charging a Clarity on an ungrounded 120V outlet?

Discussion in 'Clarity' started by Kieran973, Jun 22, 2018.

To remove this ad click here.

  1. Kieran973

    Kieran973 New Member

    Hi everyone,

    I have a question for the electrical-savvy people on this forum: is it possible (and safe) to charge the Clarity on an ungrounded 120V outlet?

    I live in an old, early 20th century house with a decrepit, detached garage in the driveway. The garage has electricity, with a bunch of working 120V outlets, but some of the wiring seems...un-professional, to put it mildly. I don't own this place, I rent one of the apartments in the house, and my landlord's position is that, while I have permission to do any improvements/upgrades to the electricity in the garage so I can charge a PHEV or EV, I have to pay for 100% of these improvements. So I recently paid an electrician $150 to put a GFCI outlet and plastic weather cover on the 120V outlet that I was planning on using to charge. Range wise, L1 charging would be fine for me since my commute is only 22 miles round trip. I was hoping to avoid spending any more money on electrical upgrades to the garage since I don't own it and since doing so would just mean that I'm subsidizing my landlord's capital improvements to her own property. But I recently tried to charge a 2017 Leaf on the 120V outlet with the brand new GFCI, only to find out that the Leaf wouldn't charge. After running a plug-in diagnostic test on the outlet, I found out it was ungrounded. I asked some of the folks on the My Nissan Leaf forum about this (a very knowledgeable bunch, by the way), and the consensus I got was that the outlet has to be grounded for the Leaf to take a charge. The weird thing is that I plugged a Prius Prime into this exact same outlet a month ago and it charged without any problem whatsoever. But the Leaf is apparently more sensitive to ungrounded outlets than other EVs/PHEVs.

    So this brings me back to my question: would I have the same problem in the Clarity? Would it take a charge on an ungrounded outlet? Is it even safe to do so? And if I have to pay an electrician to ground the outlet, what's a reasonable charge for this service? I realize some people might say, Just upgrade to an L2 charging station, and pay to put down 50A wiring on a dedicated circuit. Others might say, Just forget about driving an EV/PHEV entirely and buy an Insight. Both camps would be right in their own way. But I guess I'm wondering whether it's possible/safe to simply ground the existing 15A wire/120V outlet for less money than going with the dedicated circuit/L2 charger option?

    Any advice would be much appreciated. Thanks.
  2. To remove this ad click here.

  3. insightman

    insightman Well-Known Member Subscriber

    A real electrician installed this ungrounded GFCI socket? Did this electrician not suggest a cheap grounding stake could be pounded into the ground outside the garage and a bare copper wire could be run from the stake to the GFCI socket?
  4. lordsutch

    lordsutch Member

    It's apparently legal (and generally safe) to install a GFCI outlet to provide a 3-prong socket without a grounding wire, as long as the electrician marks it correctly. Per Wikipedia:

    In both Canada and the US older two-wire, ungrounded NEMA 1 receptacles may be replaced with NEMA 5 receptacles protected by a GFCI (integral with the receptacle or with the corresponding circuit breaker) in lieu of rewiring the entire circuit with a grounding conductor. In such cases the receptacles must be labeled "no equipment ground" and "GFCI protected"; GFCI manufacturers typically provide tags for the appropriate installation description.​
  5. insightman

    insightman Well-Known Member Subscriber

    I'm amazed a GFCI can detect a ground fault without a ground reference. I learn something new here every day.
  6. KentuckyKen

    KentuckyKen Well-Known Member

    Despite the Wiki info and whether or not the electrical code allows it in your situation, I have to call this one unsafe and my licensed electrician friend advises against it and said he will not install any ungrounded outlet. There is a good reason why the OEM charger has a 3 prong plug.
    And from the manual p454:
    “Make sure to use a dedicated and properly grounded circuit, that is rated for at least 15 amps. Have an electrician inspect the outlet you are using to see if it meets these criteria.”
    (Emphasis added) It must be grounded.
  7. To remove this ad click here.

  8. Kendalf

    Kendalf Active Member

    My greater concern here, regardless of whether the Clarity will charge with an ungrounded outlet, is that the condition of the internal wiring in that garage may not be able to handle the sustained 12 Amps current drawn by the 120V EVSE. Given that you described the condition of the wiring as "unprofessional", I'd be wondering whether the wiring can safely handle that kind of current, especially over the number of hours for a full recharge.
    jorgie393 and lordsutch like this.
  9. Does the Clarity draw 12 Amps? I was under the impression that it only drew 8.
  10. StanS

    StanS New Member

    My Clarity draws just under 12 Amps on a 120v circuit.
  11. bpratt

    bpratt Active Member

    If you look inside a circuit breaker panel in most homes that have grounded plugs installed, you will find the white wire and the bare wire go to the same grounding block. If you have a grounded plug installed in the garage and if the Clarity 120 volt charger will not work because it tests for a ground, you can solve the problem by running a short wire on the plug from the side the white wire connects to the ground terminal. Probably not a legal solution, but it works.
  12. To remove this ad click here.

