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If you have an open ground condition – that can be very dangerous. What happens with an open ground, you will not be afforded the “shock hazard” protection that a grounded circuit provides. What you need to do is use your plug tester and go around to your outlets to find an outlet without an open ground next to one with the open ground. Then you will need to fix it by re-connecting the grounding wires together.
Here is a method of finding this:
This is example text.
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This situation occurred in a 1927-built multi-unit brick building. Now a condo type. The wiring is 2-wire with conduit - I think. Most of the duplex outlets are OK, but 3 or 4 in the Living Room / Foyer area show open ground.
I opened the faulty units and put in a new wire from the receptacle's grounding screw to the screw holding the receptacle to the metal electrical box. This did not correct the problem.
I don't think it would be possible to pull a third ground wire through the conduit buried in the walls - even if the two old wires were used to try and pull in 3 new wires. The old wires have the thick older style insulation and I have no way to determine the routing of the conduit in the walls or how the wiring is routed to different boxes in the circuit. Some of the receptacles on this circuit are showing correct wiring.
I can't see how I can connect grounding wires together when there aren't any. The ground has to be through the conduit itself, I think.
The building has hot water or steam radiators, so I am considering trying to use this as a grounding spot, where near an outlet, but I would have to confirm that they are actually grounded or could be made to serve as a ground. Would probably use a metal screw type hose fastener to hold the wire securely to the foot of the radiator. The radiator cover would hide the connector and wire partly. But I don't have a way to run a ground wire to some receptacles further away or on the otherside of a doorway, without having the wire being very visible running along the floor, over doorways and up to each receptacle.
Presumably this condition has existed for years or decades without any known adverse effects. Besides the potential for shock hazards, are TVs or electronics plugged in to these open ground receptacles at risk any more than when plugged into grounded receptacles?
Yes they are at risk because if your outlets are not grounded – it can also leave sensitive electronic loads such as your tv, vcr etc vulnerable to surges that can damage the units.
For this very reason – that is why that practice of using the conduit of a ground has been abandoned because of what has happened to you. The best thing you can do right now is with the outlets that are registering good, double check to be sure the connectors are tight and not corroded in any way. If the conduit is still complete and not broken, the conduit will feed from one outlet to another. So if the conduit is not broke behind the wall, you should be able to push a fish tape through there and pop it out at the next outlet in line.
But again – double check the box connectors “connection” to each box . If this does not fix your problem – your only recourse is to either call an electrician to fix this problem, or install a gfi outlet in place of each affected outlet.
What a GFCI will do is still afford you the protection of “shock hazards”. But in your case I would only consider that a temporary fix because you did at one time have a grounding path to those outlets. Ultimately you will still want to get this fixed.