Building an electronics workbench with no grounded outlets.

Thread Starter

trinitrotoluene

Joined Nov 2, 2016
13
I live in an older, American home. The house has some grounded outlets in the living room and den areas because of a remodel (I verified this with my multimeter) but I have to work in a finished basement with no such protections. I can't work in the den area out of consideration for others.

So far, I think I've skated by on the ambient humidity to dissipate static. But after zapping a chip, I now tire of this situation and seek to find a suitable earth ground for equipment, etc. I can't afford to have an electrician ground my outlets. Recommendations on the net for a cheap fix is putting in a GFCI, which for my purposes is like skydiving with a belt and suspenders but no chute.

I do have exposed copper piping running through parts of the basement, but I've seen corners of the net dismiss using it without giving a reason. The other alternative I'm considering is taking a length of copper pipe outside the basement window and driving it into the earth, then running a wire into the basement to serve as a dedicated ground.

Thoughts on any part of this?
 

BR-549

Joined Sep 22, 2013
4,938
How far away is the power panel? See if a ground has been installed. There should be one there. Sometimes multiple grounds can be good....sometimes not. It will depend on the soil. It will be hard to tell without seeing your layout. Is there a window close by....for external ground rod?

The water pipe might provide an excellent ground..........i said might.

I have lived in many houses that did not have grounds. I always used water pipe or ground rods for my radio equipment.

And I have heard not to use copper braid.......use a heavy copper conductor.

Do you have some grand kids or nephews that like to pull wire? You should have grounded outlets.
 

dl324

Joined Mar 30, 2015
9,151
I do have exposed copper piping running through parts of the basement, but I've seen corners of the net dismiss using it without giving a reason.
Water pipes are no longer a dependable ground because CPVC and PEX are probably code in all regions of the US now.

Do yourself a favor and install two grounding rods and use them to get a good ground. It would be best to do this by the breaker panel and run your ground from there.
 

AlbertHall

Joined Jun 4, 2014
8,544
Having a ground connection (water pipe, rod outside a window, etc) to which the electrical equipment is not connected could be hazardous in the case of short inside the equipment.
 

drc_567

Joined Dec 29, 2008
738


Braided copper tape makes a reliable ground conductor. The trick is to make good connections at the ends. Automotive screw clamps seem to work well enough, but you have to check them occasionally. Oxidation and corrosion can also be a problem.
 

crutschow

Joined Mar 14, 2008
23,531
If it's an older house, then the water pipe in the basement should be a sufficient ground.
You can check for continuity between the main's neutral and the pipe (check for voltage first :eek:).

And a GFCI is also good for safety at your bench.
 

BR-549

Joined Sep 22, 2013
4,938
Pardon me......I wasn't aware of that about water pipes. I have used water pipes for years, without any problems.

Maybe my water is more conductive than yours......ha ha. I wonder if connecting to a metal fixture on a plastic system, would ground thru the water. A fresh water pipe is usually full.

My crystal radios and my ham gear always seem to like the water pipe more than a ground rod.

Wasn't aware of the ground rod requirement either.

Damn......and if your in US. you probably have more regulations than Max.

Don't listen to me......you'll end up in court.

Edit.....I have read several studies.......where braid is ok for normal grounds........but degrades at RF......and is terrible for lightening protection. But is ok for cars and constant movement situations.
Do Not use to ground a mast.
 

drc_567

Joined Dec 29, 2008
738
Braided copper works at lower frequencies. ... Maybe not for frequencies like VHF or higher.

The thing about lightening is that any static charge due to cloud motion must have a path to ground. After lightning strikes, there is not much that is effective, in a practical sense.
... On one occasion, I observed a lightning strike evaporate a metal sphere at the top of a metal flagpole. The pole was mounted to the side of a brick building ... a non-conductive object, by the way. The wire cable at the base of the pole, between the pole and ground had been broken. Nothing was left of the metal globe.
 

MaxHeadRoom

Joined Jul 18, 2013
19,194
There are several methods of grounding used world wide, a definitive book is the one by Eustace Soares used by NEC/CEC and others.
For e.g. in the UK for many years and still today is the T-T system whereby the service company will ground the neutral at the transformer but not supply a ground with the AC service, it is up to the customer to supply a ground that is Not connected to the neutral at the panel.
For many years it was allowable to use the metallic water pipe as earth, but with the advent of plastic pipes etc, a main RCD or GFI with ground rods had to be included.
Max.
 
Last edited:

AlbertHall

Joined Jun 4, 2014
8,544
There are several methods of grounding used world wide, a definitive book is the one by Eustace Soares used by NEC/CEC and others.
For e.g. in the UK for many years and still today is the T-T system whereby the service company will ground the neutral at the transformer but not supply a ground with the AC service, it is up to the customer to supply a ground that is Not connected to the neutral at the panel.
For many years it was allowable to use the metallic water pipe as earth, but with the advent of plastic pipes etc, a main RCD or GFI with ground rods had to be included.
Max.
FYI My earth here in the UK is part of the supply cable separate from neutral.
 

MaxHeadRoom

Joined Jul 18, 2013
19,194
FYI My earth here in the UK is part of the supply cable separate from neutral.
I still have a Industrial Electricians license for UK , during my time in this occupation many eons ago I ran into it several times where the T-T was insisted on.
Where the service company did happen to supply a earth, we were not allowed to use it.

Per

The disadvantage with the N.A. version is if the neutral opens up the earth carries the current.
Max.
 
