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ungrounded electrical outlets Help!?
Old 5th May 2006
  #1
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ungrounded electrical outlets Help!?

So, I rented a place to do some writing /production work for a few months and voila, only grounded outlet is in the damn bathroom> The owner informed me that I can just run a ground wire down to the water pipe under the house and it will be fine. I have no problem doing this, but does anyone here know enough about electricity to know if this will work? Will it be ****ty and noisy? He says there is a ground spike somewhere but that the pipe works just as well due to it's being copper and going into the ground as well...

Are my recordings here going to be crap? Also, I already signed the lease and I dont want to spend any large amount of money b/c I'd rather that go to acoustic treatment... :( Will the pipe work?
Old 5th May 2006
  #2
Lives for gear
Dude, get that bum of a landlord to GROUND THOSE OUTLETS!!!

I can't imagine it's legal having them ungrounded like that...I don't know if you know this, but these outlets go ahead and use YOU as the grounding wire when you touch something connected to them.

This is a safety issue more than anything, and it's inexcusable to have ungrounded outlets in this day and age.
Old 5th May 2006
  #3


Cold water pipe is better than nothing.

Make sure to practice good star-grounding and telescoping techniques on your gear and you should be fine.




-tINY

Old 5th May 2006
  #4
Lives for gear
 

Put in your own ground spike. Electrical ground is usually contaminated and responsible for clicks and spikes and hum and crap. A pure, dedicated earth solves a lot of audio and video problems. Make sure the earth is moist - keep it watered if necessary.
Old 5th May 2006
  #5
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All the gear will be in one room. He recently installed a new breaker box, and I'm going to go ahead and run a whole new set of hq wiring from the breaker to the room w/ my recording gear. This way I can put it on a slightly larger dedicated switch and it won't pop if I turn on a bunch of crap. I will probably run everything through some sort of power conditioning (most likely a large amp computer backup supply)

The place is an old house, SICK location panoramic ocean view. If anyone finds that in LA county (south bay area) this is illegal for a landlord, lemme know. mind you there is a gfci grounded outlet in the bathroom.
Old 5th May 2006
  #6
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PLEASE dont ground to the water pipe. i use to install water meters and before i was warned lets say when i took out a meter it was like that song. you light up my life
Old 5th May 2006
  #7
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it's one of those houses with the 3 ft crawlspace underneath, i would install the ground spike if I knew half a ****, he doesn't want to pay for it so I'm right now just trying to find the cheapest way to get my recordings in this place to be clean. :D
Old 5th May 2006
  #8
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The National Electric Code allows multiple ground "spikes", etc. to be installed within one structure, BUT they MUST all be connected back to the main ground node in the building. This would typically be at the main circuit breaker for the structure. I forget the required wire size to tie the "extra" ground points back to the main node, but #6 or #8 copper sticks in my mind.

The idea is that ALL of the grounded points are all tied together at the same potential. Dirt is a relatively poor conductor of electricity, so an isolated ground "spike" on a separate part of the building could be at a wildly different potential compared to the rest of the structure.

I would NOT trust grabbing a ground off a random piece of water pipe under the house. Even it's copper at that exact point, can you guarantee it's 100% copper throughout the structure, without some piece of galvanized (or worse, PVC) in the line somewhere?

Bri
Old 5th May 2006
  #9
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thanks for the help, i'm in quite a quandry here
Old 5th May 2006
  #10
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brianroth's Avatar
 

zk, without seeing the installation, all I can offer is "shoot from the hip" suggestions.

When I begin work with a "new" room, I try to suss out the entire electrical distro system, especially if there are any sorts of noise/buzz problems, or "shocking" incidents.

I am constantly amazed at the MANY boo-boos/Code violations that I encounter, even if the system was new/installed by a licensed electrician.

It's not Rocket Science, but apparently far too many "electricians" don't even understand the basics.

Bottom Line:

Within a given structure, there is to be one, and only one, "main ground node" (for lack of a better name).

At that "node" (typically at the main circuit breaker panel, AKA the "service entrance"), all of the branch circuit neutral (white) wires, and all of the branch circuit grounding wires (ie, from the third pin on the receptacles...bare or green insulated) all join together along with the neutral lead from the power company AND the local "house ground"...be it a spike into the dirt, or more typically, onto the cold water piping.

If a separate "spike" is used at the service entrance, it also has to be jumpered into any cold-water metallic plumbing as well.

IOW, within the structure, ALL grounding lines ALL come together at one point, and that also includes the neutrals, both internally as well as from the power company.

I may be in error on this extra point, BUT I recall that metal natural gas line (for the water heater, etc) also has to be bonded to that main node as well.

The Code is all about safety, and hence it may NOT be perfect for noise issues, but Code still has to be observed to avoid any liability/insurance issues.

