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I just found out the apartment that I am renting have 3 prong outlets without being grounded. Is this legal in GA?

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I just tested the bottom-center ground terminal and top-right terminal. My DMM reads 86VAC instead of 124VAC. So it looks like the ground is indeed connected, but there is a leak somewhere. My building technician came and said I dont' have to worry about it because the 3rd prong is just there to add extra support for extra heavy power cords and refused to talk to me more on this issue.

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    Are there stickers "GFCI protected" or "No Equipment Ground" on the outlet? – Harper Mar 1 '18 at 7:11
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    Or did someone hook them up to a GFCI but forget to put the stickers on? – ThreePhaseEel Mar 1 '18 at 12:28
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    Oh, dear. You shouldn't feel anything tingly - ever - (except in the first instant, that being shuffle-feet-on-carpet "static electricity" which will be the same whether it's a dryer or a doorknob). Problem is, the "feel the electricity" problem is potentially lethal and GFCI won't fix it, it will trip and shut off power. – Harper Mar 1 '18 at 15:43
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    Given that it's a rental I would put it on your management company to fix it. Their handyman or an electrician should be able to diagnose it. I think you've sorted out enough here to justify making that call. – Stanwood Mar 1 '18 at 15:45
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    Interesting. That's way too much "antenna-ing" to be explained by no ground. It would be explained by something with a ground fault plugged into the other socket in the pair... or a ground wire which is present, but disconnected/broken near the panel. Is everything unplugged from the circuit when you did that test? What did the other sides of the triangle measure out at? The taller blade is neutral, it should measure within 1-2 volts of ground. – Harper Mar 2 '18 at 15:24
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A 3 prong outlet with no equipment ground(2wire) needs to be protected by a GFCI and the protected outlets need to be labeled with "No equipment ground" to be legal. Since 2014 code you can add a ground wire that goes back to the same panel seperately from the existing cable then they will be grounded in compliance with the latest code. Both of the above methods are code compliant methods of updating your outlets.

  • I just posted a photo of my circuit breaker. Can you take a look and see if it is GFCI compliant..? – Adam Lee Mar 1 '18 at 15:05
  • None of those are GFCI breakers (in your service panel photo). – Stanwood Mar 1 '18 at 15:09
  • @Stanwood thank you. 3 prong outlet without GFCI - This is illegal, correct? – Adam Lee Mar 1 '18 at 15:31
  • As Ed indicated, 3 prong outlet with no equipment ground does not meet current (2017) code and likely does not meet the adopted code in your jurisdiction (which might be 2008 or older, it takes time for cities to move up to newer versions of the NEC). Given the safety implications I'm fairly certain it would not be grandfathered in. You could have an old house with no ground and 2-prong outlets. You can't upgrade to a 3-prong outlet and not bother to provide and actual equipment ground path. – Stanwood Mar 1 '18 at 15:34
  • @Stanwood ok it is a recently renovated apartment complex. I have sent an email to the management but I will most likely to move out sooner than I expected as this is a pretty big red flag... – Adam Lee Mar 1 '18 at 15:40
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3-prong outlets without ground are legal if they are GFCI protected, with "GFCI protected" and "No equipment ground" stickers.

About GFCI

GFCI provides a "zone of protection". Let me explain.

Electricity moves on wires. It flows in loops so there must be two wires - out and back again. (ground is not used normally).

A GFCI module monitors the two normal wires. It measures all the power "going out" and make sure all of it "comes back again". Like a playground monitor making sure if 44 kids go to the playground, 44 kids come back.

A mis-count means electricity is going somewhere abnormal - possibly shocking someone or risking a fire. A GFCI will then "trip" or shut off the power.

So --- given the way GFCI works, it casts a "zone of protection" to all wiring downstream of it. (Any outlets whose two active wires are fed off the GFCI.)

This means the GFCI can be anywhere.

You know it's not at the breaker because there are no TEST buttons on them. However breakers with GFCI cost $40 while $16 buys either a dedicated GFCI module (aka deadface) or a GFCI+receptacle combo device (the normal socket with Test/Reset buttons).

The smart play for the landlord is to fit a $16 device at the first receptacle location on the circuit, apply the stickers and call it good.

So you really need to search the entire unit for any sockets or deadface sockets with the distinctive "Test" and "Reset" button. If pushing "test" on this device kills power to the sockets you are worried about, then it is protected.

A thing that zaps you has a problem

A piece of equipment that zaps you has a problem, regardless of whether it is grounded. Now it's possible the ground has been "saving you" but it shouldn't need to save you.

The simple fact is that this leakage which is zapping you is also going to trip a GFCI, and your device won't work and you'll have to fix it or replace it. So GFCI won't do what you want, it will only provide safety.

At the end of the day, the zappy thing needs to be fixed. If it's a PC, change the power supply, preferably with "not junk".

  • Ok I further tested out the "Zaps". I only feel it when I hold the HDMI cable from my monitor on one hand and touch the computer with the other hand. Just using one hand to touch the computer doesn't get me a sensation. Also, I am using EVGA G2, which is one of the best available PSUs. With this in mind, is it possible to exclude any fault on my computer? I am assuming my monitor and the PC have different potential difference (since there is no ground in the outlets) – Adam Lee Mar 1 '18 at 17:41
  • @b1gtuna well that makes more sense, as there would need to be a path to complete the circuit. I hope you don't keep using yourself as a voltmeter without really good life insurance though. Obviously one device is leaking from hot to chassis and another device is leaking from neutral to chassis. Neither should be happening. Could be any device with an AC plug. The proof of the pudding is plug them into a GFCI protected circuit and see if it trips. – Harper Mar 1 '18 at 17:48
  • Ok so you believe there is still something wrong with one of my devices? Simply not having a grounded outlet wouldn't cause this sensation with perfectly good electronics? – Adam Lee Mar 1 '18 at 18:01
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    @b1gtuna No. In the old days there were no grounds, and stuff didn't zap you unless it was broke. I suspect it's not only one device but two. – Harper Mar 1 '18 at 18:07
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    @AdamLee thinking further about this issue, I wonder if you have a problem called an "islanded ground". That's where this socket's ground wires connect to other sockets or devices, but this subnetwork of ground wires does not connect back to the panel and grounding electrode. If any device on the island has a ground fault, it lifts the islanded ground toward 120V (since there is nowhere else to go) and spreads the shock Voltage everywhere on the island that is supposed to be grounded. Awesome! – Harper Sep 15 '18 at 2:58

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