Grounded Outlets: Too Much to Expect in the DR?

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Lucas61

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Jun 13, 2014
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Hello All,

For those of us who live here, we can rattle off a plethora of electrical problems. For me, the problem is that all of the outlets in my apartment are ungrounded ("open ground"). I have confirmed this with a circuit tester. In addition, my surge suppressors that are diagnostic match the results of my circuit tester.

The problem with not having ground is that surge suppressors and voltage regulars are unable to protect expensive equipment such as computers. Not knowing that much about matters electrical, logic tells me that the possibilities are: 1. not wired for ground, 2. wired for ground but mis-wired, 3. wired for ground but not connected. If number one, likely no solution. If number two or three the solution should be simple.

I cannot do this job myself. What is the equivalent of finding a licensed electrician and how do I go about this? I am living in (sector) San Carlos, Sto. Dom.

The landlord is willing to pay the cost of labor and deduct it from rent--after a fight.

Am I expecting too much that the status quo of outlets in the D.R. is that they are grounded?
 

windeguy

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Jul 10, 2004
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It costs money for a grounding rod and that third wire. Not going to be easy to add that ground wire in a cement block building. Not impossible, but it could be really difficult.
 

bigbird

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Where you located?

Newer building or older building?

What type of circuit tester did you use and how did you make the test?
 

Cdn_Gringo

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There is no common ground supplied by the utility. Does your apartment have its own electrical meter that is used to assess your monthly usage? If so, is it located in your apt.? 

If the answer to any of these questions is no, you're pretty much snookered. The ground wire for the outlets needs to originate at the circuit breaker panel and branch out to each outlet and switch in the apartment. From the circuit breaker panel, that end is connected to a ground wire and then a grounding rod sunk deep into the ground away from the building. 

If you have grounding wires in the outlets that just aren't connected to a ground on the other end, it may be possible to do what you want. In all fairness, a ground for the building should have been put in place during construction. You may just need to connect your apt. to it. If you have no existing ground wires in the outlets, it will be cheaper to move to another apartment.

I spent 6 weeks rewiring my first house here. 51 switches and outlets out of 52 in total were wired incorrectly. Ground wires in place, but no ground for the house. Most ground wires were not green but a rainbow of colored wires. Some outlets that had ground wires did not make it all the way back to the panel terminating in a wall when the installer ran out of wire. It was a mess. 

Electrical wiring here can be a nightmare. Correcting it in a house is bad enough but in an apartment, I'd suggest you seriously consider relocating. Be sure to take your tester with you when looking for a new apt. 
 

Lucas61

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I am in San Carlos, Calle Tomas de la Concha, just above La Mella and a few blocks from La Sirena on Duarte. It is an old building. The circuit tester is a generic one that any hardware store caries. It has three possible light combinations with a chart. The chart indicates the possibility of "normal" and five possible errors, one being open ground.

There's always the possibility of a false positive, so I also checked the same outlets with a surge suppressor that indicates ground. Both results matched: no ground ("open ground")
 

Lucas61

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Your reply is an example of the great reservoir of expertise at dr1forums. Wow! Thanks for enlarging my conception. Now I see that ground is not limited to a few outlet wires. It is a "system" which begins with a conducting rod in the ground through the breaker box and then distributed to all outlets. You say there is no common ground provided by the utility. Our meter is outside and serves the building. You've probably answered my question: Ground in the DR is too much to ask for. It would be the exception rather than the rule, whereas in the U.S. it would be the rule rather than the exception. Nevertheless, I'll have an electrician take a look to be sure. And not have high expectations for my next move . . .

Oh, and I see the meaning of whether my building is old or new. Since it is old, grounding probably was not installed during construction.

I'd like to ask you about a related matter. We have three outlets that no longer work, meaning, power is on and off and unpredictable. One makes a sizzling sound when connecting an item. As a consequence we have two long extensions running across la sala to provide power in the room where the sockets are not working probably. The is not a ground problem but "something else." Any ideas? I'm assuming that a digital multimeter would have to be used to test breaker box connections. Can you give some insight? Much appreciated.
 

windeguy

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I did like the comment: "It may be cheaper to move to another apartment". True.
 

Cdn_Gringo

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I'd like to ask you about a related matter. We have three outlets that no longer work, meaning, power is on and off and unpredictable. One makes a sizzling sound when connecting an item. As a consequence we have two long extensions running across la sala to provide power in the room where the sockets are not working probably. The is not a ground problem but "something else." Any ideas?

Keep in mind without looking at the outlets and running a few tests, I'm just guessing... 

1) The outlet fixture needs to be replaced. 
2) The screws on the fixture at the wire connection need to be tightened.
3) The wire insulation at or near the fixture is missing and the electricity is arcing.

It is always a good idea to turn the electricity off before working on outlets and especially light bulbs. Often the polarity is reversed and the parts that are exposed and supposed to be neutral and actually energized. One needs to be careful especially if using a metal ladder. In this country a voltage tester can save your life. Until you can verify there is no power where you are working, you have to assume there is. 

Remove the plastic cover plate and look for soot or blackening in the electrical box or on the fixture. If that looks clean, then chances are #1. When changing the fixture, take the opportunity to correct the polarity of the connections if necessary. 

