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No electric ground for computer

Last response: in Components
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June 22, 2011 10:37:58 AM

I'm not sure this is the appropriate place or even the appropriate forum, but tom's is the only community I trust in computer hardware issues.

I'm moving to a house with no ground connections in the electric circuit and am concerned about my desktop and laptop computers.
I have read a sh** load of stuff on the topic but its hard to find concrete solid answers, plus people tend to deviate to very technical aspects of electricity that are not very relevant, even though I am looking for technical explanations of why something does/doesn't work, just not too technical.

I read somewhere that ground offers two types of protection, protection against too much power (like lightning strike in the city and other events) and something else called "static charges and electrical signal noise" (or something).

So to keep it simple, I humbly ask of any of you with knowledge on the subject to tell me which of the following solutions would/wouldn't work and why.
(some I read on the web, some I came up with):


(1) installing a GFCI / RCD (know in the US as Ground Fault Circuit Interrupters and in Europe as Residual-Current Devices)

(2) replacing one of the sockets with a modern socket with ground connection and connect the ground of the socket to...

(2.1) the kitchen sink's tap/faucet (or to an actual water pipe if I find one).
(2.2) a resistor (i never seen one but I used to hear about them in class)
(2.3) a fuse (might be stupid)
(2.4) some specific material that absorbs current (no idea what).
(2.5) a big metallic pipe/nail stucked in the ground (like this: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:HomeEarthRodAustralia...)
(2.6) something else. What?

(3) installing a Circuit breaker (don't really know what they do)

(4) installing a Surge protector (don't really know how they work)

(5) installing a Earth Leakage Circuit Breaker (ELCB) (don't really know what they do)

(6) other devices / solutions

(7) combinations of the above

(note) I also know a UPS (uninterrupted power supply) would help but they are very expensive and I think they would just take the damage instead of the computer and, therefor there would still be something to replace in a electrical problem event.

Thx in advance
June 22, 2011 12:02:31 PM

Would get the mains supply into the house itself grounded, although that would no doubt be expensive.
Here in the UK you wouldn't be allowed to even build a house unless it was grounded.

Assuming your mains is already grounded and the internal cables have a ground connection then I would replace the sockets with ones that allow you to attach a ground cable (green/yellow in the UK). That should be the easiest way.
Im no electrician though, best asking one if you can.
June 22, 2011 12:14:05 PM

Not being familiar with your countries electrical codes, it's hard to give advice. Most all of what you posted should be done by a professional who can give you advice and follow your local laws on how to affect the repairs safely. A ground done properly will quell noise generated by other devices operating on the same electrical leg. Grounds are also/and mainly for carrying surface voltages away, such as a hot wire popping loose and touching the junction box or appliance it's mounted in(assuming the appliance or junction box is properly grounded). Grounding a single plug, assuming you had or replaced the receptacle with the correct one, would only affect that single plug. The best protection and the preferred way to do it, is to repair the wiring and use a UPS. Good luck. :) 
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June 22, 2011 12:20:59 PM

plasmastorm said:
Would get the mains supply into the house itself grounded, although that would no doubt be expensive.
Here in the UK you wouldn't be allowed to even build a house unless it was grounded.

Assuming your mains is already grounded and the internal cables have a ground connection then I would replace the sockets with ones that allow you to attach a ground cable (green/yellow in the UK). That should be the easiest way.
Im no electrician though, best asking one if you can.
thx for replying. Obviously the hole electric system is missing ground, if it were just a socket problem it would be no big deal =)
Paying to upgrade the electrical system to have ground is too expensive and asking the land lord is also out of the question since the house is already a bargain. I need a solution like what I described above.
June 22, 2011 12:34:28 PM

