I am concerned about improper / unsafe condition(s) that I noted at the house’ s electrical sub panel. House that was built in mid-late 1960’. The main panel and the sub panel are older, likely when the house was built. The 100A main electrical panel’ s back can be seen from the non-finished attached garage, with ground rod into the concrete. The 50A sub panel is inside the house, not at a detached structure. My main concern is the lack of a proper grounding bar at the sub panel, whereas only the neutral bar is seen at the sub panel. All of the house’ s receptacles are 3-prongs and functional. Can this condition be resolved by installing a ground bar at the sub panel, assuming not replacing the aging panel and sub panel at the present time? enter image description here enter image description here enter image description here enter image description here enter image description here enter image description here enter image description here enter image description here enter image description here

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    If the conduit between the two is metallic and continuous, you at least have a grounding path separate from the neutral wires, at which point modernizing it is easy (isolated neutral bar, grounding bar bonded to the case.) Though I don't see any bare or green ground wires, and I do see what appears to be armored cable, so you may be getting excited about a non-issue, as your grounds appear to already be separated (and the painters should have been slapped silly, or not allowed anywhere near an open panel.)
    – Ecnerwal
    Apr 21, 2020 at 16:48
  • Do you perhaps live in somewhere like Chicago or NYC where armored cable or conduit is the only approved way to run wiring?
    – Ecnerwal
    Apr 21, 2020 at 17:01
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    I believe the biggest problem here is this is a Zinsco panel. Not safe. Apr 21, 2020 at 18:10
  • Can you post more photos of where wires exit the boxes? I think Harper's hunch about invisible grounds is close to right, but we'll need to see closeups of box entrances to verify it Apr 21, 2020 at 23:18

1 Answer 1


You have invisible grounds

Your building seems to be wired in conduit. This is a very different wiring system than you're used to with cables. This uses a conduit pipe laid to various destinations, and then individual wires laid in the pipes. The individual wires are typically type THW, THHN, THWN or XHHW.

You can tell because a) the wires have writing on them, b) the wire entries look like conduit, and c) colors are atypical of what is found in cables (e.g. blue wire).

New work is often done in PVC conduit, but then, grounds would have been required. The Zinsco panel certainly suggests it predates PVC conduit. So my conclusion is this is metal conduit, which is a superior system you should be glad to have.

The Zinsco panels, on the other hand, are a fire looking for a place to happen. I realize the panels are "built-in" and replacing them would be a chore, but at least look into Eaton's retrofit kits for Zinsco panels.

Therefore your ground "wires" are actually in the metal conduit pipe itself. This is a reliable and superior system. Do not replace any segments of the metal conduit with PVC.

  • Unfortunately, the Eaton retro kits aren't going to help the OP with their meter-main, due to that nasty, nasty west coast single-column design being too narrow for them Apr 21, 2020 at 23:14

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