  13. KentuckyKen

    KentuckyKen Well-Known Member

    OEM Charger “brick” label says it draws up to 12 Amps. 80% continuous duty rating of a 15 Amp Circuit breaker (or fuse if really old) is 15x.80=12 Amps.

    So it must be on a properly grounded circuit protected by a minimum of a 15 Amp breaker/fuse with at least 14 g wire (12 g if exceptionally long run). And of course all components and connections must be in serviceable condition and meet all local electrical codes.
    Anything less is unsafe, illegal, ill advised, and...well you get the picture.
    Safety first: it’s an expensive car to replace and your life is precious and irreplaceable.
    Last edited: Jun 23, 2018
  14. prestoOne

    prestoOne Member

    A stake pounded into the ground outside and attached to the outlet isn't going to do much at all.
    I would take a GCFI any day.

    A correctly installed GCFI is far safer in almost every circumstance and it doesn't need a ground wire to trip.
    Ask your friend again and mention the GCFI.

    As for the OPs questions. IDK. I can't figure a reason the Leaf wouldn't charge being related to the grounding.
    BUT if that place you are at is as big of a mess as you say then I hope the electrician did a careful inspection of the existing wiring. If it might now be up to snuff I would pay out some money to run a new line from the fuse box. The owner is paying for the electricity, right? Pay for the wire.
  15. KentuckyKen

    KentuckyKen Well-Known Member

    The correct term is GFCI (unless Canada is different) or ground fault circuit interrupter and you are correct up to a point. The operative words are “correctly installed”. Since practically all electrical codes require a GFCI in locations with potential exposure to water such as kitchens, bathrooms, outside, and garages, it was a given that the outlet must be a GFCI.
    But although it will trip without a ground, that may not be “correctly installed” according to the electrical code in the OP’s area. Add to that the potential for liability, effects on sensitive electronics, and charging issues (Honda requires a ground) and installing a non grounded GFCI becomes a practice that is not recommended according to my electrican whom I asked as you requested.
    Here’s a synopsis of why he won’t do it:
    -It creates a liability issue for him if there is a problem later. Especially if it gives an insurance company a reason to deny a claim.
    -It is not up to code for the main area in which he works and he is not going to parse the code for every place he goes.
    -There is an issue with electrical codes as to whether installing a GFCI in an older house with grandfathered in non current code compliant 2 wire/no ground wiring is a repair or a new work that has to meet current codes. He said it’s a gray area for some codes and he isn’t going there.
    So he will not install any kind of outlet that is not grounded; even a GFCI.
    He also said that any product with a 3 prong plug should be plugged into a properly grounded outlet including GFCIs.

    This is from the This Old House website and first gives the “best practice” approach to adding GFCI to older non grounded receptacles if they have a metal box/BX cable that is grounded.

    “Old-fashioned two-prong receptacles connected to two-wire cables don't have the ground wires that protect people and electrical devices in case of a fault. Yet it is possible to retrofit a new three-prong or GFCI receptacle into the same outlet box without any rewiring, as long as the box itself is grounded.” (emphasis added)

    If (and that’s a big if) your electrical codes allows it, you could install a GFCI with out grounding it but note the 2 caveats below:

    “Tip: Even if an outlet box isn't grounded, installing a GFCI in it will still protect you (and your tools and appliances) from ground faults. 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 you to stick a label on the receptacle that reads, "No equipment ground." These labels come in the box with a new GFCI.”

    So the safest way to protect both yourself, your liability, and your EVSE/car electronics is to install a GFCI on a grounded circuit that is in obedience to all parts of your electrical code and to the recommendations of the manufacturer of the EVSE (Honda).
    In the OP’s case that means GFCI and ground.

    Also no one can complain to the manufacturer of their EVSE if it doesn’t work when they fail to follow the mfg’s requirements. Don’t know if the lack of ground is the reason for his Leaf not charging but a fellow EVer told me that his Leaf requires a grounded outlet.
    Sandroad likes this.
  16. prestoOne

    prestoOne Member

    Ken, you don't know anything about it. All you seem to be able to do is copy/paste, be vague and tell fairy tales.
    The guy is hiring an electrician, not doing the work himself.
    Instead of just asking your electrician buddy the right question........just ask the guy the right question if he is your buddy already.
  17. KentuckyKen

    KentuckyKen Well-Known Member

    The copy/ pasting is to avoid fairy tales and to be specific and factual, and not be vague or offer up opinions as facts.
    The OP is asking about grouding and charging problems and his investigation shows his electrician did not ground the GFCI he installed. He wants to know how to fix this so he can safely and sucessfuly charge.

    What is it I not know, what’s vague to you, what is the fairy tale you’re talking about and what else do you want me to ask my electrician?
    Instead of resorting to rather impolite rhetoric, let’s try to help kieren973.
    AnthonyW likes this.
  18. Sandroad

    Sandroad Well-Known Member

    In addition to the helpful info posted by KentuckyKen, here are 2 critical corrections to posts by others.

    First, it is against code and dangerous to connect the white (neutral) wire to the bare/green (ground) wire at any point in the system other than in the main electrical panel. Code requires only one point of neutral-ground bond, no exceptions.

