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John Edward Mercier
#1 Posted : Thursday, December 10, 2009 1:58:41 AM
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Arc-Faults, I believe are national code for residential bedroom circuits. Though by now they may have expanded the use.

Do you happen to know the code in your area?

 

 

MC
#2 Posted : Thursday, December 10, 2009 3:35:52 AM
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Read about AFCIs in a book; thought they might be better suited to my problem. 

What I am told when I ask is that I'm so far out in the boonies that building code isn't applied.  Good thing:  friendly to diy-ers.  Bad thing:  friendly to bad diy-ers.  I'm not a fan of hyperregulation, but some regs exist for a reason.

Where do I go to find out w/o ending up with the county on my tail???

Pat Miketinac
#3 Posted : Thursday, December 10, 2009 6:13:23 AM
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Replacing a breaker with a GFCI breaker will protect all outlets connected to it, but only if your house wiring has the 3rd (ground) wire in it attached to the outlets. Are you saying that you only have 2 wires at each outlet like older homes with outlets for 2-prong plugs? Your library should have a copy of the building code, if it is not online.

LaserBillA
#4 Posted : Thursday, December 10, 2009 8:29:44 AM
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If you can get access to the wires then you could replace the 2 wire wires with "2 wire With ground" wires.

Arc fault breakers are a waste of money... It will be a few years before they get the bugs worked out. There is also the problem where you can not combine a Arc fault and a GFCI yet.

using GFI breakers or outlets would help with safety, however you still have to come up with some sort of ground for the outlets.

 One thought would be to run a bare 14 guage wire along the baseboard so that each outlet has a ground wire.

-

FYI: I've had to run new temporary runs since the fire burned the wires in the attic and I'm still using extention cords all over the place... It's perfictly safe as long as you don't over load the circuts you have.

2 prong outlets are also ok as long as you don't try to plug a 3 prong device into it.

 

John Edward Mercier
#5 Posted : Thursday, December 10, 2009 10:25:00 PM
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AFs are required in certain rooms per the National Electric Code... but it sounds as if no code enforcement in the area. The AFs have some built in GF capabilities, so they shouldn't be used on a circuit that has GFCI outlets... it will cause false trips.

 

davisonh
#6 Posted : Friday, December 11, 2009 1:04:46 AM
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Ok,first off and I know a lot of people will disagree with me but 2 wire wiring if it is in good shape is perfectly fine to keep using,albeit not up to todays code specifications it is still ok to use and that is why your building/home inspector did not say anything about it.Yes your house IS 'grounded',your wiring would not work if there was not a connection back to earth and/or the generator generating the power.What your house is not,for a sake of better terms is 'ground fault protected' What the third bare wire in Romex cable,the metal electrical conduit that you see on walls and in ceilings in Walmart,etc and the armor surrounding BX style cable do is provide an extra path for whats called 'fault current'(and I'll explain what that is in a sec)back to your service box and back to the earth and/or generating source(power company).What 'fault current' is is the electrical current thats not supposed to be where it is,so if something happens like a motor winding wire or a wire nut comes off,or a wire gets scraped inside an electrical box and starts touching the side of an electrical box,or the frame of your clothes dryer or refrigerator becomes electrically 'hot'for whatever reason, the 'fault current' is that current that can kill you or start a fire.The third bare wire gives that fault current another path back to its source so that the fuse and/or circuit breaker sense this unusual overcurrent faster and 'trip' before anything terrible happens.It WILL NOT protect you from getting fried,please do remember that!It also provides lightning protection to a degree for it helps prevent the buildup of static electricity on metal parts that do not have a solid connection to the ground such as metal roofs,plumbing fixtures,frames of light fixtures.Ground fault circuit interruptors do protect you from getting fried.What they do is this:They have a small electronic sensing circuit inside the plug that is able to detect current flowing thru the 'eqipment ground'wire(the bare wire)If the GFI circuit detects a current difference of 5 milliamperes(1/5000th of an ampere.Yea ,thats the tiny amount of current at 120 volts that can kill you!Your house cicuits normally are 15 and 20 amperes,to put that into perspective)between the white wire 'neutral' and the bare 'equipment ground' wire  it trips. Now,you're asking whether your father-in-law is right.He is not.You must have an equipment ground to the GFI in order for the GFI to be able to correctly sense the fault current between the 'neutral' and 'earth' ground.This is what most electricians do and is the Code-accepted method:We shut off the 120 volt circuit that we want to protect and follow the wire to the first receptacle in the circuit.You  have to replace the 2 wire cable with 2 wire 'with ground' cable to the 1st plug.Once we find it ,we replace that outlet with a GFI outlet and wire the rest of the old circuit to the 'load' side of the GFI receptacle.Do remember this :When you do replace the 1st receptacle with a GFI receptacleYOU CANNOT use 3 wire receptacles downstream from that GFI receptacle.Many make that mistake.You still have to use the old 2 wire receptacles,but those 2 wire receptacles will be'ground fault' protected from now on because the GFI will now be able to sense a current 'difference' between the neutral of the old 2 wire circuit and earth ground which is always at zero current.Arc fault protectionyea,theres been a lot of controversy about the neccesity of AFCI protection in bedrooms,they are a good idea and can protect against fires that start when a receptacle or switch starts a fire on curtains,clothes and such but again they are expensive.What they do is sense a voltage 'spike' that occurs when a poor connection is present either in the receptacle box,or junction box or in equipment connected to it and trips when a condition like that occurs.Ok,hope I've clarified a few things..

