Insurance and ungrounded electrical systems

I know that insurance carriers frown upon fuse panels. What about when they replace the fuse panels with new breaker panels, but leave the old, ungrounded branch wiring system in place, and they consider it acceptable?
Does anyone know of any providers that frown on leaving the ungrounded system in place? I see it this way, way too often and am just curious. One would think that this should have to be updated as well, when the panel & service are, for safety purposes, especially with today’s lifestyles and modern electronics, appliances, etc.
Thanks in advance.

It wasn’t a problem for me.

Take a look at what you have plugged in at your own home, and then tell me how much “safer” the home is with grounding-type receptacles.

The majority of what you have plugged in does not require a grounding connection.

…The easiest way to do this task, is to simply search for anything that **is not **cased in plastic!

Good luck. :wink:

O.K. here goes,

3 - Desktop computers
3 - Flat screen monitors for those computers
1 - Ink jet printer
1 - Laser printer
1 - Set of computer aux. computer speakers
2 - Multi-port outlet extensions (for all the office crap and my kids’ gaming/entertainment systems)
1 - HE front load washing machine
1 - Microwave
2 - Refrigerators
1 - Chest freezer in garage
2 - 42" Flat screen TV’s (the 46" is two-pronged)
1 - Treadmill
1 - 4 x 8 kids train set in basement
1 - Master bedroom closet space heater (gets a tad nippy in there)
1 - Master bedroom upright closet steamer for “ironing” clothes (sucker works great. If you don’t have one, I highly recommend)
1 - Upright carpet shampooer (with 4 kids and 2 cats, this is a necessary item:D)
1 - Garbage disposal
1 - Dishwasher
1 - Garage door opener
2 - Sump pumps
1 - Water heater
1 - Smaller flat screen TV (forgot about the boys’ room)
2 - Shop vacs (one I use for sweeping up attic insulation at inspections. BTW, I have 2-prong adapter attached to it:D)
1 - Garage air compressor

Do replacement lights and ceiling fans count?

You’re right though. There is a bunch of double-insulated crap that only has 2 prongs, such as, but not limited to: Coffee & tea makers, 4-slice toaster, Cotton candy maker, George Forman grill, (aw hell, let’s just say all the little plug-in kitchen countertop devices/appliances), hair dryers, electric razor, electric toothbrushes (again, let’s just say all bathroom crap), 3 laptops, DVD/Blu-Ray players, gaming systems, all of my garage/construction tools, phones, multiple plug-in Glade stinky things (again a necessity with kids and 2 cats), lamps, alarm clocks, stereos/Ipod players, a boat-load of charging devices, vacuum cleaner, & a steam mop.

I think that covers most of it. And I do think I’m a fairly average person (my ex-wife may not agree with this, though), with a fairly average family, living in a fairly average house, using fairly average electrical devices. People/lifestyles’/square footage may vary. Not sure what everything I mentioned adds up to as far as importance and cost, but I’m almost certain the latter stuff doesn’t come close (someone else can do that if they want:D).

For those appliances/equipment where a grounding connection is required, replace the non-grounding type receptacle (or the ungrounded, grounding type receptacle) with a GFCI receptacle, or install a GFCI breaker on a multi-outlet circuit.

This will provide protection to personnel (against electrical shock) and to the appliance/equipment.

Adding an EGC to the circuit (if even possible) will only - at best - protect the equipment.

Very True Jeff, I think a lot of us forget that a GFCI doesn’t need a EGC to function properly.

Ahhh, yes, just add GFCI protection and all’s well. A simple (and perhaps “Realtor friendly”) & inexpensive “fix”. Why is it, that in a, let’s say, 60 year old home, everthing else gets updated/replaced/upgraded? Perhaps 3 roofs, attic insulation, galvanized and cast iron plumbing, fuse panels, shag carpet, windows, doors, outlets;-), flooring, toilets, tubs, vanities, countertops, water heaters, furnaces, stoves, fridges, etc. etc. etc. all get done, but then the old, ungrounded wiring gets left behind. Out of sight, out of mind perhaps. Wouldn’t it just be easier just to update the wiring and be done with it? And besides, I certainly don’t want my 2 sump pumps, refrigerators, garage door opener, computer equipment, etc. etc. installed on a GFCI circuit. Below, is a picture of a tag from one of my 3-prong appliances (which I always include in a report when needed). Now the local codes and ordinances or the electrician may just suggest the GFCI route as well, and I always say that GFCI is an option, but I always suggest updating the “entire” system is the best approach, and recommended. I do realize (and always verbally tell clients) that the chances of something “happening” as the result of lack of grounding protection, is “slim”. Kinda like wearing a seat belt in a car or a bicycle helmet. You don’t “need” them when operating them, but if the “need” arises in a “situation”, it’s nice to have that safety feature.

Realtor friendly? It’s perfectly acceptable by NEC standards, what more do you need?

Which is completely unwarranted and cost prohibitive in most circumstance.

Look at the tag in your picture. It states that “it must be replaced in accordance with the NEC and local codes.” Well, the NEC does not require replacement.

Yours is a common misperception, which is usually the result of not fully understanding the function of the egc and/or the operation and function of a GFCI device.

Thanks for your input Jeff on these electrical issues and discussions. They have been very helpful to me and I’m sure others.

Jeff, you’re kind of taking things out of context and getting away from my point. And I do respect your input and you’re take on things, as well, I just don’t necessarily agree and/or have to, just cuz you’re “The Pope”;-).

