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Author Topic: CFL's and a house without grounding wires  (Read 4539 times)

malfist

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CFL's and a house without grounding wires
« on: July 22, 2011, 09:50:49 AM »

I am living in an apartment (strange that it's not really all that apart from the other "apart"ments) that was built in the 1940s. None of the electrical outlets are grounded and none of the light switches have three wires. I would like to use CFL's with my X10, is this at all possible? The landlord would not be interested in renovating the house's wiring.

Edit: I don't care about dimming the lights.
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Brian H

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Re: CFL's and a house without grounding wires
« Reply #1 on: July 22, 2011, 10:38:33 AM »

Ground wires are not needed for X10 units to work.

The two pin appliance module if your outlets are still two prong should work. X10 AM486 or X10Pro PAM01.
If you have three prong outlets. X10 AM466 or X10Pro PAM02 should work.

Neutral power wires for the relay type switches are required.

The two wire Dimmer switches that steal power through the load. Do not work with CFLs.

Although not officially supported by X10. Socket Rockets have been used with CFLs. Some users have had good success with them.

You could rewire the switch loop to the original switch to provide Line and Neutral. Then install a wall switch type X10 controller. X10Pro XPT series. To control an X10Pro XPFM fixture module. Mounted inside the light fixture.
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malfist

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Re: CFL's and a house without grounding wires
« Reply #2 on: July 22, 2011, 10:56:16 AM »

I technically have three prong outlets, but the third prong (ground) isn't connected to anything. Care to explain your last line a little more?
« Last Edit: July 22, 2011, 11:11:47 AM by malfist »
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dave w

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Re: CFL's and a house without grounding wires
« Reply #3 on: July 22, 2011, 12:25:47 PM »

I am living in an apartment (strange that it's not really all that apart from the other "apart"ments) that was built in the 1940s. None of the electrical outlets are grounded and none of the light switches have three wires. I would like to use CFL's with my X10, is this at all possible? The landlord would not be interested in renovating the house's wiring.

Edit: I don't care about dimming the lights.
You can always use Socket Rockets in fixtures (where your fixtures will allow the additional length). SRs can not dim. Use "Slim Line" switches as wall switches or Palm Pads etc. Use Lamp Modules (with dimmable CFL or incandescent only), or Appliance Modules for table lamps, floor lamps, etc. None of these would require any wiring changes.
http://www.x10.com/home_automation/ss13a_ha_dining_room_lighting.html
« Last Edit: July 22, 2011, 12:32:17 PM by dave w »
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Brian H

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Re: CFL's and a house without grounding wires
« Reply #4 on: July 22, 2011, 12:59:32 PM »

A switch loop is where the Power Line and Neutral wires are in the light fixtures electrical box.
The two wires going to the physical switch are Line and then the Switched Line back to the fixture. In the fixture the Switched Line goes to the light along with the Neutral.

If you can rewire the electrical connections to get the Line and Neutral into the switch box. You can then use a X10 wall switch type controller to send X10 signals to the power line. Inside the fixture you use an X10 module made to be used inside it. The X10 signals from the wall mounted controller then control the module inside the fixture.

Plug in and screw in modules are much easier to use and require no electrician or knowledgeable person to mess with the wiring.
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Noam

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Re: CFL's and a house without grounding wires
« Reply #5 on: July 22, 2011, 02:01:50 PM »

None of the electrical outlets are grounded and none of the light switches have three wires.

1. Are the outlets not grounded, or are they notusign a separate grounding wire? If the wiring is BX (metal armored sleeve around the wires coming into the box), then it is probably grounding through the box and the BX armor.
You can test if there is grounding at all, by using a voltmeter (I have one of those small "current testers," with the two probes. Between the two prongs of the outlet, you should get at 110 volts (can sometimes range from 100-125). Between the neutral and the ground should get no voltage, and between the "hot" and the ground should also register the same 110 (100-125) volts. If that's what you're seeing, then the outlets ARE grounded, just not with a separate grounding wire.

2. Do the switch boxes not have three wires, or just the switches? In just about every "single" (not three-way) switch, there are only two wires (plus a ground, if installed as a separate wire).

