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Electricians! Is all ground created equal?(30 posts)

Electricians! Is all ground created equal?OldEdScott
Sep 15, 2003 6:13 AM
Long story short, I'm installing new circuit in my crowded breaker box. Crowded and in a very awkward spot behind a heavy bed I don't want to move.

Got the white wire connected to the neutral bus OK, but for the life of me, can't weasel the bare ground back behind the mess of wires to insert it into the ground bus.

My question is: Are the neutral bus and the ground bus really the same? Could I just stick the bare ground into the neutral bus and be done with it?

Conversely, is all ground created equal? I have a very handy and accesible bare ground wire coming out of the bottom of the box from an AC unit I installed a few years ago. Could I just wrap the new bare ground around that existing one and be appropriately grounded?

I know someone can answer this, given how frequently the postings on this board shock the p!ss out of me!

Sep 15, 2003 6:40 AM
Ground and neutral are definitely not equal. Which one would you rather stick your tongue on?

Your box shouldn't be a mess, but that's neither here nor there. What I would do is connect a one or two foot length of new ground wire to the ground bus, thread it through the mess, and connect it to the ground on your new wire. It's ugly, but at least it's safe and kosher.

If nothing else, attach the ground to the box itself.
OK, mom.OldEdScott
Sep 15, 2003 6:50 AM
I used the term 'mess' as a descriptive, a Southernism like 'I caught a real mess of fish,' but what I should have said is 'jam packed.' My box is actually very neat, thank you very much. Nice bends, zips ties and all. I'm a cyclist after all; I'm anal retentive.

What about wrapping in on the other bare ground I mentioned?
don't talk back to your mothermohair_chair
Sep 15, 2003 7:03 AM
Sorry, us kal-eee-forn-yuns don't get too many Southernisms. Damn hillbillies and rednecks!

Technically it should be no problem to attach one ground to another. I'm not sure about how code looks at that, if you care, but I'm certain code looks down on your wrapping idea. I wouldn't do it by wrapping, anyway. I'd cut the wire, twist all the ends together and cap it with a wire nut. Pig tail it if you have to, although that would look ugly inside the box. Anything is better than wrapping.
Ain't got no Code out here in the woods, exceptOldEdScott
Sep 15, 2003 7:28 AM
the Honor Code of Southern Gentlemen, which means I could have challenged you to a duel for questioning the neatness of my box.

Wire nut sounds like a superior solution. Won't need no ugly pigtail.
even in the woods...mohair_chair
Sep 15, 2003 7:49 AM
Don't you have to take off your dainty white glove and slap me with it if you want to challenge me to a duel?

Then I get to choose the weapons, and I choose Ninja throwing stars.
if you are gonna duel, at least do it on bikes ;-) nmDougSloan
Sep 15, 2003 8:11 AM
A JOUST, on bikes! nmOldEdScott
Sep 15, 2003 8:13 AM
nah, that just makes it worsemohair_chair
Sep 15, 2003 8:35 AM
If he finds his honor in question, how's it going to look if I further humiliate him on a bike? Nope, it's better to shoot him. At least he gets to keep his dignity.
LOL; good point nmDougSloan
Sep 15, 2003 8:43 AM
Where do you live?OldEdScott
Sep 15, 2003 8:44 AM
Unless it's, like, Tibet, doubtful you'd humiliate me on my home turf, which is where the bike-duel would have to be, since I'm the aggrieved party. I'd have to give you a head start. Which is fine. I'll just sip Bourbon for an hour before I mosey out to find/rescue you.
I'm hearing banjos again nmDougSloan
Sep 15, 2003 8:48 AM
Mind the possibility of plastic pipe, Ed.cory
Sep 15, 2003 8:17 AM
I won't bore you with the whole story of how I rewired my old house (zap! pow! OUCH, jeez!), but at one point, two connections from the end, I used a cold water pipe as ground (Get the bastard done, I want to watch the ball game!). Eight years later when I had enough money to have an electrician do it right, he crawled under the house, came back out, crawled under again and backed slowly away with his screwdrivers making the sign of the cross in front of him. Right after the pipe went through the wall, some previous moron had stuck a length of plastic pipe in it, presumably after a freeze or something.
HA! Naw, I'm grounded to a metal pole driven deep intoOldEdScott
Sep 15, 2003 8:24 AM
the hardpacked Kentucky clay.

Grounding's overrated anyway. A little shock now and then is good for the spirit.
weekend warrior electrician=future darwin award recipient (nm)ColnagoFE
Sep 15, 2003 8:29 AM
Honestly, it's not brain surgery. Not as dangerous asOldEdScott
Sep 15, 2003 8:35 AM
running gas lines, for example. Electricity is a few simple principles, requiring just some basic familiarity. I wired the house when I built it, and did in fact pass a Code inspection upon finishing.

As Cory mentions, though, I DID zap myself a few times. Came to like it. I was never depressed, for one thing. Hmmmmm...