John Edward Mercier
#7 Posted : Friday, December 11, 2009 3:46:34 PM
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I think MC was worried about a fire... though electric shock could also be a problem.

And it appears that the father-in-law was looking for a method that would not entail touching the wires in the walls.

davisonh
#8 Posted : Saturday, December 12, 2009 12:22:06 AM
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Well yes,you're correct John;a GFCI will prevent a fire due to ground faults also for it takes  more than 5 milliamperes to start combustion.I must warn her though it WILL NOT prevent fires due to electrical overloads,i.e   having too much loaded down on one circuit,that and short circuit conditions.I'm afraid that in order to have the GFI work correctly she either has to buy ground fault circuit breakers or wire in a GFCI receptacle to the 1st outlet in the circuits.Yes she can use GFCB's but they are $50- $300 (from 15A single circuit to 50 A double circuit respectively and thats run of the mill types.)A 15 A 125 volt GFCI receptacle costs  $8 or so plus the cost of 100 feet of 12-2/WG (with ground) NM cable.

LaserBillA
#9 Posted : Monday, December 21, 2009 9:55:07 PM
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Good wire in good condition is fine. I know people still using knob and tube wires and as long as the connections in the outlets are good then 2 wire wireing is fine.

The only problem is when you want to plug a power strip, surge protector, computer, or anything with a 3 prong cord is where the problem begins.

I should not admit this, however I once put a 3 prong outlet in a 2 wire system and tied the ground to the neutral. This is ok only as long as all the connections stay good... in otherwords this is not up to code or safe over the long term.

The same goes for those 3 to two prong adapters. O.O

PS: Take it from someone that has had a fire... Even the best wireing does not help when something else goes wrong.

Also keep in mind that most electrical fires are due to worn out outlets, unmaintained alumium wire, and people plugging stuff into cheep extention cords and then overloading them.

davisonh
#10 Posted : Wednesday, December 23, 2009 12:37:33 AM
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You're absolutely right Bill,sometimes in certain situations knob & tube is safer than romex wiring.First off the old connections,if the were not touched and professionally done back in the 1800's-early 1900s were soldered together,there was no such thing as a wire nut then.Usually they soldered them then used friction tape or cloth tape to insulate them.Because the 'hot' and the 'neutral' wires were normally separated by 3 or 4 inches there is less chance of a fire emanating from a ground fault.Granted there was no way for the fault current to get back to ground from a ground fault so boxes where problems occured were 'live' (must have been fun finding that out!)there was less chance of a fire because neutrals and hots normally were nowhere near each other.Yup,biggest cause of electrical fires is overloaded and loose connections.What happens is this:If there is an overloaded circuit it causes more current(in amperes)to flow thru a wire than what the wire is rated for.When that happens the wire heats up.The wire heats up the screw connections and wirenuts that the wire is attached to.When the overload is taken off,the wire then cools down.When this happens over and over and over again,the expansion and contraction that the screws and the wirenuts go thru causes them to loosen just a tiny bit.Over time as the overload keeps occuring the screws loosen more,causing a tiny gap between the wire and the screw,Flickering starts in light fixtures,AC's dont come on as fast etc..Then arcing starts to occur as the screw/wire air gap gets wider.(this is where the AFCI protection article applies,for just this circumstance)By then the connections have heated up so bad it's time for a new receptacle/plug.Hopefully an electrician will come in and replace the receptacle,tell the owner that more capacity is needed and installs such,or else this does lead to a fire eventually,hopefully when someones' there to notice it.I've seen it over and over again.