If power passes through the switch box, then goes to the light, you will USUALLY see two black wires attached to the switch (one is from the cable bringing power into the box, the other is from the cable taking power from the box to the fixture. In that case, there should also be a pair of white wires connected together in the box. That's the neutral pair.
If the switch is at the end of the run, then there USUALLY only be two wires entering the box, through a single cable. That cable carries the "hot" line down from the box where the fixture is mounted, and returns it back to the fixture itself. In that case, USUALLY, the white wire from that cable is painted black (or marked with a strip of electrical tape around it), to signify that it is a "hot" wire, and not a neutral.

How does that description compare to what you have in your apartment?
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malfist

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Re: CFL's and a house without grounding wires
« Reply #6 on: July 22, 2011, 03:01:34 PM »

Where the electricity comes into the house, it sits above a concrete pad, the entire house is ungrounded. Where I have the standard 120VAC electrical sockets, there are two wires, and no ground. Nor is the box a good ground. In the boxes where the light switches are, there are two wires, both black.

I made a stink about not have enough grounded plugs before I moved in an our landlord said he'd "fix" it. So he replaced the two prong faceplates with three prong. The third prong is disconnected. I did not discover this until we moved it. The best concession I got from our landlord was that he agreed to put a GFCI in the bedroom where the computer is hooked up so it _might_ be safe from surges. It's the only GFCI outlet in the house. I am sure the house is no where near up to code, and we plan on moving next april when our lease is up.

Does that clarify things? Sorry it's a bit of a rant.
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dave w

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Re: CFL's and a house without grounding wires
« Reply #7 on: July 22, 2011, 03:41:54 PM »

Where the electricity comes into the house, it sits above a concrete pad, the entire house is ungrounded. Where I have the standard 120VAC electrical sockets, there are two wires, and no ground. Nor is the box a good ground. In the boxes where the light switches are, there are two wires, both black.

I made a stink about not have enough grounded plugs before I moved in an our landlord said he'd "fix" it. So he replaced the two prong faceplates with three prong. The third prong is disconnected. I did not discover this until we moved it. The best concession I got from our landlord was that he agreed to put a GFCI in the bedroom where the computer is hooked up so it _might_ be safe from surges. It's the only GFCI outlet in the house. I am sure the house is no where near up to code, and we plan on moving next april when our lease is up.

Does that clarify things? Sorry it's a bit of a rant.
This sounds like my mother's home circa 1940. Nothing is grounded. Not much you can do about it since you are renting. Legally, I don't think the owner is required to "bring to code"....State laws may vary.

Technically, not having grounded outlets is not unsafe (to humans) unless you happen to be using a metal cased electric drill while standing in water, or similar foolishness. Even then the power tool, or grounded device would have to be in some state of disrepair to be "leaking". GFI outlets will add safety in bath and kitchens. But I don't think a GFI can protect equipment from surges. The way they work, they may not even "see" a surge, and are way too slow in action to protect electronics.

Third wire grounding does make a difference when talking about power surges and protection of three wire electronics because most surge protectors dissapate to neutral and the ground.

You can still use X10. You just will not be able to install X10 wall switches for CFL use (you can use two wire X10 wall switches but only with incandescent bulbs). But IMHO it is not a good idea to replace wall switches in a rented facility, especially if you plan on moving soon (< a year). The link I included in previous post is a great, cheap X10 starter kit and requires no wiring changes.
« Last Edit: July 22, 2011, 05:31:48 PM by dave w »
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Brian H

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Re: CFL's and a house without grounding wires
« Reply #8 on: July 22, 2011, 04:17:29 PM »

May depend on the state, but I believe you can replace two prong outlets with three prong ones. If they are a GFCI or connected to a GFCI device. Like a GFCI Breaker. I believe a label also should be on each outlet protected by a GFCI device.
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Knightrider

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Re: CFL's and a house without grounding wires
« Reply #9 on: July 22, 2011, 05:26:12 PM »

I'm really surprised that there's no grounding rod on the house.  This may not be a NEC issue, but the electric supplier really needs this (I'm remembering my college days now..... physics class.... the grounding balances the transmission.....or something like that......).   Anywho, to prevent this ramble from continuing any farther,  here in Ohio, the ground round connects to the neutral bar in the panel.

Now that the panel may not be connected to the actual grounds in the boxes where the outlets are is another issue altogether.

Not that this post is productive in any way, but it's so hot right now, my brain isn't running on all cylinders.

sorry for the ramble.
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