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#82242 - 10/28/02 07:09 PM 2-wire, no safety ground  
cbrentdane  Offline
Junior Member
Joined: Oct 2002
Posts: 2
Livermore, CA, U.S.
I have just discovered this forum and the amount of useful information is remarkable! I've spend hours pouring over the posts. One of the best I've ever found.

My question is regarding the wiring in my home in Northern California that was built around 1959. It is wired exclusively with 2-conductor wiring (plastic insulation, paper-wrapped, outside black/silver fiber sheath) except for 220 circuits using 3-conductor. There are no safety ground wires running back to the 100A load center (Federal Pacific). However, this said, about 75% of the outlets (100% in kitchen, bathrooms) have a safety ground. This is done using a separate network of #14 bare copper that weaves itself through the walls and attic. This network is attached to the copper water plumbing at several different points under the sub-floor. It typically seems to be attached to the junction boxes by a couple of "wraps" around the nail (under the metal ear box ear) that holds the box to the stud.

My question is regarding the need to add additional circuits to my home, for example, to power a new set of garage outlets (there is only one outlet in the garage for the washing machine). What does the collective wisdom of this forum recommend so that as I began to discuss options with my local contractor, I will have a better understanding going in?

The old Federal Pacific box needs to be replaced, in my mind, since the discontinued breakers are very expensive. A local hardware store (Orchard Supply) carries a full selection but they can cost from $40-100 each. Can a new modern load center be installed with my present wiring system? The only circuits that would use the grounding bar, in this case, would be the newly installed circuits with NM-B with ground wire.

The last interesting observation in this regard is that I had a central air conditioner installed 5 years ago. The compressor is of course 220 2-phase and the contractor installed it with standard 2-conductor Romex, using the bare safety wire as the common, no safety ground. The bare wire is wrapped in tape where exposed on each end inside the boxes. The post-work inspection was signed off. Does this fall under some sort of grandfather clause?

Thanks in advance for your comments, advice, and/or guidance,

C. Brent

2017 / 2014 NEC & Related Books and Study Guides

#82243 - 10/28/02 08:03 PM Re: 2-wire, no safety ground  
sparky  Offline
Joined: Oct 2000
Posts: 5,311
C. Brent,
I'm not a big fan of FPE read more on them here . It would be a good place IMHO, to start 'electrical renovations'
The #14 you desribe, although done, sounds more like a bandaid . If one were able to take the time to 'fish' the #14 around, why not install some newer romex?
If you are to require any more circuitry i would make it new off the panel, and not splice into the existing...

#82244 - 10/28/02 08:24 PM Re: 2-wire, no safety ground  
HotLine1  Offline

Joined: Apr 2002
Posts: 6,853
Brick, NJ USA
Hello and welcome:
First thing I would suggest is that you find a licensed, qualified electrician to do your work. If you decide to "DIY", then, read a copy of the NEC that is the current standard for your area (1999 or 2002). The NEC is the "rules", it is NOT a design how to book.

Replacement of your FPE panel, is a great idea. Are you seeking a pro to do it???

Anything you install should be in new cable, 14 or 12/2 RX with ground. (Probably the only thing that's available, but ya never know, there may still be some "no ground" floating around.

For your "garage"; install GFI receptacles, and pull a 12/2 (20 amp circuit; my suggestions


#82245 - 10/28/02 08:45 PM Re: 2-wire, no safety ground  
cbrentdane  Offline
Junior Member
Joined: Oct 2002
Posts: 2
Livermore, CA, U.S.
Thanks for the feedback so far.

Sparky: the #14 grounding network is not a "fix" but is actually part of the original installation. My neighbor's houses are done the same way. I definitely agree that any new wiring will be new from the panel, hence my motivation to upgrade the load center.

Yikes! A latent fire hazard? ( The FPE panel is history. Thanks for the link.

Hotline1: Definitely a job for a pro. Will of course use Romex with ground. The question is though, is it advisable to install a new load center with my existing "non-grounded" wiring and then wire all new additions into same breaker box properly? Thanks for your suggestions!

#82246 - 10/28/02 10:00 PM Re: 2-wire, no safety ground  
HotLine1  Offline

Joined: Apr 2002
Posts: 6,853
Brick, NJ USA
Sorry for not getting the "meat" answer.
YES; wire the existing circuits to a new loadcenter. And, anything that you have done/do "new" goes in with ground conductor in the RX.
The FPE panels (actually the breakers) have a reputation for not tripping, thus the "fire hazard". There are proponents of FPE, who insist that it's a "good product"; and there are many detractors. Funny thou, if it's a good product, why are they "out of business" as FPE?



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