A false ground or bootleg ground involves using a jumper wire to connect the ground screw and the neutral screw on a receptacle. This is done to trick the hand held testers most inspectors use to check for open grounds.
This is a common trick used by misinformed do-it-yourselfers and some clueless handy men. The reason it is done is to disguise an ungrounded two wire electrical circuit and make it appear to be a grounded circuit.
The problem is the receptacle now appears to be safely grounded and it is not. An unsuspecting home owner that plugs in a power tool, kitchen appliance or any other electrical device with a three prong plug is now exposed to the possibility of a deadly electrical shock.
The third wire that would normally protect the unsuspecting user is now part of the electrical circuit and a short may not be detected until the user is shocked. A false ground or bootleg ground is a definite safety issue.
|GFCI with improper jumper applied|
A false ground or bootleg ground is dangerous
Even more dangerous is using a false grounds or bootleg ground on a ground fault circuit interrupter (GFCI) receptacle. The National Electrical Code (NEC) allows existing two wire electrical circuits to use GFCI receptacles and GFCI circuit breakers to protect older wiring.
The only requirement is that they be marked as “GFCI protected non- grounded”, or similar wording. Every GFCI receptacle and breaker comes with a number of these reprinted messages. This advises the user that although the circuit is GFCI protected and safe for use around wet areas, it is not grounded.
Grounding is important for some electronic equipment. You should check with a qualified electrician for advice on how to provide a ground for computers and other electronic equipment. A missing ground wire or false ground may also cause problems with surge protectors because they use the ground wire to drain static electricity to protect electronic circuits.
A GFCI receptacle will indicate an open ground when tested and will not trip using the standard hand held tester. For the same reasons as above many times a false ground is used to trick the GFCI into testing as grounded.
This is totally unnecessary since the GFCI checks the circuit 30 to 40 times a second for any difference in current flow. The ground wire is not an integral part of the GFCI and serves a completely different purpose.
Using jumpers does not provide a ground
Using jumpers to fool the tester is not safe, unnecessary, does not work and may open both the owner of the property and the person who made the ”repair” subject to civil and maybe even criminal charges.
The proper repair for existing two wire ungrounded circuits is;
- Use a two prong receptacle
- Use a three prong receptacle protected by a GFCI receptacle
- Use a three prong receptacle protected by a GFCI breaker in the circuit breaker panel
- Replace with a grounded three wire cable
Remember ungrounded GFCI protected receptacles are required to be marked as such.
All electrical repairs should be made by a qualified electrician.