Without a ground, be careful. Obviously your surge suppressors and UPS units are useless. Appliances with motors such as refrigerators and air conditioners can give you a nasty shock if you touch a metal part while they are in operation. Stereos and TV's with their metal back covers and cable connection terminals are also an area of concern. 

Extension cords can be used as a short term option until the outlet is repaired, depending on whats plugged into an extension cord. Every so often, feel the temperature at the end of the extension cord that plugs into the appliance or power bar - if hot to the touch you need a larger gauge extension cord. 

Your outlet tester with the light combinations - I have one and here in the DR have seen light combinations that are not listed on the list of error conditions which should not be possible. I am convinced everyone is walking around with frizzy hair not because of the humidity, but because of the electrical connections in this country. 

Light bulbs here can kill. Most will just turn the switch off before changing a light bulb. Often the switch is wired incorrectly. Instead of the switch interrupting power to the light fixture, the switch interrupts the neutral. This means that full power is still being delivered to the light fixture even when the light bulb is off. Rather than delivering power to the copper square at the bottom of the screw-in receptacle, power is actually being delivered to the threads of the receptacle. If you touch these with your finger or if there is an arch when you remove or replace the bulb itself, with no ground, chances are that juice is going to go through you as it has no where else to go. 

A working ground is as fundamental safety feature of any electrical system. Many hi-tech gadgets require a ground to work properly. Most appliances are engineered with the assumption that a ground will be available. Many appliance now expect the polarity supplied by the outlet to correspond to the prongs on the plug. Some gadgets don't work well if the polarity is reversed - especially motors. Eg. hairdryers, electric razors, fans etc.  

Good luck. 
 

zoomzx11

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Never saw a "licensed electrician" in the DR but if you go to any colmado almost every hanger on is a hobbiest electrician who is expert in wiring electrical theft. Working to code not so much. Need to be careful who you hire here for electrical repair.
 

spmc

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Line to neutral supression will protect your equipment from a transient. 
 

beeza

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Nov 2, 2006
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As far as I'm aware there is no code for electrical installations and no such thing as a licensed electrician, well I've never heard of one or seen one.

When houses are built they go to the hardware store and buy the wire that they have regardless of color.  If you're lucky they will have at least used different color wires on each circuit to distinguish between live, neutral and ground.

Many properties are supplied with 220v which consist of two 110v phases and a neutral which is in fact grounded at the street transformer.

If your outlets do not have three wires, but are only connected to live and neutral, you could be in for a real world of pain if you want to thread through an additional wire through each conduit.

My advice would be to use a jumper wire at the outlet and connect the neutral to the ground connector.  Then run a copper rod into the ground and connect it to the neutral point at your distribution box.  Not a very orthodox approach, but at least you can ensure that your neutral will not float above ground potential minimizing the risk of shocks if you touch an appliance.  And secondly, a decent surge protector will work as it will now sense a ground line.
 

bigbird

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......................My advice would be to use a jumper wire at the outlet and connect the neutral to the ground connector.  Then run a copper rod into the ground and connect it to the neutral point at your distribution box.  Not a very orthodox approach, but at least you can ensure that your neutral will not float above ground potential minimizing the risk of shocks if you touch an appliance.  And secondly, a decent surge protector will work as it will now sense a ground line.

Certainly not the "right" way to do it but it is a fix that will work. Although I would not suggest having this done by Pedro the handyman.
 

bigbird

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Certainly not the "right" way to do it but it is a fix that will work. Although I would not suggest having this done by Pedro the handyman.

After a few moments of thought, OP you are up the creek without a paddle. On a single family dwelling there are ways to do a "fix" but in an apartment building I don't think so.
 

bob saunders

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"Licensed Electrician"...well......they exist here?

My entire house in Jarabacoa is grounded and wired correctly, with 220 for ac...etc. Wiring done by Electrical engineer, hired by the architect/builder. They did a ****ty job on cabinets and plumbing but the electrical is done correctly. I am sure with diligence you can find someone to deal correctly with your situation.
 

bigbird

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My entire house in Jarabacoa is grounded and wired correctly, with 220 for ac...etc. Wiring done by Electrical engineer, hired by the architect/builder. They did a ****ty job on cabinets and plumbing but the electrical is done correctly. I am sure with diligence you can find someone to deal correctly with your situation.

I agree to a certain point. I have seen some quality electrical work in the DR and I have seen some (a lot) that makes me puke. My opinion is the OP is renting in an apartment building and not so easy to correct the disaster of a wiring problem he has. First off I truly doubt the owner would spend what it would take to actually get the electrical wiring in tip top shape. One thing to do it right on a new installation and a completely different animal to rip it out and do it over.
 

bigbird

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Only when they visit or retire here from other countries. I actually have one here as a tenant right now who is from the US.

I often wonder where they get the qualified craftsmen who work on the major projects going on in the DR. The Metro, the malls, the big hotels?
 

TropicalPaul

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There are a few really good electricians in the Colonial Zone, which is close to you. I own a hotel and we use a guy who mainly does commercial work and does a lot of other hotels. He is on call 24/7 and we have had experiences of him coming out at 3am for a problem. He isn't all that cheap - he charges by the job and it's always around RD$2000 for a few hours' work, but he is good - what he fixes generally stays fixed. PM me if you need his number. He doesn't speak English, so you will need a Spanish-speaker to liaise with him.
 
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