MC
#11 Posted : Wednesday, December 23, 2009 4:19:39 PM
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Thanks guys.  I am learning a great deal.  I *heart* you people.  Really.  Bless you.  You're really, really excellent.

I am reading, and I will be back. 

MC
#12 Posted : Monday, January 18, 2010 5:10:24 PM
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OK.  So, long story short, the impression I get is, "Calm down.  Don't try to plug in a whole bunch of crap and run it all at once and 98 chances out of 100, it'll be OK."  Yes???

If I were overloading the wiring, I'd see stuff, correct???  Flickering lights, blips in the power supply other than what everyone out here has to put up with, lots of tripped breakers.  I'd at least wonder if there wasn't something wrong, instead of not having a clue until I started taking things apart. 

davisonh
#13 Posted : Tuesday, January 19, 2010 2:28:15 AM
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Yup you would.Biggest one is when you turn something on whatevers' plugged in with it'll dim or act erratic momentarily.If you're still abjectly worried do this: A 15 amp circuit at 120 volts handles 1800 watts max.So add up how many(using the nameplate wattage on the stuff plugged into the circuit in question)watts is on that circuit and if its close or more than 1800 plug stuff in somewhere elese thats not as loaded down as the circuit it was connected to..If you have 20 amp circuits then they can handle 2400 watts at 120 volts.Exactly,98 chances out of 100  yes you will be ok. It's that 2% you have to watch out for,lol.If you really want to get down to the nitty gritty and see just how much current's flowing in the circuit in question,then what you can do is go down to Ace,Home Depot or any hardware store and pick up a clamp-on ammeter.Does'nt have to be top of the line(they're about $25 or so I think),take the panel cover off the panelboard and clamp the meter around the wire hooked to the breaker.The reading should be 15 amps or less(or 20 amps or less on a 20 amp circuit.)If its more than that,you need to take some of the load off that circuit and put it somewhere else or split/add new circuits.

Pat Miketinac
#14 Posted : Tuesday, January 19, 2010 4:03:35 AM
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When I built my house, I wanted to use 15 amp breakers with 12 gauge wire, but was not allowed by code, 20 amp minimum here. My reasoning was that the 20 amp breakers will not trip until there is over 20 amps of trouble. I once had a transformer fire and melted wires in an elevator controller because the only fuse for the transformer was a 100 amp fuse in the main disconnect. A 10 amp fuse was all that transformer needed, I guess it was an engineering mistake. Elevator controllers have a lot of small fuses to limit damage from short circuits, especially the old relay logic controllers.

MC
#15 Posted : Friday, February 19, 2010 5:45:51 AM
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Thanks sooooo much, you guys.  It is good to have knowledge and to be able to do something.  Even if it's only checking.  Now I know how to look and what to look for.  And I won't make any snide comments about knowing I know what the fil doesn't know I know he doesn't know...  OK.  Only one.  Because I am, under it all, a mean little person. 

Consider yourselves treated to coffee if you're ever in NWAR.

PEEHUU SHARMA
#16 Posted : Sunday, September 09, 2012 9:36:19 AM
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MC
#17 Posted : Sunday, September 09, 2012 9:36:19 AM
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Hey davisonh...

During a recent renovation, we discovered that none of the receptacles in this lovely little house are grounded.  How this slipped by building inspection I don't know-- we did everything right by good, ignorant city folk standards and still got screwed. 

Now I can't sleep at night, smoke alarms notwithstanding, and I can't afford to hire an electrician (well, I can, but it would blow all our savings, nix the idea of getting out of here and starting over somewhere viable, and even if this hole were rewired, it would still be a 30-year-old ill-assembled stick-frame structure sitting on rotting post-and-beam).

My father-in-law says I can correct the problem by replacing my existing breakers with ground-fault breakers.  I'm not finding much about this is books-- I see how to do it, but not whether it is a viable solution to my problem.  I probably have enough knowledge to perform the change-out, but not enough to assess whether it is the right thing to do.  I do not trust Dad-in-law.  He is competent enough, but he is also a bullshit artist and taking his word has caused me trouble before.   

What do you think???

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