thermalsig said:
Not being familiar with your countries electrical codes, it's hard to give advice. Most all of what you posted should be done by a professional who can give you advice and follow your local laws on how to affect the repairs safely. A ground done properly will quell noise generated by other devices operating on the same electrical leg. Grounds are also/and mainly for carrying surface voltages away, such as a hot wire popping loose and touching the junction box or appliance it's mounted in(assuming the appliance or junction box is properly grounded). Grounding a single plug, assuming you had or replaced the receptacle with the correct one, would only affect that single plug. The best protection and the preferred way to do it, is to repair the wiring and use a UPS. Good luck. :) 
srry, i was typing when you posted.
I don't see how I can break laws doing this stuff. The house is old, thats why it doesn't have ground, nowdays it's illegal to build houses without ground.
I doubt a common electrician knows anything about this stuff, and I have no problems doing the stuff I described. It's really a matter of knowing what works and what doesn't. Also I know all I described is only for one plug.
If it helps anyone I live in Portugal.
Thank you
June 22, 2011 12:59:30 PM

No offense meant, raiden-kun. I was just pointing out that some places can be very touchy about how wiring is done to meet code. I deal with and install electrical wiring every day. If you are comfortable doing the wiring and have access (it seams you do), then earth grounding each plug is the best way to go. Attaching to the plumbing, if its copper or a conductive equivalent, is acceptable in lieu of any other way to properly earth ground, assuming the piping run you attach to runs underground at some point. There are other things to take into account also, such as making sure you run the proper size of wiring to handle the loads possibly generated. Mainly, what you'll be doing is primarily protecting yourself and equipment first, and then providing a "noise filter"(example-electrical motors tend to put noise on the lines, which can affect some sound cards). Nothing but a UPS can ultimately help protect against dirty voltage or dips and spikes in voltage, which come from your electrical company and are outside anyone's control. I know my UPS has saved me in a few situations, and I mainly use mine to condition the voltage going into my PCs. Good luck and hopefully someone who is familiar with your counties electrical system will come along soon and provide some more clarity. :) 
June 22, 2011 1:51:26 PM

thermalsig said:
No offense meant, raiden-kun. I was just pointing out that some places can be very touchy about how wiring is done to meet code.
Re-reading my post I can see how you may have thought I wasn't cool with what you said but that wasn't the tone intended I assure you =)
thermalsig said:
Attaching to the plumbing, if its copper or a conductive equivalent, is acceptable in lieu of any other way to properly earth ground, assuming the piping run you attach to runs underground at some point.
Great! So can I confirm number 2.2 ?

thermalsig said:
There are other things to take into account also, such as making sure you run the proper size of wiring to handle the loads possibly generated. Mainly, what you'll be doing is primarily protecting yourself and equipment first, and then providing a "noise filter"
Didn't really get this part. Are you talking about the copper wire thickness? or length? Is that relevant?

thermalsig said:
Nothing but a UPS can ultimately help protect against dirty voltage or dips and spikes in voltage, which come from your electrical company and are outside anyone's control. I know my UPS has saved me in a few situations, and I mainly use mine to condition the voltage going into my PCs. Good luck and hopefully someone who is familiar with your counties electrical system will come along soon and provide some more clarity. :) 
Yes, I belive you, but, like I said, I can't afford one at the moment, maybe in the future.
Thx
June 22, 2011 2:57:19 PM

raiden-kun said:
Didn't really get this part. Are you talking about the copper wire thickness? or length? Is that relevant?


You are confusing two completely different types of ground. Earthing ground and safety (equipment) ground.

Most of your questions are about safety ground - a third wire in receptacles. You have two choices. Either all three wires must route back to the main power panel (breaker box). Or three prong appliances receptacles are powered by two wire circuits protected by a GFCI. This alternative solution means each GFCIed receptacle also has a label that reads "No Equipment Ground".

You cannot and do not want to safety ground anything to any water pipe, sink, fuse, etc. Safety ground must be connected by a dedicated conductor (wire or conduit) only to a bus bar inside that breaker box.

