground on the system you hot up your plumbing. If you were between the short and the place where the plumbing leaves the house you could get zapped. While you are at it replace your grounding. Old galvanized pipes make for a shitty ground after a long time.
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Old 11-13-2003, 10:26 PM   #5 (permalink)
Location: chi-town.
Depending on where you drop the ground, make sure it is on the city side of your water meter (if you have a water meter). If you drop a charge through your ground you can fry your water meter which will make the sewer people none too happy.
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Old 11-14-2003, 08:47 AM   #6 (permalink)
Location: Initech, Iowa
Good points. I'd hate to accidentally energize the water lines. I've already replaced all the galvanized water lines with copper last year. The water meter is close to the electric meter so if I was placing the ground on the city side of the meter I might as well run it through the box. The box is grounded, it's just that most of the wires running to the box are 1950's two-wire 14 ga romex. The outer cover is cloth but the inner wires have plastic insulation. In the attic it's almost all knob & tube and some of the wires don't even have insulation on them any more which is BAD. This is why I was thinking I would just concentrate on the knob & tube wires for now and get to the newer old wires later. I've heard that having this done by a pro could be in the upper thousands and I don't want to invest that kind of cash in this place right now. To many other thing need done first...
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Old 11-14-2003, 10:44 AM   #7 (permalink)
Dibbler - it is not the inside plumbig that is the potential ground problem. The pipe that connects to the city main out side can get corroded and become an ineffective ground. If you burry a ground plate (if US elec code allows) you will have a much better ground. You could atlerantively drive 2 ground rods and connect your system to that. You will still need to maintain the ground to your copper pipes.
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Old 11-16-2003, 07:37 PM   #8 (permalink)
james t kirk's Avatar
Location: Toronto
My house had / has knob and tube wiring.

Knob and tube should be called barbeque starter and tube wiring.

First off, there is nothing wrong with the knobs and tubes, in fact, it's a great idea since everything is insulated.

Problems with knob and tube:

Brittle insulation
Taped joints inside wall cavities
No ground wire
Not enough circuits in the house.
Improper boxes (non existant or too shallow to allow proper heat transfer)
It's been screwed with by others.
Difficulty getting insurance or your insurer has a weasel clause in there that says all bets are off if you have knob and tube wiring (you had better watch out for that one.)

The biggest problem is that the insulation is this tarry cloth that when exposed to heat over time will turn basically into charcoal and crumble. It simply doesn't have enough ability to deal with heat like the more modern insulations do. This problem is most obvious in ceiling mounted light fixtures where the heat from the fixture destroys the insulation leaving you with 2 bare wires. Or recepticles that get a lot of use. Either way, it's a fire waiting to happen in my eyes.

My house had knob and tube throughout and the previous owner had fucked with it, especially in the basement making it even more of a disaster. The guy was an old dude that like most old dudes scrounged for everything. He wanted to run a light circuit so he would dig around a dumpster till he found the necessary materials rather than go to Home Depot and drop 20 bucks on a roll of 14/2 NMSC.

I have rewired the entire upstairs, the entire basement, and 90 percent of the first floor and that will hopefully be gone by next year.

My advice to you would be to get your house rewired.

If you can't afford the big out lay of cash, there is a way. Find yourself an electrician and offer to pay him cash per hour to rewire your house if he is willing to let you work along side him. Tell him that you want to learn and be his helper. You will help him pull the wires, cut holes for new boxes, take the old wiring out, etc. In this way, you can eliminate the electricians helper by BEING the electricians helper.

As he gets more comfortable with you, tell him that you can at least pull the wires, route the wires, etc. while he does the connections.

He probably won't want to crawl around in the attic filled with cellulose insulation anyway.

You can save a bundle this way and learn a thing or two.
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Old 11-17-2003, 05:12 PM   #9 (permalink)
Location: Cali

I work with a lot of 480 and 4160 volts. First thing first. If you don't know electrical call an electrition. You can take that from our graveyard ass. chief Stubby.
I have two houses. My second one is an old one from the early 1900's. Pre electricity. When they installed it they ran it along the floorboards. Too much bare wire. I had to redo the whole place. You can always ground to a cold water pipe. This BS about if the pipe corrodes somewhere underground or electrifies the pipe is the old wives tale. As long as that pipe hits ground it does not matter. This ground is a pathway in the circuit. Ground is not the hot wire.
All of this doesn't really matter though. If rewire is done, it must be up to current building codes. These codes will tell you what you can and can't do. Like when I had to rewire my house I had to have receptacles every six feet. Follow the code and you will have a safe wire system and it's legal. No fines.
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Old 12-07-2003, 04:30 PM   #10 (permalink)
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thingstodo's Avatar
Location: The Great White North
Get it done right - you don't want to play with that stuff. I was an electrical contractor a little over 20 years ago and I've forgotten so much, I hire someone now for anything beyond simple stuff like a new receptacle or hanging lights.
If you're wringing your hands you can't roll up your shirt sleeves.

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Old 12-25-2003, 11:31 AM   #11 (permalink)
Location: Cow Country, CT
i would say to redo as much as you are willing to afford... maybe take the rooms where your highest power consumtion is... you know TV room and all. i would assume you really have no idea of the true condition of the old wire, and having these new electronics pull huge amounts of watts through these old wires is not a good thing... but if the old wire is good to go, i would ask an electrician what he thinks
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