I'd just never thought through the whole idea of appropriate ground before. Never really had to. a elictrical question for you thenColnagoFE
Sep 15, 2003 9:10 AM
I was testing out a shorting submersible pump outside a while back. Basically trying to deduce whether the GPF circuit it was plugged into was faulty or whether it was an actual short. So I plugged it into a non-GPF recepticle. Long story was the pump and I blew out that non-GPF recepticle. Funny thing is there doesn't appear to be a circuit breaker or fuse anywhere that I can find that can be reset. In this case does the recepticle itself need to be repleced? I mean do these things have some sort of internal fuse that just blows? I seem to have another dead one upstairs in the bathroom now so I'm guessing they are related. Time to call the electrician or a simple fix?
Not quite getting the picture ...OldEdScott
Sep 15, 2003 9:56 AM
What's blown that can't be reset? A regular receptacle? A breaker didn't snap when you hooked it up to the shorted pump?

If I understand what your situation is, I guarantee the receptacle is on a circuit with a fuse or circuit breaker, so if they're all OK at the box, you can assume the receptacle is bad. Regular receptacles don't have an internal 'fuse' per se. But sometimes they burn out and have to be replaced. If the dead one upstairs is down-circuit from the bad one, it could be dead for that reason. There's a gap in the circuit.

I would pull the receptacle from the wall and check to see if all the connections are good. You might just be able to tighten things up and get it working. Otherwise, I'd replace that receptacle and see what happens. It's easy and cheap to do.
I think the latter is the case....ColnagoFE
Sep 15, 2003 10:41 AM
I can't find a fuse or breaker anywhere that can be reset. I suppose the 1st thing to do would be to get one of those little tester lites to see if there is juice flowing to the wires behind the recepticle and if so it would be a simple replace opertation. If not and there is a gap in the circuit I'm guessing I need an electrician, right?
Well, you ought to be able to find where the gap is, usingOldEdScott
Sep 15, 2003 10:51 AM
the same technique at other receptacles in the circuit. If only two are not functioning, it's in one of them. It's almost certainly at an outlet (highly unlikely a rat gnawed through your cable in the wall somewhere at the exact moment you tested the pump).

If all your breakers are fine, I'm going to go out on a limb and say the outlet you plugged the pump in is bad, and if you replace it, life will be good again. I'm 99 percent certain.
GFCI chainingmohair_chair
Sep 15, 2003 11:06 AM
A lot of times, in bathrooms and kitchens, GFCI outlets are chained. Basically you have one GFCI outlet that protects a series of other outlets (usually not many). This is probably your situation. You need to look upstream, basically. Look for a GFCI outlet somewhere in the house and push the reset button. Look anywhere outlets come near water, including outside.
I couldn't figure from what he wrote if heOldEdScott
Sep 15, 2003 11:18 AM
was talking normal outlets or GFCI. If the outlet in the upstairs bathroom is GFCI, that would make sense. The normal one he was plugging into may have been protected by the one upstairs.
both non-functioning outlets are non-GFCI (nm)ColnagoFE
Sep 15, 2003 1:58 PM
OK then, just for grins,OldEdScott
Sep 16, 2003 7:06 AM
hit the reset button on every damn GFCI outlet in the house. Then go to your breaker box and -- if you can ID the circuit the dead outlet is on -- close and open that breaker (sometimes if they're old & weak they snap internally without the lever moving to the off position; the lever will feel loose and rattly). If you don't know which breaker controls the circuit, just close and open 'em all. It's not likely to be the breaker itself, since you only know of two devices with a problem and circuits usually have more on them than that, but who knows?

Maybe that will work. If not, the problem in in one of the two outlets, maybe a bad wire connection, maybe a bad receptical. Rare but possible.
been having trouble with the refrigerator latelyColnagoFE
Sep 16, 2003 8:29 AM
it's on another GFCI circuit. Does that give you any more clues? Drives me nuts. The things works for weeks then seems to start tripping the circuit each day now. Would this have something to do with a bad recepticle outside and upstairs even though nothing is plugged in to them now?
The bad receptacle is OUTSIDE? nmOldEdScott
Sep 16, 2003 9:57 AM
The bad receptacle is OUTSIDE? nmColnagoFE
Sep 16, 2003 10:28 AM is outside. and also one bad inside upstairs in the bathroom. the electrical gods don't like me these days it seems.
Surface mount? Have you whacked it with a lawnmowerOldEdScott
Sep 16, 2003 10:33 AM
or anything?
mounted on side of house...with hinged flaps over the plugs (nm)ColnagoFE
Sep 16, 2003 12:02 PM
GFCI chaining, exactly53T
Sep 15, 2003 12:43 PM
Look right next to the service panel. That's where today's electricians put one. Anything on that same CB is wired back isolated ground through thta receptacle and will be protected on GF's.

I have seen very, very few cases of an outlet going bad without tripping a breaker or GFI.