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AssuredElectrical
AssuredElectrical, Master Electrician
Category: Electrical
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Experience:  Contractor-42+ Years in the ElectricalTrade
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My house was built in 1959; no ground wires, no mental conduit.

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My house was built in 1959; no ground wires, no mental conduit. I have read several of your answers on this subject and it seems that GFIs are the best solution. But from a technical point of view what is the shock hazard or other disadvantage of connecting the grounding terminal of an outlet to the white wire, it's always grounded?

AssuredElectrical :

Welcome. My name is XXXXX XXXXX would be glad to assist.

AssuredElectrical :

Ok, understand. Let me try to explain. The white wire (neutral) is the other half of 120 volts. Hot and neutral make a complete circuit. The neutral wire, actually carries the same current as the hot wire. It is the return on the AC cycle of power. So, since grounds are for short circuit and protection, if you use the white wire connection and something happens, you could actually charge the ground with voltage and it is now dangerous and not safe.

AssuredElectrical :

The GFCI on the circuit will assist for personal protection and allow changing receptacles to a 3 prong, but there is still no ground present. If a ground is wanted, the code now allows the installation of a single ground wire to attach to the receptacle.

AssuredElectrical :

Here is the writing of the code on that subject:

AssuredElectrical :

250.130
(C) Nongrounding Receptacle Replacement or Branch
Circuit Extensions. The equipment grounding conductor
of a grounding-type receptacle or a branch-circuit extension
shall be permitted to be connected to any of the following:
(1) Any accessible point on the grounding electrode system
as described in 250.50
(2) Any accessible point on the grounding electrode conductor
(3) The equipment grounding terminal bar within the enclosure
where the branch circuit for the receptacle or
branch circuit originates
(4) For grounded systems, the grounded service conductor
within the service equipment enclosure
(5) For ungrounded systems, the grounding terminal bar
within the service equipment enclosure


250.50 is the panel and ground electrodes like rod, rebar,main ground wire
to water piping etc.

AssuredElectrical :

Let me know if any other information is needed, just reply. Thanks

Customer:

--- If something happened?? like what. The white wire us still connected to ground!

AssuredElectrical : The code is specific for the exact reason to protect life. If the white becomes loose anywhere in the circuit, anything connected to that ground connection will become the path on the circuit. So, if you have a lamp lugged into that receptacle and touch the lamp, it will electrocute you and possible kill.
AssuredElectrical : Bad rating is certainly unjustified. I cannot help it if the facts and safety of the situation are not suited and are not what you were hoping.
Customer:

You did not answer my question. How can the ground terminal be hot as long as it is tied to the white wire which is tied to ground?

AssuredElectrical : I believe you fail to realize, on a normal circuit, there are 3 wires. One hot, one neutral and one ground. So they serve 3 distinct purposes. One is the power SOURCE (black wire) from the transformer from the street, one is the neutral source which RETURNS power to the transformer from the street, and One is the safety ground that is only at you panel and not coming from the street. Power flows from the hot wire, through the light or what ever is attached, then flows back to the street through the neutral. So, if you use the white to ground a receptacle. The white becomes loose anywhere on that circuit, anything attached to the ground will be the path of return. The white is NOT ENERGIZED, but is the grounded side of power necessary to operate anything on the circuit. You will become that other half and power will flow from YOU to the light, that is what electrocutes and kills.
AssuredElectrical : Do this, connect one wire to one side of a light bulb. Connect another wire to the other side. Now, connect one of those to a breaker, then connect the other one to your fingers, which is normally neutral and you will be electrocuted.
AssuredElectrical : A circuit must be completed from Hot to Neutral. Anything that gets in between them will be electrocuted. Electricity does not flow one direction.
AssuredElectrical : A neutral can kill you just like the 120 volt source from the breaker, if you are put between the circuit
AssuredElectrical :

Full Size Image

Customer:

Well Sir, a circuit could become completed from a Hot, (black wire) to a ground, (maybe the housing of a lamp, with me in between and that would be bad), but this could happen with any properly connected circuit. So why is it worse to be groundes through normal ground wire than thru a grounded white wire.

AssuredElectrical :

In a normal properly system, it cannot connect to ground because it will trip the breaker or blow the fuse.

AssuredElectrical :

Please understand, the ground at your house originates at your panel and does not come from the utility company.

Ground at the panel connects to either a ground rod outside, metal water piping that goes outside in the ground to
the street and or both on older homes.

Ground wires are totally separate throughout the house.

Yes, on older homes prior to the new codes, the neutral connects to the same bar as the ground.
But that is only at the panel and cannot even touch anywhere else on the receptacle and light circuits.

There is a separate wire for that connection when running to receptacles and lights etc. with a grounded system.

So, it is IMPOSSIBLE to create the same issue as using neutral for ground because of the
extra wire.

AssuredElectrical :

Just for clarity, the neutral is a GROUNDED CONDUCTOR and is designed to carry current (other side of power) The ground wires are not and should never be used as such.

AssuredElectrical :

I am sorry if there is some reason that you do not understand the seriousness/dangers of using the neutral
on a circuit for the grounding also.

I do believe the desription and image posted show and explain why it cannot be done (connecting to neutral
for use as a ground).
40+ years in the industry and qualified and licensed by the state to all electrical work.

If you were to connect the ground post to the neutral, you will put yourself, any friends, or family in danger of electricution.
It is extremely dangerous, illegal and will eventually hurt or kill someone.

Customer:

I think we should stop chat -- we're getting some where but not to the answer. I still think a ground to the white wire is better than no ground at all. If the GOOD rating is not good enough let me know. The chat was worth the $12. Thanks XXXXX

AssuredElectrical :

I do appreciate an upgrade to good rating.--- Unsure of how else to explain, that connecting the ground screw of a receptacle to the neutral wiring, is not grounding the receptacle, but allowing a different path for return power to get enter the system through someone or something if and when a mere loose connection in the neutral circuit happens.

Customer:

P.S. As long as we are exchanging qualifications, I have a BS degree in electrical engineering from Colorado State University, 1952. I then worked for Sandia Labs. for 40 years in electrical engineering. I think I know the subject. Russ

AssuredElectrical :

Ok, thanks. Take care Russ

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