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Safe to use ungrounded outlet w/ comp?


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I just moved to Berkeley! The weather is wonderful, but the home I'm in is about a century old, and the outlets are not grounded. Is it safe to use my computer, with an adapter?


I know that there are personal safety issues - if the case isn't grounded and the wrong wire gets crossed, things could go poorly. But if I'm careful, and if the power supply is very steady, with few spikes, theoretically I should be fine. That said, what is the likelihood of damaging my equipment by using an ungrounded port (with an adapter)?


I want to think it's fine, but my gut feeling is telling me no, no no!

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I guess I know the answer, I just don't want to pay an electrician. I want even less to risk my expensive equipment.


On a related topic, would it be feasible to build a device that mimics the function of the ground wire, to a limited extent? For instance, a basic circuit with some sort of a resistor .. perhaps even a regular light bulb? That would take care of the small surges that are probably the most common.

Naturally, a large surge could be too much energy for the bulb, and there might be unpleasant consequences.

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For reference for anyone who is reading this and is a little unclear on what is what:

Three-pronged outlets are grounded. The third prong, the round one, is the "ground," and a typical ground cable connects to a metal pole in the ground or metal water pipes that go underground. The idea of the ground is that, if a surge occurs, the extra current can be sent into the ground, to protect a person or equipment.

Note: one of the two flat pins is called a common, ground, or neutral, but it is not really a grounded outlet. Rather, it is just the end of the circuit into which electrons flow after going through the device.


A surge protector does basically nothing without a ground.


A GFI will protect a person, but will do nothing at all for equipment. A GFI, or Ground-Fault-Interrupter, will shut down a current if there is a large difference in the current going in and the current going out. However, the numerous small changes in current that will not trigger a GFI will run down a computer, as that extra current has no ground to go into.


My idea here is to take that extra current, which is relatively small, and use it to light a bulb or something. This "artificial" ground will give the current a place to go (as with a real "ground" wire), but will not work for very large currents. I'm tempted to do this as an experiment, but I suspect that if it would work well, there would be devices for sale that would do it. That, or it's illegal, because in the case of a lightning strike that bulb could explode due to a massive amount of current. Perhaps.


I'm tempted to just buy a 10 foot copper pole, drive it into the ground, and make a real ground. Then the trouble is getting that ground into the sockets in the house ... ugh.


Thank you all for your input! I'll let you know how it all goes ... if I don't post here again, I'd seriously consider *not* trying any of the ideas that I've posted about, as I may be toast! Hee hee hee.

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Have you pulled apart the outlet yet?? Does any other place in the house have a three pronged outlet? Often on the older places the wiring is there just not connected correctly. I would take a look and see if it has been done already but they didn't want to change all of the outlets. If there is any major appliance like a dishwasher, or washing machine inthe house the place is probably already grounded. You just have to tap into it.

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