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I have an interesting question. I have a hundred-year-old house with electrical panel updated a few years ago by a professional electrician. I went around last week with a circuit tester just to make sure all the outlets were wired correctly. The former homeowner had added several outlets herself and some had reversed polarity, mixed-up ground/hot etc., which I was able to fix pretty easily.

However, most of the outlets are showing no ground. I opened the service panel and it is 60A service, Square D breakers, and two neutral bus bars. I'm not sure if one is a ground bus and one a neutral though. I assume they go to the same place anyway, since this is the only service panel (no sub-boxes).

The wires going into the buses are both neutral and ground.

So, assuming the neutral and ground bus bars are bonded (so, electrically the same), would this fact cause the tester to show no ground to a receptacle?

What I mean is, if a box had separate neutral bus and ground bus, would the tester show a good ground, whereas a shared bus would show open ground?

If the shared buses are not the issue, What other ideas do you have which may be causing the open ground reading?

Thank you.

  • 1
    Are the neutral bus bars connected together, and to an earth ground? If not, then that's likely at least part of your problem. – Daniel Griscom Nov 22 '15 at 0:30
  • Oh, and welcome to Stack Exchange. Good first question. – Daniel Griscom Nov 22 '15 at 0:30
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The grounds should be bonded to the neutrals at the main panel. (If it's not, it's a serious problem, call an electrician.) If you are getting good grounds on some of the outlets, it's probably bonded at the main panel.

If the ground isn't spliced right* at a receptacle it will show no-good at that receptacle and at all the receptacles on the same circuit downstream from that receptacle. That would be a possible explanation. It fits with the miswiring by the previous owner. Tracking down the bad ones can be a bear. Still that may be better than tracking down and replacing a damaged wire.

*edit: by "spliced right" I mean all the ground conductors of all the cables and all the ground terminals of the devices are bonded together in the box, and the box itself it's a metal box ...

from electrical-online.com

If there was some creative wiring going on, some wiring can cause the receptacle tester to show a good ground where there isn't. For example jumpering the neutral to the ground terminal on the receptacle (non-code and a very bad idea) would show a good ground on the tester, but there isn't.

If you can double check with a different tester, that might be a good idea, you don't want to chase your tail if the tester is no good.

  • Thank you. I did not notice if the buses were bonded together. For the moment, I'm going to assume they are, since this is the only service panel in the house, and it was installed by an electrician, and the neutral and ground wires both go to both buses. Please explain to me what you mean by "...spliced right at a receptacle..." What does spliced mean, in your context? I believe my tester is good. It is pretty new. Also, it does make different readings. So, on outlets I know to be correct (one's I've wired, or have made right), it reads right. – Kansas Pete Nov 22 '15 at 5:50
  • @Kansas Pete - I think you're probably right, but something to keep in the back of your head. You know the old saw, "When you ASSUME you make an ASS out of U and ME" ? With electricity it is a little worse, when you assume, you get shocked or start a fire. Not saying, just saying :) I'll edit the answer regarding grounds spliced together. – batsplatsterson Nov 22 '15 at 8:43
  • Thanks for your kind and thorough replies. I will look at the buses next time I'm there. I understand "splicing," now. Thank you. Anything I've connected is good. I have found some loose ground wires which caused weird things to happen to a GFI circuit, but once I reconnected the wires better, they're testing good again. – Kansas Pete Nov 22 '15 at 20:01
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If you're unsure or concerned about the grounds, install a ground fault receptacle at the first receptacle in the chain. Inside the box in which the GFI came in , you will find little stickers saying GFI protected. This shall be placed on the receptacles down stream from the GFI. This will meet all code requirements.

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