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Update Old Electrical Wiring With Ground Fault Outlets

  • Transcript

    LESLIE: John in Pennsylvania listens on Discovery Radio Network. What can we do for you today?

    JOHN: Hi! It’s a pleasure to speak to you.

    LESLIE: Whoo! You’re excited.

    TOM: (chuckling) What can we do for you, John?

    JOHN: Yes. Well, I just recently purchased a home and it has – I noticed it has cloth-looking wiring up in the attic …

    TOM: OK.

    JOHN: … and two-prong outlets throughout the house.

    TOM: How old is the house, John?

    JOHN: The house is from 1957.

    TOM: 1957? OK, so it’s cloth-covered BX cable, probably.

    JOHN: Well, it’s been a little bit of a hassle to plug all the adapters into the outlets.

    TOM: Right.

    JOHN: And I was wondering, first, is the wiring safe? Second, how much of a hassle would it be to put the grounded outlets in there with the wiring?

    TOM: Well, you’re grounding through the neutral in that two-wire system. And so, it’s not nearly as safe as having the regular ground line. But there are a couple of things that you can do. For example, in the bathrooms and the kitchen, if you have a professional electrician do this, they can install ground-fault outlets and the ground-fault outlet would be designed so it’s not really diverting the power to ground but it’s turning the power off before it has a chance to hurt you. But it’s something that has to be done by a pro because it’s a bit tricky and you have to make sure you get it right. So that’s a way that you can give yourself ground protection without actually installing a ground wire.

    JOHN: They can do that with the existing wiring?

    TOM: Yes, they can.

    JOHN: OK.

    TOM: And that would be in the bathrooms, the kitchens, outside areas like that. If you have the opportunity to run a new circuit, you know, I would take that opportunity. But to deal with what you have, that’s the way to handle it.

    JOHN: Alright. Because it’s plaster walls and I really don’t want to go through those.

    TOM: Yeah, I don’t blame you. 1957’s a good year. You’ve got some of that – you probably have plaster lath. That’s the end of the sheetrock run. You know, they used to use drywall and then cover it with plaster. And those were very good, solid walls.

    JOHN: They really are. They’re – they did wonderful edges, wonderful corners and the hardwood floors are beautiful.

    LESLIE: Great. Well, enjoy the house.

    TOM: (overlapping voices) Yeah, it’s a good – it’s a good year.

    JOHN: Thank you.

    TOM: John, thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.

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