Jump to content

Welcome to Geeks to Go - Register now for FREE

Geeks To Go is a helpful hub, where thousands of volunteer geeks quickly serve friendly answers and support. Check out the forums and get free advice from the experts. Register now to gain access to all of our features, it's FREE and only takes one minute. Once registered and logged in, you will be able to create topics, post replies to existing threads, give reputation to your fellow members, get your own private messenger, post status updates, manage your profile and so much more.

Create Account How it Works
Photo

Can You Use A UPS In A Home With Wiring Faults?


  • Please log in to reply

#1
superstar

superstar

    Member

  • Member
  • PipPipPip
  • 716 posts
Good afternoon,


I just purchased my very first UPS unit yesterday made by APC.

900VA
540 watts
XS 900 Model

There's a "building wiring fault indicator" light at the back of the unit. In the manual it says:

"If the rear panel building wiring fault indicator light is lit, a potential shock hazard exsists due to one of the following conditions:

- Open or high resistance ground
- Hot or neutral polarites are reversed
- Overloaded neutral circuit

Improper building wiring should be corrected by a qualified electrician. Do not use the Back UPS until the condition that caused the fault is corrected.

Note: Improper building wiring will not prevent the Back UPS from operating, but it will limit it's protection capability."
Well I took first UPS out of the box happy as ever and plugged it in... Next thing I know I look at the back and the darn light is lit! So I called an electrician who did some small work in my home last year installing a couple of standard light bulbs and new outlets in my basement, and asked him what would possibly be the problem in my home. He was brief yet informative and said "well your house was built around the 40's or 50's and I can't really say much more than that, oh and I remember when I was there I found out that your house has NO GROUNDING whatsoever."


So I called APC tech support and they said that based on what the electrician told me that I'm still able to use the unit but I'll only get about 60% protection from it. He also said to turn off my equipment and unplug the unit from the wall whenever there is a storm.

Corporations like to sell stuff so I can't just say I'd rely on what he said to me. He may have tried to convince me because they wouldn't want me to send it back to the store. So that is why I started this thread in order to hear anyone else's expertise on this matter. Just for the record I took the UPS into almost every room in my home and the indicator still lights up. So it can't just be an issue in one room... I'm pretty sure it would probably be lighting up because I have no ground in my home wiring, but I'm no expert so I can't say that would be all. I've been using my pc for 3 years now on a standard $10.00 six plug surge protector bar connected to the same wall outlet I'd like to use the UPS on. I've had no problems with my pc dying or anything like that in 3 years so I'm hoping it would still be useful and safe to use the UPS.

I purchased the UPS because the lights go out in my home sometimes. The power company turns off power to the entire neighborhood every month or so to perform their routine maintenance around dawn, while I still have my pc on!!! So of course the darn power outage is a bother since my pc goes with it. The second reason why I bought it is because sometimes when you turn the tv on, or turn the heating/air conditioner on at home the lights in the house will blink like a snap. I'm just really trying to protect my computer from those two problems and more if possible... I have really expensive and rare pc parts/equipment I need to protect. I thought a UPS would do the job so I hope I'm still able to use it. Anyway here go my questions:


1. I'd like to know what protection I really have and what I don't if I use this UPS even though the indicator states I have a building wiring fault.

2. What should I watch out for if I use this UPS on a building wiring fault? [ie: unplugging the UPS during storms??? etc]

3. Is there a way for me to find out what exactly the problem in my outlets is by myself? [I'm assuming it's just no grounding since the electrician mentioned it]

4. If this unit will offer me no protection at all and the APC tech support rep was lying please tell me so and I'll take this back. I don't see why I'd need this if it's not necessary. Or if it's unsafe to use... Heck I wouldn't want it to damage my equipment.

5. Please share any other info or advice you may have on this matter.




Thanks

OH AND REMEMBER I'M NOT AN EXPERT WHEN IT COMES TO UPS AND ELECTRICAL ISSUES SO PLEASE SIMPLIFY YOUR ANSWERS... :)
  • 0

Advertisements


#2
Neil Jones

Neil Jones

    Member 5k

  • Member
  • PipPipPipPipPipPipPipPip
  • 8,476 posts
Not being funny or anything, but maybe you should sort out the wiring faults before you start adding devices such as UPS devices to the mains. You're only making a rod for your own back otherwise and it could all collapse around your ears on health & safety grounds, in some jurisdictions it's a criminal offence.