    Second, it is against code to add a ground rod or ground point other than at the main system ground. Single-point ground is a basic tenet of electrical wiring, with very rare exception.

    To the original post question: Even if running new wire, L1 outlets are less expensive than L2 outlets because of the smaller wire, fewer wires, and less expensive breakers and receptacles. I don’t know if the Clarity will charge on an ungrounded outlet, but my opinion is that it’s worth a few hundred dollars to upgrade questionable wiring in a 100 (?) year old decrepit garage to use one that is grounded. At the very least, give the electrician you used a call and as well get 2 other estimates on running a new (12 gauge minimum) wire from the main panel in the house to the new ground fault interrupt outlet you already have. Yes, it’s subsidizing improvements to a rental, but if you plan to live there a while and drive a nice PHEV, go for it!
    Last edited: Jun 23, 2018
    KentuckyKen likes this.
  19. prestoOne

    prestoOne Member

    " It must be grounded." isn't helping him Ken and neither is your guessing.

    You are not helping him. You gave a story about a Leaf which might be helpful but it is an basically a rumor. (fairy tale?)
    You also asked an electrician probably the wrong question. So you electrician friend doesn't do any work on a house that isn't wired with a ground? There are a lot of them that will and do so in code and honestly. (so that info from the electrician asserting that the gfci is not good is a fairy tale?)

    Asserting that he 100% needs a fully grounded outlet. Now if it is against code to not have that single ground (which I think is fairly useless) that would mean rewiring the whole house wouldn't it?
    An electrician can sign off on the work, now I don't know if the OP bothered to provide their guy the full specs or the full story behind this but you giving a flat no when you are nowhere near an expert is wrong.

    Sanroad: what you and I seem to agree on is if the wiring is such a mess running a new wire sounds wise. And the single grounding of an outlet, I don't know the code but to me doing that sounds useless.
    Contacting Honda about the outlet sounds like a good idea to.

    The stuff about neutral being tied to ground is irrelevant here but there are plenty of houses with this and they are within code in most cases.
    Last edited: Jun 23, 2018
  20. megreyhair

    megreyhair Active Member

    The answer to the original question is YES. The charger that came with the car will charge without ground. I just tried it. Both charger and car charger port LED were both green.

    Is is safe? Pretty much. The car charges itself without ground all the time from regen braking, HV charge, etc. So if the car can do it safely, then there is no reason why need a ground to charge the car. In fact, there is no separate ground wire between the 'brick' and the J1772 plug. There is 1 wire that shared both ground and neutral function.

    Now to the heated debate about ground wire and grounding outlet.
    Here is the 2 cents from a master of electrical engineering.

    1. Grounding the outlet protect the person touching the plug, especially outdoors when the plug can subject to moisture. If the charger or plug has a exposed wire or something, and if the there is no grounding, then the person touching it will become the ground and 120V of electricity will flow through that person and get electrocuted. That person will get a big shock but will most likely be ok. (it wakes u up better than a cup of coffee :D) Getting electrocuted in a pool or lake is a different story. Anyway, if there is a ground, then it will simply short out and cause the breaker to trip.

    2. Most houses in the US has the ground and neutral wires tied together in the fuse box. The ground will then be tied to a metal conduit if the feeds are coming underground or tied onto a metal ground rode. So technically you can put a wire to wire the outlet neutral and ground together. BUT since that is only 1 wire, it doesn't buy you the safety of having a separate ground.

    3. There are couple of different ways to make a electrical ground. You can tie a wire to metal pipes that run into the ground, like the water supply pipe, metal conduit that housed the wire to the garage or stake a metal pole , copper preferred, into the ground and connect it to the ground nut on the outlet. You can test if the object is a ground or not by using a voltmeter. Set the meter to AC. Put 1 of the lead into the 'hot' side of the outlet (the right slot of the outlet if your outlet looks like this:)

    I I <-hot

    Touch the other lead on the object you want to test. If the meter reads 110-120 or somewhere close then that will make a good ground, otherwise don't use it as a ground.

    I would recommend getting that outlet grounded just to protect from accidental electrocution. I would also recommend not calling that electrician for any future work if he didn't properly ground the outlet. Charging $150 to simply change the outlet is a bit expensive.
    Kendalf and KentuckyKen like this.
  21. Kieran973

    Kieran973 New Member

    Thanks, everyone, for your responses. I like this forum. People here are knowledgeable and take the time to offer thoughtful advice.

    It sounds like what I need to do is have the outlet grounded AND run a dedicated circuit from the circuit breaker to this outlet. Whether this dedicated circuit is 120V or 240V will depend on the price - if it's not that much more expensive, I might as well upgrade to L2.

    As for criticisms of the me, I hear you. The landlord sent him to me. So if anyone knows of any good electricians in the NYC area who have experience with EVSEs, I'm all ears. Then there's always just paying for some company like Clipper Creek to come out, but I think they only install L2 stations, I don't think they do wiring upgrades/electrical work....
  22. Kendalf

    Kendalf Active Member

    I wonder if he was the electrician that did the rest of the wiring in the garage?

Share This Page