I have an older house that does not have grounded outlets. Previously, I have used 2-prong to 3-prong adapters to plug in my equipment (which remove the grounding ability). I understand that this can be dangerous, and surge suppressors will not function for large surges.

I have checked to see if the outlet plate screw is grounded (it is not) as well as searching for a grounding cable already installed (none there). This is a truly ungrounded outlet.

I would like to have a method of protecting my equipment that does not require a ground. For example, a surge suppressor that does not shunt excess voltage to ground, and instead turns off the circuit entirely in the event of a surge (using a fuse or a breaker, I assume) would be optimal. Do these exist, or is there a better option?

Please note that I do not feel comfortable running ground wire, and I do not have the funds to hire an electrician to rewire my house.

Also note that a GFCI will not be acceptable. I need an equipment ground, or something that protects equipment on 2 prong outlets.

EDIT: I did some searching and I found this. Would the "built-in circuit breaker" protect against surges and the like?


2 Answers 2


You should ABSOLUTELY install GFCI protection. This can be done at the electric box by replacing the normal circuit breaker with a GFCI breaker or at the outlet using a GFCI outlet. Whatever else you do is up to you, but this is the bare minimum for safety. Ungrounded outlets without GFCI are now considered unsafe and substandard.

If you are a renter, you can probably make your landlord pay for it.

The primary purpose of GFCI is to open the circuit in the event of a ground fault current. It is very sensitive, and a small ground fault current will cause it to trip very quickly. It can probably protect equipment in some scenarios, but more importantly it protects you from injury, and protects your landlord (if applicable) from getting sued in the event of an electrical fault causing injury.


Would the "built-in circuit breaker" protect against surges and the like?

Generally, fuses and circuit breakers operate quickly enough to prevent a defective piece of equipment causing a fire. But they don't prevent someone from getting shocked if there is a short in the equipment between the hot wire and the case.

A GFCI can do this --- it will detect that current from the hot wire is not returning through the neutral (because it has been grounded through the user) and cut off the circuit, usually before the user is seriously injured.

If you really can't use a GFCI, then you could find a way to actually ground your equipment. For example, a 10 or 12-guage wire run from the equipment case to a ground rod driven into the earth. Or operate your equipment from an isolation transformer, so that a user can't complete a circuit between the equipment and earth ground.

  • \$\begingroup\$ Just to clarify: Using a power strip like I linked can protect computers and the like, but cannot protect people from electric shock. If I wanted to protect people, than I would need to use a GFCI or ground the equipment itself. Correct? If so, I think I will go with the breaker and look into a GFCI. \$\endgroup\$
    – Aaa
    Apr 13, 2015 at 1:07

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