Get a new electrician. If a car takes out your utility pole it doesn't matter what kind of ground you have,you're going to lose power. As for the difference in sound, I'll let others pontificate on that. Personally, I would want an earth ground installed, just for the sake of modern code compliance.
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"The electrician told me that the system is electrically safe with a ground only to the water pipe, but if a car were to hit a nearby utility pole we could end up without electricity to our home. He said that if we had an earth ground, if a car were to knock out a nearby utility pole we would still have power."
I think your electrician may have been shocked a few times.
If your house was built in 1965 and the electrical service was never updated then the service was earth grounded per NEC code in 1965. I assume the water line entering your home is copper pipe. When it is said the electrical service is earth grounded what is actually happening the main incoming service neutral is connected to earth making it the grounded conductor. The metal enclosure of the electrical panel is also bonded, connected, to the main neutral conductor. You now have an AC grounded power system.... On the incoming main water line side of the water meter you should see a water pipe ground clamp. This is where the ground wire that comes from the electrical panel main service neutral bar connects. You should also see a jumper wire that is connects around both sides of the water meter. The jumper is there to protect the water company's meter installer in the event the meter ever needs to be replaced from possible electrical shock.
Did the electrician by chance check the earth grounding connections at incoming water line? Do the water pipe ground clamp connections look corroded? If so you would think the electrician would have broken down the connections, cleaned, and reinstalled or replaced the water pipe ground clamps with new if needed.
The earth ground for the electrical service is there for lightning protection as well to keep the voltage at the electrical service panel from exceeding its' nominal voltage rating from the high voltage present on the primary of the utility transformer in the event of a transformer primary to secondary fault condition or a high voltage power line coming into contact with the secondary low voltage power line.
The earth ground connection of the electrical service panel will also somewhat protect devices, equipment, appliances, whatever, connected to the electrical panel from possible higher voltage than the devices are rated for if for any reason the main service neutral from the transformer to the electrical panel neutral bar is broken for any reason. Though it depends greatly on the earth resistance/conductivity through the earth to the utility transformer's neutral earth ground connection.
Only the unbalanced load returns on the service neutral conductor back to the utility transformer. That's the nature of the beast on how a split phase secondary winding of a transformer works.
DO NOT attempt to clean the earth ground connections at the main incoming water line/water meter. This should only be done by an electrician. It is possible there could be a difference of potential, voltage, when the ground wire from the electrical service is broken, disconnected, from the water pipe ground clamp even if the main breaker at the electrical panel is turned off. If you put your body in series with the ground wire and the water line earth connection you could receive an electrical shock enough to kill you.
If you want to supplement the earth grounding system of the electrical service of your house to meet current NEC code and or local code for your area, you could hire an electrician and have him drive at least one or two 5/8" X 8' ground rods outside in close proximity of the main electrical service panel. He will connect a ground wire from the rod/s to the service neutral bar in the electrical panel. The electrician will install the ground rod/s and wire in accordance with local electrical codes in your area. Earth grounding varies from state to state due to earth soil resistance.
I live in a house built in 1965 that has an older electrical panel, the with the spring-loaded breakers.
Spring loaded breakers? Like Bulldog Pushmatic breakers? If that is what you have I would recommend you do not manually turn them off and then hopefully back on. Especially the main breaker! The old pushmatic breakers are notorious for not resetting to the on position if tripped or manually turned off. Worse yet the breaker may say it is off when it may not be off. The circuit must be checked with a volt meter to assure it is indeed dead.
Quick search using Google.
Jea48, thank you for the time it took for your detailed post! Yes, the panel is a Pushmatic. Looking at the water meter, I see one wire going to it and that wire goes to the inside of the meter housing. I also see another short metal wire that goes through a couple screws at the metal bottom of the meter. I may have an electrician look at the water meter to verify if there is an earth ground there since I'm not sure if the electrician that was here before looked there or not. But, Jea48 the electrician pulled the panel cover and said he did not see a place (I can't remember the term he used it was something like "tag" or something), for an earth ground wire and did not see an earth ground wire. He only saw a wire he said was going to the main water pipe and pointed over to the left of the panel box near the ceiling of the basement. The water meter is on the other side of the basement.
Great answer by Jim, as usual! Regarding ...
