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The danger of bootlegging a receptacle

by Lauterborn Electric on May 7th, 2012

Many older homes with outdated wiring have two prong or ungrounded devices. The fact that there is no ground wire present prevents you from installing a grounded receptacle for safety reasons.  Bootlegging a receptacle (attaching a wire from the neutral to the green ground screw of a receptacle) is a common mistake many unqualified electricians make.  The practice of bootlegging a receptacle to provide a false grounded reading can lead to a potential hazard of having unwanted energized equipment causing severe shock.  The neutral (white wire) is a current carrying conductor that provides the path for the current to return to its source. The ground wire (typically bare or green) that connects to the green screw is a non current carrying conductor. It is only meant to carry current in the event of an electrical fault. Under normal everyday conditions the ground wire does nothing. It is there for safety reasons only.  When you examine a three prong receptacle you notice that the green screw (ground) and the neutral screws are not connected.  We typically see bootlegging of devices when an older home is for sale. As stated above, bootlegging provides a false good ground reading for a device.  Replacing an ungrounded receptacle with a GFCI is also an option, but an ungrounded GFCI can’t safeguard sensitive electronics such as a computer or phone from the interference caused by stray currents. The National Electrical Code requires this replacement to be identified at the device.

For all of your electrical needs contact your licensed electrical contractor Lauterborn Electric.

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