Unplugging the UPS kind of defeats the whole point of having a UPS in the first place. It's designed to take over when the mains fails and it runs off internal batteries for a period of time. Therefore it'll need charging. In most cases you'll find they have their own surge protection built-in so it'll be able to weather the majority of surges and smooth them out before reaching the PC.

If the electricity board turns off the power monthly for maintenance (and you can pin this down to specific dates and times) then perhaps the simplest solution is not to use the PC during those times. However your other issues of flicking lights sounds like you have issues that are in need of sorting. I really would find out one way or the other whether your electricity really is grounded or not (I should imagine it is) and sort out the power problems as a matter of priority over the computer because if you have no power, you have no computer.
  • 0

#3
Kemasa

Kemasa

    Nobody

  • Technician
  • 1,575 posts
You do need to fix the wiring problem. It is pretty simple, although you might not want to do it yourself if you are not familiar with what to do. Typically the hot and neutral is swapped or the ground is open. Either is important to get fixed since the ground protects you from shocks and if the lines are swapped, that is also a shock issue.

You can get an AC tester (http://www.tripplite...tatic/ct120.cfm, for example) and it is generally cheap. Harbor Freight sells one for around $4, but I could not find it on their web site. It will tell you want is wrong.

You could make an extension cord which fixes the problem too.

Edited by Kemasa, 17 March 2008 - 07:40 PM.

  • 0

#4
superstar

superstar

    Member

  • Topic Starter
  • Member
  • PipPipPip
  • 716 posts
Well I purchased this outlet tester today at Home Depot:

Posted Image

It's a pretty nifty little gadget if you ask me! I unplugged all appliances and equipment from every outlet in my home, than plugged in the tester into every wall outlet. Here are my results:

Note: Each outlet has two receptacles

Basement:

[Outlet #1 - 1st receptacle > open ground, 2nd receptacle > correct wiring]


[Outlet #2 - 1st receptacle > correct wiring, 2nd receptacle > correct wiring]


[Outlet #3 - 1st receptacle > hot/neu reverse, 2nd receptacle > hot/neu reverse]

First Floor Kitchen:

[Outlet #1 - 1st receptacle > correct wiring, 2nd receptacle > correct wiring]


[Outlet #2 - 1st receptacle > correct wiring, 2nd receptacle > correct wiring]

First Floor Living Room:

[Outlet #1 - 1st receptacle > open ground, 2nd receptacle > open ground]

[Outlet #2 - 1st receptacle > open ground, 2nd receptacle > open ground]

Second Floor Bedroom [Where I'd like to use the UPS]:

[Outlet #1 - 1st receptacle > open ground, 2nd receptacle > open ground]

[Outlet #2 - 1st receptacle > open ground, 2nd receptacle > open ground]


Well as I mentioned before I had a feeling there was no ground in my home, but I was somewhat wrong. It's odd but true that there is ground in every kitchen outlet, and also in my basement at my machine washer outlet. One weird thing was that I found one outlet in the basement that has no ground on one receptacle and yet does have correct wiring on the second which would mean it's grounded. That's weird! Either way the point is the tester shows the outlet where I'd like to plug in my UPS as having "open ground". Geez what am I to do now? Should I still use the UPS or what? The APC tech said I could when I told him earlier that I had no ground where I wanted to use the UPS. I'd like more opinions on this matter.



Thanks

Edited by superstar, 17 March 2008 - 07:55 PM.

  • 0

#5
Kemasa

Kemasa

    Nobody

  • Technician
  • 1,575 posts
Ok, the next thing to try is to see which breaker each outlet is on. Turn off all the breakers and then turn them on one by one and mark each one which breaker it is.

If you are comfortable with dealing with wiring, you can check the outlet in the basement which has ground and the next one which does not. It may be that the ground wire is disconnected or broken. Typically the ground wire (along with all the other wires) go from one outlet to another. So, if is has a problem in one, the rest of the outlets after that will have a problem.

The reversed wiring will also typically be the first one in the change, so you only need to fix one to have all the rest fixed.

Normally the black is the hot, white is the neutral and green is the ground. Red is the hot when it is switched.

You can disconnect the wires from the outlet (turn off the power) then carefully turn on the power and check the power to see where in the chain it is, then turn off the power and reconnect the wires.
  • 0

#6
superstar

superstar

    Member

  • Topic Starter
  • Member
  • PipPipPip
  • 716 posts
@ Kemasa

I still don't see how doing all that would solve my "open ground" problem upstairs. As I mentioned before this house is about 50 years old so there wouldn't be much to do but tear the house down and rebuild again with proper wiring in the entire structure. The "ground" wiring that is found in some spots in the basement and kitchen was probably done by the person who used to live here who's profession was actually... get this... AN ELECTRICIAN! I didn't move in until about 2003 so that's why I think some outlets have correct wiring and some don't. He probably corrected what he used or just what he felt needed to be safe.