In a recent "survey" of a relatively new power distro at a studio in my area, I found more than a few serious Code violations, in spite of the fact that it was installed by a licensed electrican.

Bri
Old 5th May 2006
  #11
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hmmmnn .... curious... my background as tech is more about dc than ac... but as i remember it the neutrall is at ground....no? the green wire is a safety... and should go back to the box princpally to avoid dc potential between the two grounds...
Old 5th May 2006
  #12
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this is all scaring me lol... i dont know if I can install a spike or any of that crap... he has already grounded the ONE grounded outlet in the house to the water pipes (which are new copper variety). Will I be able to run my gear (headache free) if I just ground with 12 guage wire to the pipe from my main outlet all my daw will be plugged into?
Old 5th May 2006
  #13
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Zwinter's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by brianroth
The National Electric Code allows multiple ground "spikes", etc. to be installed within one structure, BUT they MUST all be connected back to the main ground node in the building. This would typically be at the main circuit breaker for the structure. I forget the required wire size to tie the "extra" ground points back to the main node, but #6 or #8 copper sticks in my mind.

The idea is that ALL of the grounded points are all tied together at the same potential. Dirt is a relatively poor conductor of electricity, so an isolated ground "spike" on a separate part of the building could be at a wildly different potential compared to the rest of the structure.

I would NOT trust grabbing a ground off a random piece of water pipe under the house. Even it's copper at that exact point, can you guarantee it's 100% copper throughout the structure, without some piece of galvanized (or worse, PVC) in the line somewhere?

Bri
This is a great suggestion...er, warning. Improperly grounded outlets can lead to you or someone else getting hurt. In fact, maybe you should tell the landlord this. Sometimes warning people this could lead to a lawsuit will get them to do something about it. This work should be done by an electrician.
Old 5th May 2006
  #14
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^ i think if i say to him : " hey, just so you know, I have NO electrical expertise but I'm going to be under the house f*cking with thick guage wiring connecting it to stuff. If you want to hire an electrician, I won't do it, but I rented your house solely for the purpose of using my equipment that requires grounded power... so. If I die, remember that you and only you had the power to prevent my unfortunate demise"

lol.
Old 5th May 2006
  #15
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Sensater's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by zkaudio
this is all scaring me lol... i dont know if I can install a spike or any of that crap... he has already grounded the ONE grounded outlet in the house to the water pipes (which are new copper variety). Will I be able to run my gear (headache free) if I just ground with 12 guage wire to the pipe from my main outlet all my daw will be plugged into?
ZK-
FWIW: I rent an apt in a very old house and I have nothing but ungrounded outlets as well. I ran ground wires from the receptacles to a copper water pipe that goes into the ground.....I confirmed this in the crawl space. I have no audio problems, and my sound is very clean, but I am running a modest setup......DAW on a PC, Hafler amp, D/A, A/D, and at times other stuff like a 1/4 inch reel to reel, dat machine, etc. My PC is on a UPS, and I plugged the Hafler into a Monster power strip surge protector. I've heard several people say that plugging an amp into a UPS can restrict the dynamics of the amp....I dunno, this is probably controversial, but it works for me.

I too wonder about the safety of my ground setup. I have a friend who used to wire mineshafts for electricity, and he said grounding to a copper water pipe would be fine. But, I still wonder....in the event of a problem, is the electricity sure to go to earth through the pipe? Or could this create a danger for people using the water at the time....hmm. A definitive answer would be helpful.

-S
Old 5th May 2006
  #16
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nosebleedaudio's Avatar
 

Get an electrician if you have to, make it safe and clean..
Old 5th May 2006
  #17
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Zwinter's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Sensater
ZK-
I too wonder about the safety of my ground setup. I have a friend who used to wire mineshafts for electricity, and he said grounding to a copper water pipe would be fine. -S
The US Bureau of Labor Statistics lists mining as one of the most dangerous jobs in the US. So maybe doing what miners do isn't a good idea. It had more fatalities in 2004 than agriculture, forestry, fishing and hunting (combined). I figure it's better to be safe than sorry.
Old 5th May 2006
  #18
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Trancetones's Avatar
 

I specifically took my grounds off the box ground and to a cold water pipe and have much cleaner signal now. I use star grounding off that pipe.
Old 5th May 2006
  #19
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Trancetones's Avatar
 

I specifically took my outlets off the box ground and to a cold water pipe and have much cleaner signal now. I use star grounding off that pipe.
Old 5th May 2006
  #20
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lol sweet!... i think someone above said to use both though.
Old 5th May 2006
  #21
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Sensater's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Zwinter
The US Bureau of Labor Statistics lists mining as one of the most dangerous jobs in the US. So maybe doing what miners do isn't a good idea. It had more fatalities in 2004 than agriculture, forestry, fishing and hunting (combined). I figure it's better to be safe than sorry.

