Upgraded 220 panel with 110 receptacles?

Inspected a turn of the century home with a panel upgrade 200 amp service. The wiring was not upgraded and was still 110 two pronged receptacles. Some three pronged receptacles have been added, but were not grounded.

GFCI’s were added, but did not function. I reported these facts and recommended a tradesman review for wiring upgrades and GFCI’s for all wet areas.

Fire Hazard? Recommendations?

Teri Horton
Griffinspect Home Inspections

Thethree prong outlets needs to be labeled that they are not grounded.
GFCIs will not trip with a tester if they are not grounded. They will still trip without a ground, make sure they trip manually though. It is legal in my area.

The house is wired with many 2-prong ungrounded receptacles. While common years ago and still acceptable today, the lack of a grounding conductor will limit the use of certain appliances such as refrigerators, washing machines, computers, etc. that require a ground. Dedicated circuits may have to be run to properly and safely use such appliances. You should consult with a licensed electrician about the limitations of this older wiring system.

IDENTIFY(numbers-L) outlets were the 3-prong type and nearly all were ungrounded. Although a ground isn’t required of 2-prong outlets, if the receptacle is 3 prong and ungrounded it gives a false sense of safety. Grounding of all 3-prong outlets, reverting back to 2-prong outlets, or protecting them with ground fault circuit interrupters (GFCIs) is recommended for safety reasons.

At the time the home was upgraded to 200 amp service, it was required by the National Electric Code and the National Fire Protection Agency that the entire electrical system be upgraded to meet the requirements of the code at that time. Apparently, this did not happen.

I would try to date the service panel to see which NEC was in effect and write up as a defect everything that does not comply with that code. I would also recommend a permit search and recommend that a city inspection be conducted and the necessary fines (if any) be paid by the seller before the house is sold.

James B,

Could you please provide documentation that either the NEC or NFPA would require all those upgrades due to a service change?

I see all the time the city inspector okaying a new electrical panel install in my area and does not require the two wire system to be upgraded to a three wire system. Sad but true.

It would be more of a fire hazard not to upgrade to a new panel. A new panel has no effect on older wire.

Breakers can be expected to go bad with age, wire does not.

I often find old wiring larger than new construction. Copper was cheaper in the past.

Old service did not have a many circuits because fewer appliances were available. Central A/C was not always there.

The capacity increase of the main service panel is not to push more electricity down a wire, but to add more circuits in the house.

David is correct. Panel sizing has absolutely nothing to do with grounded receptacles. Two prong receptacles may indeed be grounded. The third prong is not an indicator of system ground, which is what we are really speaking of. The extension of the system ground is a subset of the distributioin cable. A third conductor on a 2-wire circuit is typically dedicated for ground. This may be in the form of a bare wire, or in the case of an isolated ground, be insulated. Armor-sheathed cable uses the metallic jacket as a grounding path.

The true purpose of the third prong on a 3-prong receptacle is to EXTEND the system ground to an appliance or device which may call for it. That is its purpose in life, and it depends on the system, itself, being grounded to do its job.

Many older homes are equipped with 2-conductor armor sheathed distribution cables, terminated at 2-prong receptacles. So long as a proper ground path is provided at the main and serving panels, the associated receptacles will also be grounded.

Let’s not confuse grounded receptacles from grounding receptacles. The theory of which I speak is how 2 to 3-prong converter plugs work.

As to a need to upgrade internal wiring to current code requirements when performing a service upgrade, I must admit that I have never heard of this requirement.

See Annex G, 80.9.

It is at the inspector’s (AHJ) discretion.

If he observes that an attempt has been made to upgrade (GFCIs, three prong outlets, etc), he can enforce a proper upgrade consistent with the existing code…as well as enforce their removal and a return to the antiquated system.

His call.

