Protecting sensitive devices plugged in an older electrical setup?

Discussion in 'Community Discussion' started by Cubytus, Oct 7, 2013.

  1. Cubytus macrumors 65816

    Mar 2, 2007
    Hello there,

    I received a question from a friend, and found it worthy of interest for the community.

    She is living in a 1950's or early 1960's apartment built when electrical norms where different, and where current only served to turn a few bulbs on. The electrical system has been slightly upgraded in the 80's, pulling a 240V line to power an electric stove and baseboard heaters. Only the 240V tri-phase and 240V monophase are grounded, the other circuits are not. Note that absolutely no law force a landlord to retrofit older systems. Such an operation is only performed when required by the landlord's insurer. As a consequence, most apartments from this era in this city are in the same situation, and moving out probably won't provide a relief. Buying a new apartment is out of question for her at the moment.

    As far as I remember, her apartment contains a washer, a variety of lights and laptops, a desktop computer, an electric stove and baseboard heaters.

    Recently, she reported that she had two hard drives burnt, and a dead LCD screen, a few weeks apart, and asked her dad, electrical engineer, who quickly concluded that the circuit is inadequate in regards to present-day norms.

    As there are no ground points and that electrical modifications cannot be made under the tenant's responsibility under law, she resorted to running a very long cord from the stove 120V output, properly grounded, to the sensitive devices. This is unaesthetic of course, but her dad didn't want to take a legal risk re-cabling proper ground to all plugs. Chances are, the cables inside the walls doesn't have a grounding wire anyway.

    I suggested a spike-and-brownout protector, but these devices rely on a properly functioning ground outlet as well. Are there any other solution she could have to protect her devices?
  2. monokakata macrumors 68000


    May 8, 2008
    Hilo, Hawai'i
    She might try an "on-line" UPS. I don't have one anymore so I can't experiment with it, but remembering back to my old days working out in the field, I do think that I was able to use mine with ungrounded (=old-style) outlets.

    The on-line variety keeps the equipment completely isolated from the AC mains, and that might solve her problem. I just can't guarantee that it's going to work on the style of outlets that she has.

    But I think it would be worth looking into.
  3. lostngone macrumors 65816


    Aug 11, 2003
  4. kggf macrumors newbie

    Aug 29, 2008
    I would probably run a single line from the stoves 240v supply box (Use a separate protected circet) all the way to the computers and electrical devices under the floorboards or along the skirting board. It can be removed once she leaves the place.

    Or one final thing is to invest in a 120v 240v step-up transformer unit to isolate the electrical devices from the mains.
  5. Cubytus thread starter macrumors 65816

    Mar 2, 2007
    Well, it is technically illegal to run anything from the box or behind the outlets when we are not a licensed electrician, the reason why her father refused to do it, although he surely knows how to do it. She may add an on-line UPS on the 120V line from the stove, but that doesn't solve the in-aesthetic part of running a bright cable throughout the apartment.

    I will pass on the idea of an on-line UPS: the SoHo varieties with browout and surge protection, are they usually of the on-line, isolating variety? Does it depend on price? As they have an integrated feature to show wiring faults (which lack of ground is, according to current norms), does it affect their performance?
  6. Mousse macrumors 68000


    Apr 7, 2008
    Flea Bottom, King's Landing
    Any chance of having a fire marshall check out the wiring as a possible fire hazard? I know bad wiring is a major cause of house fires.
  7. Cubytus thread starter macrumors 65816

    Mar 2, 2007
    Thanks, but his advice still can't force a landlord to change its wiring.

Share This Page