Someone else actually told me I could use a very long 3 prong extension cord to one of my grounded outlets but there's a problem with that. See first off I believe your not supposed to use an extension cord on a UPS unit. Secondly The grounded outlets are in my kitchen downstairs and also in my freezing cold/water leaking basement which isn't renovated either so it's not pretty. Even if I did decide to run a extension cord from my kitchen to my living room and put my pc there I wouldn't be able to since theres no room and I have more than one pet and they'll destroy my entire pc and equipment.

Regardless I'd still like to know if I can use my UPS in my bedroom where I'd like to use it even though the outlet tester says my room outlets have "Open Ground" [which to those of you that don't know means that there is a three hole receptacle that has power to it, but no ground wire]. If so what are the benefits I still get from my UPS, and what benefits do I lose from using it like that. Or should I take it back to the store for a refund?

Edited by superstar, 17 March 2008 - 09:12 PM.

  • 0

#7
Kemasa

Kemasa

    Nobody

  • Technician
  • 1,575 posts
If you check one of the outlets which has an open ground and see if there is a ground wire there. If there is, then the wire is broken or disconnected somewhere, which is what I suggested to find out where. The question is whether there was ever a ground wire installed.

You might be able to use something like this to provide a ground:

http://www.4electron...rand-gc5ul.html

But there can be code issues and issues with the pipes which might not provide a good ground.

You can also install an earthing electrode (picture to the right in the link below):

http://en.wikipedia....d_(electricity)

You could also run a ground wire.

I would think that the UPS would work without ground, as that is basically a protection.
  • 0

#8
superstar

superstar

    Member

  • Topic Starter
  • Member
  • PipPipPip
  • 716 posts
Hey thanks Kemasa,

Those are some good ideas but I honestly don't think I'd do any of them. I just want to use this UPS without a ground... Although let's say I did do that cold water pipe trick. Would that only work on a copper pipe or will it work on various materials? The reason I ask is because there's a washroom right behind the room where I want to use the UPS! & well this house is old as heck so I would assume the pipe is copper, but I haven't checked. Would the water pipe have to be actively passing cold water through it to create a ground? Or would this also work when the water is off inside the pipe. [ie: cold water not in use]

I understand that you some of you say I should get my outlet rewired with a ground but I don't think an electrician, would actually come to my home just to create one grounded outlet... Or would they? Canada's electrical codes of conduct are exactly the same as those in the U.S. So green/bare wire means the same thing here and so on.

Someone said above that I should worry about faults/surges. But if this were such a problem why hasn't my cheap $10 six outlet power surge bar fried up or damaged anything in the past 3 years of it's use? I have so much stuff connected to that old surge bar and nothing bad has happened. You see I'm very observational and pay close attention to electrical problems. For example if I hear a storm outside I shut everything off including my computer and than unplug the cheap surge bar from my wall outlet until the storm has passed. Once the storms gone I plug the power bar back in the outlet and turn on all my pc, tv, etc. As you can read I'm very watchful of electrical messes. The only thing I cannot control is power outs. I'm not a fortune teller so I cannot tell when the power will go out in my home or the entire neighborhood. That's the only thing that I cannot control here and now. It's one of the reasons why I purchased this new APC UPS yesterday. And in as a matter of fact I'll be happy if the only protection I get is battery backup protection.

I understand that an evil surge may happen and that lightening may strike or whatnot. But I've been very watchful up until now with my current cheap power bar. Can't I just do the same routine with my new UPS as I'm doing with this old power surge bar? I'll unplug the UPS during storms and such. I don't see why so would be any different on an UPS compared to my old power surge bar. If there is any higher safety issue using the UPS rather than my power surge bar let me know. For example the UPS has a battery and the power surge bar doesn't... If that or any other such reason would cause any danger to me or my equipment please say so. I'm not saying that it's more dangerous to use my UPS because I don't know. I'm just guessing here... If it's the same thing as using my old surge bar than I should have no fear right?

Thanks
  • 0

#9
Kemasa

Kemasa

    Nobody

  • Technician
  • 1,575 posts
The pipe needs to be metal all the way down to the ground and the water instead is not important. It does need to be the cold water pipe, not the hot water pipe, that is critical. If you have a meter (VOM, cheap from Harbor Freight when on sale), you can test the voltage from the hot wire/outlet plug to ground and ensure that you get close to the same as to the neutral connection. This is not 100% as if there is a high resistance it will show full voltage with a meter, but when needed it won't be able to pass current.

