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#7896 - 02/28/02 11:37 AM Ground Fault Circuitry
alanh Offline
Junior Member
Registered: 02/28/02
Posts: 2
I work in a law-firm (not a lawyer though, thank God). We have a case where a freezer leaked some water that got into the electrical outlet, started a fire and caused the house to burn down.
An expert has inspected the scene and came to two conclusions regarding liability.
1. The freezer should have been connected to a "Ground Fault Circuitry" .
2. The builder should not have used 16 penny nails connecting the outlet box to the stud. Once the outlet box got hot, the nails then overheated causing the wood to burn around them.

I have my own opinions regarding this person's conclusions, but I would appreciate the thoughts of some of the non-biased experts here.
Thanks a lot.
Alan Heaberlin
Work Gear for Electricians and the Trades
#7897 - 02/28/02 12:15 PM Re: Ground Fault Circuitry
motor-T Offline
Registered: 11/10/01
Posts: 280
Loc: Girard, Ohio, USA
First what you described seems to be correct. the Freezer is a dedicated circuit with a single attachment receptacle does not have to be gfci protected. And unless it was a ground-fault the gfci would not have tripped anyway. To genrate that kind of heat there had to be one Heck of a short inside that box to where the nails got so hot to cause the fire
You didnt state if the box was plastic or metal but they both can be nailed to a stud with nails.
Did anyone even bother checking why the breaker didnt trip ? Or if the freezer was malfunctioning ? And what Non-metal fastener is recommended to hold boxes to studs ?
I dont have my code book in front of me right now but someone will quote you chapter and verse.
it just burns me up that the contractor takes all the heat. Once this stuff is installed who knows what evil lurks in the average homeowner as far as revising what was done during construction.
#7898 - 02/28/02 01:55 PM Re: Ground Fault Circuitry
Bill Addiss Offline
Registered: 10/07/00
Posts: 3875
Loc: NY, USA

Can you supply more details?

Where was the Freezer (room) and is it the Freezer outlet that is theorized as starting the fire? Where was the outlet? Height, etc.
How did water get in there and how much are we talking about? Copper or Aluminum wiring? Original 'builders' outlet or was it replaced by someone etc.

#7899 - 02/28/02 01:59 PM Re: Ground Fault Circuitry
resqcapt19 Offline
Registered: 11/10/00
Posts: 2148
Loc: IL
Who paid the "expert". Many times their conclusions are based on who is footing the bill.
The use of nails to support the box is a standard practice. Some boxes come from the manufacturer with pre-installed nails that are crimped inside the box so that they can't fall out before the box is installed. Where was the freezer installed? Most of the time GFCI protection would not be required.
#7900 - 02/28/02 02:49 PM Re: Ground Fault Circuitry
Electricmanscott Offline
Registered: 01/12/02
Posts: 1457
Loc: Holden, MA USA
The "experts" conclusions show he is not an expert after all. Without more info it soundslike aperfectly code compliant installation. I would also be more interedsted to find out why the breaker did not trip. I can not even begin to believe that some water leaking from a freezer could cause a short that would sustain itself long enough to heat nails to the point that the wood would ignite. This is very interesting.
#7901 - 02/28/02 03:07 PM Re: Ground Fault Circuitry
George Corron Offline
Registered: 05/16/01
Posts: 717
Loc: Lorton, Va USA
In summation, your experts conclusions are based on neither National Electrical Code, nor conventional trade practice.
#7902 - 02/28/02 03:50 PM Re: Ground Fault Circuitry
CTwireman Offline
Registered: 02/07/02
Posts: 840
Loc: Connecticut, USA
Should not have used nails? What should he have used? Glue? To place blame on the builder for using a common nail-on box is outrageous and ridiculous.

I cant see how nails contributed to the fire. (as eveyone above has correctly pointed out)

GFIs arent designed to prevent fires, they are designed to prevent shock.

What field was this person an "expert" in?

[This message has been edited by CTwireman (edited 02-28-2002).]
#7903 - 02/28/02 04:33 PM Re: Ground Fault Circuitry
Nick Offline
Registered: 08/13/01
Posts: 599
Loc: Riverside, CA
I have to concur with the above posts. Nailing boxes to wood studs is a standard trade practice. If it is dangerous then 99.9% of the homes in America are in big trouble. No codes violated here.
#7904 - 03/01/02 05:12 PM Re: Ground Fault Circuitry
rbiro Offline
Registered: 10/23/01
Posts: 19
Loc: Pacifica, CA USA
Something seems fishy to me.

I would try to find out preciesly what the "expert" really said. He may have said that current code requires the outlet in question to be a GFCI outlet (assuming it's for a kitchen counter and not for the freezer) and may have said that the nail transmitted the heat from the box to the wood, which could be true. Someone else could than have transformed his statements to blaim the builder/electrician. Then again, the "expert" could just be full of sh*t.
#7905 - 03/02/02 07:27 AM Re: Ground Fault Circuitry
circuit man Offline
Registered: 11/05/01
Posts: 273
Loc: saluda,s.c.
i'm not an expert, but as the rest of the guys said boxes have been nailed to studs forever. as for as them transmitting heat like that, the breaker should have tripped lon before this ever happened. it wasn't a FPE type breaker by chance? these are notorious for not tripping as i found out in 1980 while i was at tech. big class action lawsuit against them. but guess what, that didn't stop them. another company took over & started making them again. as for the gf it is as the guys said for shock protection not overloads.sounds like the guy saying this is working for the insurance adjuster , not the home owner. hope you keep us posted.
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