Zach,
Well, there certainly have been a lot of mining accidents in the news lately. My friend was certified to wire mine shafts with live electrical lines (was he an electrician? I dunno, seems like it, I'll ask next time I see him). This is very specialized work, safely installing live wires into shafts that are often only a few feet high and have more than a little bit of water in them. Doing this safely requires a lot of knowledge and skill. He did this for nearly a decade, never had a problem, and his work always got highest marks from the mining inspectors. So he obviously has a lot of expertise. Based on what he tells me, I think I'm fine. Am I willing to think there's more to the issue? Hell yes. I posted my experience here hoping to get some input from other professionals with direct experience on this issue. ZK, please share any info you gather on this subject as you pursue this ok?

Cheers,
Steve
Old 5th May 2006
  #22
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No Prob... are there any special types of measurement devices or maybe multimeters that will help me assess the quality of the ground once I install it?
Old 5th May 2006
  #23
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macr0w's Avatar
 

A cold water pipe is not a good ground. And is not code. How close is your equipment from the panel? Get your self a roll of some 10x2 or 12x2 romex and run your own dedicated circuit for your gear. All you need is wire, romex straps, romex connectors, a quad box, and a face plate. heh
Old 5th May 2006
  #24
Gear Addict
 

there are a TON of open spaces on the brand new (200 amp) breaker... I can easily run myself a dedicated line, but where would I ground to? Am I to understand that there IS a ground spike no matter whether there are grounded outlets in teh house or not?
Old 5th May 2006
  #25
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macr0w's Avatar
 

There is a ground bus in the panel that is tied to the main earth ground. Just tie your ground to it.
Old 5th May 2006
  #26
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max cooper's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by zkaudio

Are my recordings here going to be crap?
I'm wistfully thinking that if the only thing required to make "non-crap" recordings was proper grounding, we'd be having a lot more fun today!

Anyway, couldn't resist.

But I think it's a great idea to get a qualified electrician in there. Shouldn't be a very complicated gig, and therefore shouldn't cost much.

I tend to pay for stuff like that when I rent because I want it done right. Whether you own or not, you live there, and for me that's enough.

Good luck with it.
Old 5th May 2006
  #27
Gear Addict
 

I just got back from home depot, they had wire that was made to shield interference, it had 3 cables in it (hot neut grnd i assume)... seems it would be easy for me to run this to the box and put all my gear on one breaker. I assume I would probabl need conduit though...?
Old 5th May 2006
  #28
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ok went to lowes to see if they had anythign different and the guy there laughed and told me to have fun killing myself. I think I'm just going to pay an electrician... I can probably get this done well for under 1k right? I've always had new houses so this ungrounded **** is all new to me. (ps I'm not really living there so i dont care if only one or two of the outlets are grounded)
Old 6th May 2006
  #29
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Sensater's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by zkaudio
ok went to lowes to see if they had anythign different and the guy there laughed and told me to have fun killing myself. I think I'm just going to pay an electrician... I can probably get this done well for under 1k right? I've always had new houses so this ungrounded **** is all new to me. (ps I'm not really living there so i dont care if only one or two of the outlets are grounded)
Tapping into a breaker box makes me nervous, and I don't know if I'd attempt that myself. Or maybe I would, if I could figure out how to cut power to the breaker box. I would be extremely surprised if it cost more than a few hundred dollars to get a pro to do it, but what the hell do I know. A friend of mine got quite a bit of work done on her house recently for not much more than $1500, which included 2 new breaker boxes. On her bill it seemed like there was quite a mark-up on the hardware (wire, boxes, etc) so perhaps you can save some $$ by purchasing what you can yourself. Good luck...if you get a pro in, ask him about grounding to copper h20 pipes. I wouldn't be surprised if he said it wasn't up to code, but I would be if he said it was very unsafe.
-Steve
Old 6th May 2006
  #30
Quote:
Originally Posted by zkaudio
I just got back from home depot, they had wire that was made to shield interference, it had 3 cables in it (hot neut grnd i assume)... seems it would be easy for me to run this to the box and put all my gear on one breaker. I assume I would probabl need conduit though...?

Man I am not poking fun at you.... if you are asking the question above you need to get someone else in there. I know a thing or three about electrical work and I still don't want to touch anything that might kill me quick with a shock or kill me slow with smoke from a fire.

Oh and I don't know the building codes in LA but I do know that they are some of the most strict in the nation (at least that is what I have been told). I really can't imagine that the landlord is able to rent the place without a grounded electrical system.

If you don't care about pissing him off by put it on his checking account I would call the housing authority.

If you want to pay for his work then I would hire someone.

If you were smart and have the ability to do so I would move, if the wiring is this bad in one part of the building I doubt it is much better any place else. Also what else has he let slip?
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