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Background

So I live in Michigan (which of course affects code) and I have a bunch of two prong outlets in a house that I own. If I want to convert these to be 3 prong outlets is it still up to code to replace them with GFCI's with a label "No Equipment Grounding"? The outlets I am referring to are just in bedrooms so not by a source of water like the bathroom / kitchen.

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Will the outlet still pass the outlet checker tool?

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I know the tool is checking for a ground and probably still won't find one with just the GFCI there but I guess it isn't necessarily a requirement to pass that tool is it?

So if just using a GFCI is not sufficient, recently all of my copper pipes were replaced with PEX; however, the main line coming into the house to the internal water meter is still copper. Can I join all of the grounds to this? Seems like the perfect ground as it goes deep into the earth and then out to the city.

  • You're not supposed to use water pipes anymore. You can use GFCI w/o a ground, and yes, it provides protection, but i'm not sure about code requirements. – dandavis Feb 7 at 18:08
  • I’ll let the code gurus quote the relevant code, in practice it will prevent a user from getting shocked. What it doesn’t provide for is equipment grounding for static, that is if the purpose is to ground static away from electronic equipment such as computers or audio amplifiers a non-grounded GFCI won’t help. It also won’t allow equipment such as surge suppressors to function properly. – Tyson Feb 7 at 18:09
  • @Tyson I get it that "sensitive equipment" shouldn't be plugged into No Equipment Grounding GFCI's but if I have a few properly grounded normal 3 prongs throughout the house as well then wouldn't it still all be up to code? Someone can plug their sensitive equipment into one of the other outlets instead – Eric F Feb 7 at 18:14
  • @dandavis Do you have evidence for this? I am not doubting but that is the first I heard of it – Eric F Feb 7 at 18:15
  • Evidence of what? Both my "claims" should be searchable on here, i know it's come up before... – dandavis Feb 7 at 18:18
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Installing GFCI protection on a circuit allows you to replace non-grounded receptacles (2 wire) with a grounded receptacle (3 wire) as long as it is marked "No equipment ground" and "GFCI Protected". If you just replace one non-grounded receptacle with a GFCI then it must be marked "No equipment ground". This can be found in the NEC Article 406.4(D)(2). It is used as a means to install grounded receptacles on a non-grounded circuit and not have to rewire an entire dwelling. The GFCI is not a ground but acts as shock protection due to its design.

If most of your dwelling was rerun in PEX then you should insure that you have a at least 10' of water pipe in direct contact with the earth, NEC 250.52(A)(1).

NEC Article 250.50 requires that every method of grounded available shall be combined to form one Grounding Electrode System. This means that if you only have the water pipe as your grounding electrode, you should as least drive and attach a ground rod supplementary to the water pipe.

Hope this helps to clear some things up.Good luck.

  • Worth mentioning the one caveat to this - If you're using the ground for protection from static buildup in electronics, a GFCI will not provide that benefit. It IS to code and not a safety hazard, however. – Adonalsium Feb 7 at 20:24
  • Totally agree, especially with a supplemental ground rod, a few years back the water system was converted from galvanized to plastic in an area, they removed all the metal pipe and this was the only ground for many homes. I was called for problems and figured this out after fixing 2 homes I dropped flyers at every home and ended up making a nice chunk of change and the home owners saved because I did multiples each day. But it is a really good idea to have a supplemental rod.+ – Ed Beal Feb 7 at 20:51
  • Thanks so much! This is a really good answer and helps clear a ton up for me. My water line goes well beyond 10' so I think I will wire some to this as ground, replace other harder to run ones with GFCIs, and when it gets warmer out install a supplemental grounding rod – Eric F Feb 7 at 22:20
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If your socket is labeled "No Equipment Ground" and the non-center yellow light lights, you have a bootleg ground and that fails inspection. Only the center yellow should light in that application.

Bootleg grounds are rather dangerous because the chassis of any equipment is then tied to neutral. Some simple, common problems can cause neutral to float up at hazardous voltages. We had one of those in my complex last month, in fact.

That said, those "magic 8-ball testers" are a comedy act. The lights are useful, but the sticker with all the explanations of the codes should be removed and set on fire.

  • I like your last comment about the testers. I agree 100% with this as going to code is most important; however, reality usually boils down to the inspector and most in my area use that device to deem a pass / fail. A shame really as many things get overlooked.. – Eric F Feb 8 at 17:12

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