One more point…According to a study published by ASHI from Lutton Electronics, Lighting Controls Assoc, and the Copper Development Association…Bare copper, copper plated, and copper-clad aluminum wiring has a life span of 100 years (See ASHI Reporter, September 2009, Page 7). This “turn of the century home”, in the judgment of an AHJ, could require an upgrade…especially if there is evidence of moisture intrusion and/or corrosion. In this case, it is even less likely that an AHJ or a prudent home inspector would require or suggest a return to the antiquated system.

I am looking at the service increase, the GFCI’s and the three-prong breakers as a cut-rate attempt at upgrading the system. The attempt to upgrade should be supported and carried through to its fruition, in my opinion, and that is what I would put in my report.

Annex G. Administration and enforcement

Annex G is not part of the requirements of this NFPA document and is included for informational purposes only. This annex is informative unless specifically adopted by the local jurisdiction adopting the NEC.

If you read 80.9© additions alterations or repairs. Additions alteration or repairs to any building structure or premises shall conform to that required of a new building without requiring the existing building to comply with all of the requirements of this code. Additions, alterations, installation or repair shall not cause existing structure to become unsafe or to adversely affect the performance of the building as determined by the AHJ. Electrical wiring added to existing service feeder or branch circuit shut that resulted in installation that violates the provisions of the carried force at the time of the additions were made.

80.9(B) existing installations. Existing electrical installations that do not comply with the provisions of this code shall be permitted to be continued in use Leslie authority having jurisdiction determines that the lack of conformity with this code presents an imminent danger to occupants. Where changes are required for correction of hazard a reasonable amount of time shall be given for compliance depending on degree of the degree of the hazard.

IMO to require a homeowner to potentially to spend many thousands of dollars to bring older house into compliance with the standards due to service change could result in more of a hazard by allowing older and perhaps outdated systems remain service to avoid having to upgrade the house. This could also lead to unpermitted work being performed to remain under the radar of the upgrade requirement needed by upgrading the service.

Along with the cost it would also be the issue of having to upgrade to today’s circuits, receptacle spacing and numerous issues that did not exist when the house was constructed.

While I would love to see this happen from a business standpoint I think it would be very hard for a local jurisdiction to impose a financial hardship like the adoption of 80.9 could lead to.

A good example of this would be local jurisdictions not requiring the use of AFCI breakers on a panel changeout is done. There can also be existing conditions which will not allow older circuits to meet today’s standards also.

Let me throw this in.
Old cloth wrapped wiring does have it problems. I see many old buildings with upgraded panels and a “large junction box” where old and new copper wire is connected. Regardless if upgrading panels requires upgrading wiring in the rest of the house, here are a few things I see on a regular basis with “old wiring”.
Colors are no longer visible on the old wiring nor is the jacket 100 percent free from deterioration. Hot / Neutral reversed. I have had old cloth wrapped wiring jackets disintegrate in my hand. People attempt to connect ceiling fans only to add to arching concerns in the ceiling jbox. What is the AWG for the old stuff? 14 20 or larger?? What about connections via old boxes and corrosion? Conduit EMT is used around here so with that , I hope that metal to metal “bond” is still present but not always verifiable. at the condo unit or upper floor in the building…

Take a look at this. Old wiring and “new panel” in this house.

Is this cool… Or should the H.O have insisted on an upgrade?:wink:

Any idea what this is???

In our area (Chicago, and around) when a main panel is replaced, the local codes REQUIRE that ALL downstream wiring, conduit and devices also be changed to comply with current codes.

Good idea, im my opinion. Keeps the house safe and ensures the latest electrical safety upgrades, like grounded receptacles, GFCI, AFCI, etc.

Hope this helps;

I realize that Chicago differs from the rest of the world ;), but even K&T is a “compliant” system, and is addressed in Article 398 of the NEC.

This may have been unintentional but to replace a conduit system would require the wall finishes to be removed. Why would the conduit need to be replaced? Is it failing behind the walls? Would the rulemakers really mean to remove a good conduit just to install a new conduit? Where is someone supposed to live while the demo goes on and the new system is installed?

I had heard Chicago had some quirks but this seems to take it to a whole nother level.