I know that and mentioned it in my post. I just think it would be more prudent to just update the wiring and be done with it. Simple as that. And again, I don’t want my 3 computers, 2 sumps, 2 fridges, freezer, garage door opener, etc. into a GFCI protected outlet. It’s just asinine, IMO.

They put grounding wires in with the conductors and have 3-pronged outlets today for a reason. An electrician doesn’t go to his local supply store or Home Depot to wire up a new house, and buy rolls of non-grounded romex with a bunch of GFCI’s in lieu of 12-2 WG wire and 3-prong outlets. The same reason a plumber doesn’t buy a bunch of galvanized to plumb the house with. Just not practical and ideal by today’s standards. And a point in my post(s), everything else gets updated, but not the wiring, probably the most widely used system in the home.

I don’t think it’s unwarranted at all. Same if the house is plumbed with galvanized or it has a 30 yr. old furnace. Not, “Oh, just put a piece of PVC in the kitchen sink branch line if it starts slowing up or gets a few pinhole leaks”. I suggest replacing the system and/or entire outdated components, just like every other thing that’s old in a house gets updated (‘cept the wiring;)). It’s so much easier. Costlier? Sure it is. I don’t know what my clients’ can afford or what happens when I send the report. I’m not concerned with their finances, just what’s going on with their house and what’s in it. I just make suggestions and recommendations, that’s all I can do, nothing more, nothing less. I’ve learned through the years, it’s much easier and better in the long run, to just update or replace something and “do it right”, than to “piece” things together or “cross that bridge” when it breaks or malfunctions.

If it just said, “or add GFCI protection”, it’d be so much easier, no?:). It does also state a grounded 3-prong outlet (and yes, I know of the little stickers in the GFCI boxes). And, again, I mentioned this already in my post that the electrician or local codes may suggest the GFCI route. I just don’t agree. And trying to “guess”, where I might be safely plugging in my shop vac or whatever, again, seems asinine, to me. If it were my house or a kid/family member of mine buying a house with an ungrounded/2-prong system, I’d be at the store, loading up with rolls of 12-2 wg and 3-prong outlets (and GFCI’s, where needed;-)). That’s just how I am/feel/roll.

I’m not “misperceiving” anything. I get it. And I do fully understand, but again, I don’t have to agree with it.

Of course you don’t have to agree, and I will always respect your right to have your own opinion, although I’m not sure how you feel I’m taking anything out of context - keeping in mind that the cost of rewiring even a small house could easily exceed $10K.

If you truly understand the function of the egc and how GFCI protection works, then you know that adding the egc to a GFCI protected circuit does not make the system any safer.

The purpose of the egc is to clear a fault in equipment or appliances. The egc is not intended to provide protection to personnel.

The purpose of GFCI devices is to provide protection against electrical shock, however, they can also be used to clear a fault in equipment.

The requirements for three-wire systems were developed before residential GFCI protection had even been conceived. The three-wire system was designed to provide a low resistance path back to the OCPD in order to open and de-energize the circuit. Once the three-wire system was implemented, it became the standard for wiring.

Galvanized piping will ultimately fail, which is reason enough to warrant replacement. A two-wire electrical system will not fail, simply due to the fact that it has no egc.

So who’d be better off if let’s say that fault occurs at a fridge: Subject A touching a fridge “casing” with a 3-prong grounded outlet or Subject B doing the same with an ungrounded 2-prong with 3 prong adapter? (All GFCI’s aside;-))

But a “3-wire” system is simply “better” and today’s standard for a reason. If not, why spend all that extra money for extra copper that’s not needed? Why not just install 2-wire/2-prong systems in newer houses?
Something else too, the sheathing on newer romex is a lot more durable than the older 2 wire stuff. I’ve seen brittle/deteriorated areas numerous times with ungrounded wire, especially in attics with significant climate variances. Another reason why I think it’s more prudent to consider updating it as a whole.

The insurability of a home has everything to do with its propensity for damage to the structure and little or nothing to do with GFCI protection or protection from electrocution.

Even a properly grounded circuit with GFCIs at every receptacle … but with single strand aluminum wiring and/or fuse panels … is a fire issue and, thus, an insurance issue that can affect rates or availability depending upon the insurer.

Home inspectors simply observe and report what it there … not its insurability.

Without a doubt, the grounded (three-wire) system would be a “safer” circuit than the ungrounded (two-wire) system.

All circuits today are wired to clear a high-current fault - i.e. trip the breaker. The three-wire system is designed with this in mind, therefore, the standard is that all circuits are now wired with the egc.

GFCI’s are an added layer of protection in modern systems, but they act as the “first layer” of protection in older systems.

EGC’s are not “functionally” necessary on every circuit, just as GFCI’s are not “functionally” necessary. GFCI function can take the place of the egc, but the egc can not take the place of a GFCI, except in the event of a high-current fault.

Well, that’s an entirely different subject altogether…

I see this more times than I care too. If it’s maked, which is extremely rare, I don’t write it up. If it’s not marked I do.


The issue for me is very simple the insulation covering the old non-grounded wire is old, the heat of use for 50 or so years makes insulation brittle unsafe! I would not cheat the system by adding GFI’s that is a classic flipper doing just enough to get by.
Do it right, pull all new Romex, ground the panel issue over!!

Twice in the last week, I had clients tell me at the beginning of the inspection, that their insurance companies wanted to know if the house had live K&T installed. One did, one didn’t.

Since when did homebuyers start talking to insurance companies before their inspections?