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Is there an easy way to correct old electrical outlets with open ground?

I've been remodeling an upstairs bedroom in a 100-year old house. The electrical outlets are all ungrounded; the wiring only has two wires and no conduit. My electrician told me that it's not worth the money or effort to do all the drilling and cutting necessary to run new wire all the way from the ground bus upstairs, since people only plug lamps and such in. It's not a code problem because it's an existing home, but I would still rather ground them because computers and TVs and stereos like grounded outlets (right?)—it's not just cheap lamps!


So, is there a product available that can fix an open ground on an outlet without having to run wire and mess up walls? Some sort of a special outlet I could install that would...I excess power from lightning and such and slowly discharge it into the regular current so as not to fry microelectronics or electricute guests?


Or an easier, more affordable method than utterly rewiring upstairs rooms?

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Posted 2011-12-20T07:10:29+0000  by stuckfly stuckfly

An electrician told me that a GFI would meet code requirements.  I don't know if this would act as a ground or not but at least you would have the 3-prong plug in and meet code requirements.

Posted 2011-12-20T13:25:41+0000  by bhy221238

Hello stuckfly and bhy221238.  Welcome to the community.


I have an 85 year old home which was built with 2 prong outlets throughout.  The original wire was copper with a rubber insulation coating and a sheath of cloth fibers.  Over time this wiring deteriorated.  The rubber coating hardened and cracked.  When changing an outlet I found this problem and was not about to leave this scary wire in place any longer.  I suspect that with a 100 year old home that the original electrical circuitry leaves a lot to be desired.  A small fuse box, few circuits, old wire and no grounds…  It’s interesting that your electrician does not think this merits attention.  I would get a second opinion.


As to whether there are products that will provide a “wireless” ground, there are none.  Only continuous grounded metal conduit or a ground wire can provide a true ground.  I do not know whether your local codes have restrictions on this, but it is possible to replace a 2 prong outlet with a GFCI outlet.

GFCI Outlet.jpg

These must be marked as an ungrounded GFCI, (stickers are usually provided), and will shut off power whenever the current from hot to neutral become unbalanced.  Good protection against getting shocked, but GFCI outlets do not act as surge protectors even when a ground exists.


You are correct that voltage spikes from lightening storms, (and other sources), can damage electronic equipment.  The fix for that is to install surge protection.

Surge Protector.jpg

Surge protection will react to voltage spikes and shunt that power to ground in fractions of a second.  The problem is that there must be a ground available for surge protectors to function.  I wish I had an easy solution for you, but I don’t.  Please give some more thought to upgrading and rewiring.


I hope this helps and again, thanks for joining the community.


Posted 2011-12-20T15:46:25+0000  by Chris_HD_CHI

most plug ins in homes are only 2 prong so the ground never matters.  For items that they do ex. computers...

you can run a ground wire to a water line which should have a ground bonding wire to it somewhere from the gas line and sevice panel.  A gfci can be tricked into thinking its grounded by adding a wire from neutral to ground on the outlet.  Also any out that can be done the same  The neutral then acts as the neutral and ground.  If your really needing a good ground for expensive equipment you can run a wire to your panel and ground it and use the wires in the outlet boxes.  Usally if you upgrade an area in an old home is a good time to upgrade the electrical.   Most older homes electrical wiring are not sufficient for todays appliances.  Today most appliances and bathroom GFCI's are a dedicated circuit.   IN older homes one breaker or fuse could be doing half the house.   Cheapiest option for you.  Run 14g ground wire from outlet box under home or outside homes wall or through attic to service panel.  Install 3 prong outlet.  Good luck.

If your not electrical savvy hire an electrictian or someone licensed that is and make it safe.

Posted 2011-12-26T05:39:44+0000  by BeyondRemodel
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