Water pipes must have one connection to safety ground and that breaker box. A bare copper wire from a breaker box's bus bar to the water pipe within five feet of where that water pipe enters the building. This safety ground so that you are not electrically shocked while in the tub or shower.

All safety grounds must connect to the breaker box. Receptacle safety grounds cannot, for example, connect to a nearby earth ground rod. The primary purpose of safety ground is to put all appliance chassis at the same potential. And to trip a circuit breaker if a fault occurs. It also serves other purposes. But first and foremost are those two safety functions also defined by codes.

That was safety ground. Earth ground is electrically different. From the breaker box to an earthing electrode must be another bare copper quarter inch wire. This wire serves many other human safety and other functions. Safety grounds were only required after 1963(?). Earth grounds have always existed. Originally this earthing was from the breaker box to a cold water pipe. On older homes, this ground is often missing or loose. Today, this earth ground must be to a dedicated earth electrode located close to the breaker box. Water pipe earthing is no longer sufficient since 1990.

Legacy means a water pipe earth ground is code acceptable. But informed homeowners are advised to install a dedicated earth ground (ie ten foot long, copper clad, earth ground rods) anyway for a long list of technical reasons.

GFCIs have long been required (since the 1970s) for kitchen, bathrooms, and later for locations adjacent to water. This disconnects electricity that would otherwise travel through a human body.

AFCIs have been required on all bedroom circuits installed after 2002. This disconnects electricity should a compromised power cord arc; averts a house fire. Again, legacy. Not required on circuits installed before 2002.

All other incoming utilities also must connect to earth ground. Which means properly installed cable, telephone, exterior TV antenna, and satellite dish enter at the service entrance; near the breaker box. Other solutions can kludge a similar solution. But code is quite clear about this required earthing for other incoming utility lines. Other codes require an earthed surge protector (installed for free) on telephone lines.

Above is about meeting code that is only concerned with human safety. Earth ground, safety ground, GFCI, and AFCI are for human safety. Other functions are not required for code because they are not safety issues.

All appliances contain serious surge protection. You concern is a rare transient, maybe once every seven years, that may overwhelm that protection. Only an earthed 'whole house' type protector in the breaker box or behind the electric meter AND connected as short as possible (ie 'less than 10 feet') to earth ground makes that rare transient irrelevant. There is no better solution. And that is also the least expensive solution. It is not required for human safety; therefore not required by codes.

Anything that protects by taking damage did zero protection. Sacrificing itself to save anything is a scam used to promote grossly undersized and more expensive products.

UPS serves one purpose. To provide temporary and 'dirty' power during a blackout. Many will promote a UPS for other solutions - that do not even exist in the UPS manufacturer's spec sheets. For example, any noise filtering done by a UPS is inferior to the first filter already inside every appliance. Electronics then converts that 'rumored to be cleaner' power from a UPS into some the 'dirtiest' power (ie well over 300 volt radio waves). Then converts 'dirtiest' power down to rock solid and cleanest DC voltages. Any 'cleaning' a UPS might do is completely undone inside electronics because the best 'electricity cleaner' must already exist inside each electronics for so many technical reasons.

1) Safety ground: a third prong on any power plug must connect directly to the breaker box via a three wire circuit. Or powered by two wire circuits using a GFCI. Those are your only two choices.
2) Earth ground: the breaker box and all other incoming utilities must connect to a common earth ground electrode such as ten foot copper clad ground rods. This was always required for all homes.
3) Surge protection means one ‘whole house’ protector located so that it dedicated wire makes a shortest (ie ‘less than 10 foot’) connection to that common (single point) earth ground.
4) Other devices such as a UPS are for convenience. Do not do nor claim to do human safety or appliance safety functions.

And finally, as a renter, you cannot install any of this. Your landlord or his agent (electrician) must do or permit the work to be done. Should you fear a human safety issue, the local municipality safety or building code officer can be consulted.
!