An electrician will wire one outlet, although once you get such a person out there the cost to wire the others would mostly likely be low since most of the cost will be getting the person there. If you pay them, I am sure that they would come out an plug in a device for you, which obviously is not worth it, but for money they will do what you want.

One of the main reasons for the ground is if there is a problem in the device, with the case grounded, you should not be able to be shocked from it.

You should also fix the outlets with the swapped wires.
  • 0

#10
superstar

superstar

    Member

  • Topic Starter
  • Member
  • PipPipPip
  • 716 posts

The pipe needs to be metal all the way down to the ground and the water instead is not important. It does need to be the cold water pipe, not the hot water pipe, that is critical. If you have a meter (VOM, cheap from Harbor Freight when on sale), you can test the voltage from the hot wire/outlet plug to ground and ensure that you get close to the same as to the neutral connection. This is not 100% as if there is a high resistance it will show full voltage with a meter, but when needed it won't be able to pass current.

An electrician will wire one outlet, although once you get such a person out there the cost to wire the others would mostly likely be low since most of the cost will be getting the person there. If you pay them, I am sure that they would come out an plug in a device for you, which obviously is not worth it, but for money they will do what you want.

One of the main reasons for the ground is if there is a problem in the device, with the case grounded, you should not be able to be shocked from it.

You should also fix the outlets with the swapped wires.



#1 the first method you said with the water pipe sounds a bit unsafe.

#2 how in the world can the UPS case or my pc case shock me when they're both made of plastic? So is my keyboard.

#3 yes your correct I need to fix the outlet that's in the basement washroom which had this result with the outlet tester:

[Outlet #3 BASEMENT WASHROOM - 1st receptacle > hot/neu reverse, 2nd receptacle > hot/neu reverse]

But what do I do to fix that problem? Any good links to a site that would show me how to do that without killing myself? If you know yourself please just let me know because those outlets are constantly being used. I don't know what kind of harm that can cause to a person but I do know that sometimes when we plug stuff into the basement bathroom outlet the switches click on the breaker panel thing and the lights go out in the basement.



Thanks
  • 0

Advertisements


#11
Kemasa

Kemasa

    Nobody

  • Technician
  • 1,575 posts
1) Using a cold water pipe is common. My cable TV line is grounded using the cold water pipe. The link that I included above is an approved device for grounding using a cold water pipe.

2) While there is some protection if the case is completely plastic, the frame of the UPS is most likely metal. You would have to open it to see where the ground wire is connected. Some devices have only a two wire electrical plug, which are designed and safe to use with just two wires and so those outlets are not an issue with those types of devices.

To fix the problem you need to provide a ground. You can run a ground wire to a known good ground. You can use a device like I mentioned to provide a ground with a cold water pipe. There should be some books on learning to be an electrician, which would include a topic like this. If you don't know what you are doing, then you should call a professional (no guarantee on the safety since not all professionals do a proper job, but they should have the skill and training to do the right thing).

Having the hot an neutral reversed can cause issues with the breakers as you mentioned.

If you only use two wire plugs, then you won't have a problem.
  • 0

#12
superstar

superstar

    Member

  • Topic Starter
  • Member
  • PipPipPip
  • 716 posts
Someone said I can fish a ground wire or hot+neutral+ground up to the wall outlet in my room I want to use. What the heck is fishing a wire?
  • 0

#13
Kemasa

Kemasa

    Nobody

  • Technician
  • 1,575 posts
Fishing a wire is basically using a device which has a metal tape (stonger though) device which you feed through conduit and then pull a wire or wires back. This does not work if romex is used or if there is not enough room, plus you need to make sure that you don't already have such a wire (no point in doing this if there is a wire already).

It can be difficult, depending on the conduit used, or easy.
  • 0

#14
happyrock

happyrock

    Tech Moderator

  • Retired Staff
  • 9,285 posts
this article here seems to indicate you can correct the problem by easily replacing a 2 prong outlet with a new safe GFI.
  • 0

#15
Kemasa

Kemasa

    Nobody

  • Technician
  • 1,575 posts
It is not grounded and the GFI will help to protect people and devices, but I don't think that it meets code to make an extension wire. It is better than just no ground though.
  • 0






Similar Topics

0 user(s) are reading this topic

0 members, 0 guests, 0 anonymous users

As Featured On:

Microsoft Yahoo BBC MSN PC Magazine Washington Post HP