Last edited:

#12

Joined Nov 30, 2010
18,160
Having a ground connection (water pipe, rod outside a window, etc) to which the electrical equipment is not connected could be hazardous in the case of short inside the equipment.
This really doesn't make sense to me. Having a ground rod which is not connected to anything could be hazardous?:confused:
So any piece of buried metal which you don't know about could be a hazard?
What are you talking about?
FYI My earth here in the UK is part of the supply cable separate from neutral.
In the U.S. electricians call that, "bond". Yes, we know about that.
I live in an older, American home.
If it's old enough to have 2 wire recepticals, it's probably old enough to have a metal water system.
Check to be sure. Your answer might be right next to your problem.;)
 

AlbertHall

Joined Jun 4, 2014
8,544
This really doesn't make sense to me. Having a ground rod which is not connected to anything could be hazardous?:confused:
So any piece of buried metal which you don't know about could be a hazard?
What are you talking about?
If there is a short in a piece of equipment such that its case becomes live then you are at greater risk from that if your other hand is touching something earthed to that ground rod. You would have to earth everything to it. I have no idea how legal that is anywhere.
 

#12

Joined Nov 30, 2010
18,160
If there is a short in a piece of equipment such that its case becomes live then you are at greater risk from that if your other hand is touching something earthed to that ground rod. You would have to earth everything to it. I have no idea how legal that is anywhere.
I see. The confusion was in the idea that the ground rod is NOT connected to anything. The danger arises when it IS connected to something, and that something is, "you".
 

AlbertHall

Joined Jun 4, 2014
8,544
I still have a Industrial Electricians license for UK , during my time in this occupation many eons ago I ran into it several times where the T-T was insisted on.
Where the service company did happen to supply a earth, we were not allowed to use it.
Interesting video. So my system is type TN-S but it does not arrive as an underground lead covered cable, but as three separate wires on poles.
 

djsfantasi

Joined Apr 11, 2010
5,704
I was doing some work in a very old house (ca. 1600's with many remodels). I was in the basement, which had fieldstone walls and a dirt floor. holding a metal heating pipe, when I lost my balance and the other hand grabbed a metal-sheathed electrical cable. It was like BX cable with only two conductors. Surprise! The outside was hot, electrically. I thought I was going to die, but fortunately was able to force my hand to release.
 

Reloadron

Joined Jan 15, 2015
4,591
I live in an older, American home. The house has some grounded outlets in the living room and den areas because of a remodel (I verified this with my multimeter) but I have to work in a finished basement with no such protections. I can't work in the den area out of consideration for others.

So far, I think I've skated by on the ambient humidity to dissipate static. But after zapping a chip, I now tire of this situation and seek to find a suitable earth ground for equipment, etc. I can't afford to have an electrician ground my outlets. Recommendations on the net for a cheap fix is putting in a GFCI, which for my purposes is like skydiving with a belt and suspenders but no chute.

I do have exposed copper piping running through parts of the basement, but I've seen corners of the net dismiss using it without giving a reason. The other alternative I'm considering is taking a length of copper pipe outside the basement window and driving it into the earth, then running a wire into the basement to serve as a dedicated ground.

Thoughts on any part of this?
So your objective here is what? Do you plan on putting in an ESD workstation with a mat and wrist strap or is your concern a ground for safety purposes? Just for simplicity you could go to Lowes, Home Depot or any home improvement store and buy a few copper plated grounding rods and drive them down at least 6 feet apart. That would be a good start. As was mentioned where power enters the residence and you have your breaker panel or fuse box the entry service should have a ground available. Also, as was mentioned, if this is an older residence your water pipes, especially the entry pipe should be metallic and serve as a ground. Most of this comes down to if you want a workbench with grounded outlets in accordance with NEC (and local codes may apply) or if your concern is eliminating static with ESD concerns. Finally Grounding and Bonding National Electrical Code 250 is a pretty good read on the subject and well illustrated.

Ron
 

Thread Starter

trinitrotoluene

Joined Nov 2, 2016
13
If it's old enough to have 2 wire recepticals, it's probably old enough to have a metal water system.
Check to be sure. Your answer might be right next to your problem.
First off, thanks to everyone who stopped in to give advice. I ended up getting extremely busy and haven't had time to read any of the replies until just now.

I do know for a fact that the pipes here (on this particular side) of the house are all metal (I can see where they lead, too). There is a window right outside either area that I would consider putting the workbench. and the soil is nice and damp in this area. The basement area is where the main electrical breaker box is, and in a house this old, with numerous surprises left by the previous owners which I find every single time I work on a project... I've been hesitant to open up the screws on the breaker box. I'm considering running a ground braid out the window, and connecting that to a common ground for the workbench, and putting outlets into the workbench itself to work from, and then connecting the live and neutral of the now grounded workbench outlets to a two wire plug and putting that in one of the available wall sockets.
 

dl324

Joined Mar 30, 2015
9,151
I'm considering running a ground braid out the window, and connecting that to a common ground for the workbench, and putting outlets into the workbench itself to work from, and then connecting the live and neutral of the now grounded workbench outlets to a two wire plug and putting that in one of the available wall sockets.
As a homeowner, you can make modifications that don't comply with building codes; but you bear liability for anything that doesn't pass code. AFAIK, electrical code in my area requires outlet grounding be made only at the power panel.

If you choose to use continuous metal pipes for a ground connection, you need to be aware of any future modifications that can remove that ground. When I had some galvanized pipe replaced years ago, the plumbers replaced it with CPVC. At that point, any pipes after the CPVC would no longer provide a good earth ground.
 
Top