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I have a 1950's bungalow which originally had ungrounded outlets. Before we bought the house, someone decided to install 3-pronged outlets by fishing 14 AWG THHX green wire up through the exposed basement ceiling to each outlet. They are not daisy chained outlet to outlet, each outlet has a single green wire running to it and pushed up into the box. At the other end, they randomly spliced all these green wires together, outside of j-boxes, with simple electrical tape before running them to a 6 AWG bare copper wire attached to the copper cold water inlet. There's only a main panel (no subs) and it is grounded by a rod running into the cement floor under the panel (not to the cold water inlet).

I've read elsewhere on this forum that running retrofit grounds is OK. My question is on the mechanics.

  1. If it's retrofit, is it OK to have THHX wire running without conduit? Would running bare copper be better / require a conduit?

  2. What should really be done with all the ends? Can they all be spliced together into an accessible j-box near the panel and then be clamped onto the main ground through a single wire instead of to the copper water pipe?

For those who are going to suggest GCFI, the boxes are old school small things with 2 big nails driven through the middle of them. I don't think there's room without tearing out the old boxes to just pop a GCFI in there. And I'd kinda like to have equipment grounding if possible.

As for running new NW between the outlets in the currently exposed basement ceiling, there's a potential problem in that the outlets are on the same circuit as the ceiling lights in the individual rooms. I haven't figured out the exact sequence in each room. I don't care if the ceiling lights remain ungrounded, I just don't want to take the outlet out of the circuit and put it on a new circuit run through the basement and find out I've interrupted power to the ceiling light. Also, what would I do if I can't get the old (potentially stapled wire) between outlets out of there, do I just leave it in the wall?

Thank you so much for any help.

Mizkissy

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They are not daisy chained outlet to outlet, each outlet has a single green wire running to it and pushed up into the box.

That's fine, the retrofit ground isn't required to follow the same route as the conductors. Having a "backbone" and then tying to the backbone is fine.

At the other end, they randomly spliced all these green wires together, outside of j-boxes, with simple electrical tape

That's improper of course. But honestly if this had been bare wire, and the splice had been done with a split bolt, I wouldn't have thought anything of it. Splicing grounding electrodes inline with a split-bolt is perfectly common.

running them to a 6 AWG bare copper wire attached to the copper cold water inlet. There's only a main panel (no subs) and it is grounded by a rod running into the cement floor under the panel (not to the cold water inlet)

No, building piping cannot be used as a substitute for electrical wires. That's totally wrong. They cut a lot of corners but they seem like easy corners to correct. The main issue I see is if any of these are 20A circuits, the #14 ground is inadequate.

Code is clear on where a retrofit ground must go to:

  • The panel the circuit is powered out of
  • A junction box which has a sufficiently large ground wire, or non-flex metal conduit, back to that panel
  • the wires of the Grounding Electrode System (the bare copper wires from the panel to the ground rods, Ufer ground or water pipe, whichever is being used). You would bind to those without cutting them, using a split bolt connector.

The water pipe tie is not on the list. Fortunately, unlike Grounding Electrode wires, retrofit ground wires CAN be spliced. So reroute and extend as needed.

If it's retrofit, is it OK to have THHX wire running without conduit? Would running bare copper be better / require a conduit?

I'm not a fan, but #14 is a legal size for 15A circuits, and bare is legal. I don't see where a bare wire being coated in green crud makes it less compliant.

What should really be done with all the ends? Can they all be spliced together into an accessible j-box near the panel and then be clamped onto the main ground through a single wire instead of to the copper water pipe?

Well it needs to remain accessible, but I'm fine with attaching to a continuous wire with a split-bolt in the open without a box. That's exactly what you do when tapping the Grounding Electrode Conductor.

For those who are going to suggest GCFI, the boxes are old school small things with 2 big nails driven through the middle of them. I don't think there's room without tearing out the old boxes to just pop a GCFI in there.

Well you know, if you want to get into proper English, "GFCI" is not a noun, it's an adjective. It isn't anything without a noun, such as "GFCI breaker" or "GFCI receptacle" or "GFCI deadfront" or "GFCI switch". All those kinds exist, and GFCI protection can flow from any of them and protect downline sections of a circuit. My tactic is to put GFCI receptacles or deadfronts in new junction boxes right next to the panel, and use them to protect the circuit.

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    Great answer, except...I would argue that GFCI is indeed a noun. Ground Fault is an adjective (actually, a Ground Fault is a noun, but in this case it is a description of a...), Circuit Interrupter is a noun, Ground Fault Circuit Interrupter is a very specific noun. So it isn't GFCI breaker or GFCI receptacle, etc. but rather GFCI/breaker and GFCI/receptacle, etc. That is, each is a device that is composed of two devices - a GFCI and a breaker, receptacle, etc. I can't say all my answers use the terminology that way, but I have been trying to do that lately. Jul 25, 2022 at 21:06
  • indeed GFCI is a noun. Two nouns can be composed in English, e.g. "coffee cup"
    – user253751
    Jul 26, 2022 at 15:54
  • Then "a GFCI" is akin to "a coffee" when referring to things which go in dishwashers. @user253751 Jul 26, 2022 at 15:57
  • well, a coffee cup is a cup designed for coffee, whereas a GFCI receptable is receptable with a GFCI inside it. But consider saying "a coffee" when meaning "a cup of coffee". Is that a problem? Would it be okay if someone brought a glass of coffee instead? Do you care about the cup, or the coffee?
    – user253751
    Jul 26, 2022 at 15:59
  • @user253751 GFCI can be used as a noun, but it isn't in this kind of usage. "replaced a GFCI" corresponds to "just grab a coffee out of the dishwasher, they're clean". See how that is ugly? Jul 26, 2022 at 16:05

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