Does not having an earth ground to my panel all these years cause a negative effect on the various audio systems I've had? Does this affect things like bass weight, or solidity of the image etc?From a technical standpoint I can't envision any way in which an absent or ineffective earth ground could affect sonics in those or most other ways. And I'll add that I too have an older home (1950's in my case), and until I had the electrical panel replaced and a couple of ground rods installed several years ago I too had the panel grounded only via a water pipe. During the approximately 30 years I was in that home prior to the electrical upgrade, those years encompassing several upgrades of my speakers and various other parts of the system, I never sensed any lack of bass weight. Or of imaging and dimensionality, at least once I had moved to tube amplification many years ago.
I only see one wire going to it and that wire goes to the inside of the meter housing.Foster_9,
That sounds like the remote read wiring for the water meter itself, has nothing to do with the grounding of the electrical service neutral conductor connection to earth.
In 1965 for the state and city you live in the AHJ, (authority having jurisdiction), the governing body electrical inspection department and probably the utility power company dictated the requirements for the grounding electrode, earth connection. NEC Code is only bare minimum electrical safety standards. I do know even back in 1965 the electrical service should have been grounded, connected to an approved grounding electrode per AHJ and or the utility power company.
From your original post,
Rereading the above comments you did not say the electrician actually said the incoming domestic water pipe was used as the grounding electrode, earth connection. He only said it would be safe it was used as the earth connection, the grounding electrode. Do you know for sure if the incoming domestic water line, pipe, is metallic, example copper, water piping at least 10' long buried in the earth outside your house?
You do need to hire an electrician from your area. He will know what the local code for your area requires for the earth connection of the electrical service. You need to find out 100% whether the electrical service is earth grounded or not. If not get it done as soon as possible.
You also should think about replacing the Pushmatic electrical panel.
Just curious, the electrician that inspected the electrical service that told you it was not grounded, connected to earth, did he tell you then what would be required for him to ground the electrical service to meet electrical code for your area?
Do you know for sure if the incoming domestic water line, pipe, is metallic, example copper, water piping at least 10' long buried in the earth outside your house?I do not know.
Just curious, the electrician that inspected the electrical service that told you it was not grounded, connected to earth, did he tell you then what would be required for him to ground the electrical service to meet electrical code for your area?Yes, I would have to get the city to allow a shut off through the power company without a required panel replacement and upgrade to 200 service unless I was just going to put in a new panel. It is more than I want to spend for me to put in a new panel now. I'm willing to pay the cost to have an electrician install an earth ground if the city will allow this without requiring a full electrical upgrade.
In my area repairing or upgrading the electrical service earth grounding electrode system would be considered electrical service maintenance and does need any city AHJ or utility power company involvement.
The utility power company does not need to be involved as the utility power will not need to be shut off to repair/install the necessary earth grounding needed to make the electrical service earth grounded and safe.
I can't believe the AHJ would require any property owner to install a new electrical service when all that is needed is to repair and or add to an existing electrical service grounding electrode system. I think the electrician you had was just trying to get a few thousand dollars of your money. Beats me why an electrical contractor would even suggest to a customer the AHJ and or utility power company would need to be involved in repairing or upgrading the grounding electrode system for an existing electrical service, especially the utility power company. If the service is not properly earth grounded and for whatever reason the service neutral connection at the utility transformer or the service weather head connection became loose or worse broken free from the service entrance neutral conductor there would be absolutely no path for the unbalanced 120V L1 to neutral and 120V L2 to neutral loads connected to the service electrical panel in the home to return to the source, the utility transformer. As poor as the earth is for use as a conductor in this case it still is better than nothing.
See pages 2-5 and 2-6.
I would suggest you phone call around electrical contractors in your area and ask them for their opinions for repairing the grounding electrode system for the electrical service of your home. Grounding electrode is just a fancy word for the thing used to connect the ground wire from the electrical service neutral/bar to earth. Example a ground rod or the domestic metallic incoming water pipe is a grounding electrode. Even if the water pipe is used, per current NEC Code it will need to be supplemented by at least one outside driven ground rod. For your area more than one ground rod may be required.
Jea48, I will eventually hire a different electrician and hopefully get a different take on whether I have an earth ground or not, and what it will take to get one installed if I don't have one. The electrician I just used came with A-rated feedback via AngiesList members, but I'm questioning if he was correct in his assessment of my system and the process for adding an earth ground if needed.
The electrician I just used came with A-rated feedback via AngiesListHe may be very good at what he does, but apparently part of what he does is separate the mark...I mean customer...from his hard-earned $$. Most of us, myself included, have no idea what the difference is between an earth ground and a safety ground, don't really want to learn, and are very happy (when it gets more technical than replacing a receptacle), that god invented electricians!