Home>Discussions>ELECTRICAL & LIGHTING>1940's NJ Old Apartment-No grounding!!
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1940's NJ Old Apartment-No grounding!!

Hi Everyone,

I just moved myself and my elderly parents into a 2 bedroom apartment in NJ, and found out about some unsettling things with the electrical service. I wouldn't have even known, unless Verizon pointed out the problem to me.

I moved in...3 prong outlets throughout, and 20 amp outlets in both kitchen(fridge) and bedrooms(A/C outlets). New Murray sub-panel from 2006.

Verizon would not install the FIOS service due to there being no ground on the outlet they were going to use. I curiously pulled out my old yellow Ideal wiggins testers, and from going from hot to ground on every outlet in the apartment, there was no 110v power returning. Every outlet here has the ground socket, and no outlet(or anything else) is grounded *at all*.

Both GFI's in the kitchen and bathroom work(?), but have the ground wires run to the grounding block in the panel, which has no ground coming in, just an old cloth 2- conductor Romex with no ground, as the feeder to this panel. Both sides of the buss bars are jumped together with just one incoming 110v hot.

I used to be an electricians apprentice in the 1980's, and somehow this doesn't seem right, the way this apartment is set up, and looks illegal and unsafe. My parents are elderly, and would really hate to see them get hurt.

I informed the super and his "elecrician" about this, and they came up with..."you don't know what you're talking about", and muttering things about "Grandfather Clauses". Hmm...

Can anyone give me some insight on this? I just moved in, and don't want to start trouble, but I'm getting ready to call the local electrical inspector, to see what he thinks, and by then it may be a huge can of worms that had been opened.;)

Thank You!:)

Re: 1940's NJ Old Apartment-No grounding!!

It sounds like the old feeder to the panel from the 1940’s was never replaced. I’d be curious as to the size of the feeder and what is protecting it at the main service. (Amperage wise)

It is NEC compliant to protect old two wire circuits with a feed-through GFCI receptacle or breaker and then install three prong receptacles downstream from the GFCI. But then you do not tie anything to the ground terminal on any of the receptacles.

Are the neutrals and “grounds” bonded together in the sub-panel?

It probably would not take much to go to the building dept and find out what permits were pulled for the building in 2006.

Re: 1940's NJ Old Apartment-No grounding!!

Thanks very much for the speedy reply, NEC :)

The main feeder looks to me like it's a 10 awg(or possibly 8 awg, but doubtful) non-ground cloth romex. I have a feeling that whatever was in the main panel room when this building was built, is still there today. This is a huge multi-unit complex owned by a large corporation. The grounding block(on left) is *not* bonded to the neutral block in any way.

The management ran a dedicated line from the main panel(un-accessible to me) for the FIOS service, via the crawl space underneath.

I'm very happy hearing about GFCI breakers being safe with no ground, maybe somehow I can coax them into replacing the breakers with these. I highly doubt there were any permits pulled when they put this Murray panel in. They mentioned that the old fuse panel was broken, and put this in, in an emergency.;)

Is there anything else that would have to be done to make this safe, like telling them to remove the grounds from the grounding block?

Re: 1940's NJ Old Apartment-No grounding!!

Well if you think about it………….

From what you describe about the grounds landing on their own bus-bar: Let’s say that there was a dead short from hot to ground. What happens? Nothing, all you have done is energize all of the “ground” wire and also the panel can and cover.

Sounds pretty dangerous to me.

I would remove the “ground” wire from all of the GFCI receptacles, all other receptacles and I would also make sure that every circuit that feeds three wire receptacles using the old two wire is fed with either a feed through GFCI receptacle or GFCI breaker.

Then the covers of the GFCI’s must be labeled “No Equipment Ground” the other three prong receptacles must be labeled “GFCI Protected”, “No Equipment Ground”.

If you want to give a NEC code article to substantiate this; 406.3 (D)(3)

Re: 1940's NJ Old Apartment-No grounding!!


You can Google 406.3 (D) (3)

And read about this subject for days.

Re: 1940's NJ Old Apartment-No grounding!!

so there are three prong outlets throughout and no equipment ground present?

strike one

new panel with no equipment ground?

strike two

no such thing as a grandfather clause, you change it you own it, landlord lied. His electrician sounds like a hack he should be held liable if anyone gets hurt.

strike 3 ish

GFI being "safe" with no ground? well safe is a relative term, if it has a sticker that says no equipment ground present then it meets minimum requirements but it still ha no ground. While it will function as a gfi should it still has no ground and could give you a false sense of security if using a piece of equipment that had exposed metal parts that required a ground.

call it a foul on a full count

no difference in voltage potential between phases in the panel? AND its a new panel? as in main lugs being fed from the same phase..

strike 3 (ish) through 9 inning over

concerned about the safety of your family? winRAR !! you should be, sounds like that place is all kinds of unsafe and your landlord and / or his electrician need a visit from the local inspector. Force the issue with a call to DCA and a lawyer if need be.


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