I was reading that a surger protector won't work if it is plugged into an ungrounded outlet. The reason why this wouldn't work is that the electricity has nowhere to go, from what I've read.

What if your PC was plugged into a UPS which in turn was plugged into a surge protector? Would this work? Couldn't the extra power be absorbed by the battery in the UPS? This may sound ridiculous, but I have no other options since I don't have thousands of dollars to rewire our old house. Before I rebuild my partially fried PC, I just needed to know. Thank you in advance.

  • Not sure if it's been mentioned below, but your UPS will likely have built in surge protection. – Darren Jan 27 '17 at 18:02

You might have read about this already as you have mentioned in your question.
I would like to emphasis the importance of safety and tell you what might happen in case of a fault in the power supply circuit.

Personnel Safety

Let us imagine that the line (L) (also called "phase") touches the body of the SMPS inside your computer, in that case the body of the computer gets energized. Any one coming in contact with the body of the computer (or with any metallic peripherals attached to it) may receive an electric shock. If the person coming in contact is wet, this electric shock may prove fatal.
In case where the earth pin is connected to the ground (earth), this fault current would flow to the earth (as it is the path of least resistance).

Equipment Safety

With a leakage current (or with the body energized), the body of the equipment is at a certain potential with respect to the ground. Motherboards (for example) operate at +12V and +5V DC potentials. Now whenever there is a faulty contact established between the body of the equipment and its component (in this case, the motherboard), it is going to see a potential something other than its operating voltage. This can harm the motherboard and it might stop working (in some cases - it happened with me!)

Simple Solution

Buy a three pin socket, wire the phase and neutral lines from your un-grounded outlet. For the earth connection draw a wire from the nearest grounded outlet or from the earth pit (you must have one in your residence).
Connect your surge protector to this new three pin socket.

Do not try to change the wiring of the house on your own if you don;t have any experience in wiring electrical circuits. Many other appliances may stop working if you mess up or worse you might receive an electric shock if you do not know what you are doing

  • 1
    @Bigguy4u, replacing one outlet should be an inexpensive job if your house was built since about WWII, at least in the US, since there should be a ground available inside the outlet box. An electrician will have a minimum charge just to show up, so you could probably upgrade a bunch of outlets at minimal additional cost. To add to Prasanna's last paragraph, if you are inexperienced and do it yourself incorrectly (don't comply with code), and end up with an electrical fire, the insurance company may not pay a claim. – fixer1234 Jan 27 '17 at 6:04
  • "the insurance company may not pay a claim" -- They probably will only pay a claim if you got a building permit and had the work inspected & signed off. That's the proof that the work was done per code and correctly. – sawdust Jan 27 '17 at 7:32

No, it's not the same thing or good enough... a surge protector and a UPS (which has a built in surge protector) each require a grounded outlet. In most commercial environments it is not recommended (possibly even against fire code) to have a UPS connected to a power strip/surge protector or to "stack" surge protectors. These grounded 3-prong outlets have been code in the US for over 50 years, long before electronics like this were common.

Check with a local electrician, in some cases you can loop the neutral to ground in a 3-prong outlet, giving a path to ground (although it isn't a clean path) but it may not meet electrical code in your area. If not, consider getting a single outlet added for your computer. In today's modern age, equipment with a ground plug need a ground and adding ONE outlet should not run thousands of dollars in most homes, a couple hundred maybe, but this is something most homeowners can do themselves with a $7 outlet and $20 box of wire.

  • Ok. Understood about not doing the stacking thing. It is a two prong outlet that I was using a cheater plug on for my pc, and it was fine for like two years until our power went out. It was sort of a freak thing that I never had happen before. Our power went out multiple times, but it killing my computer only happened the one time. – Bigguy4u Jan 27 '17 at 4:24
  • Electricity is mercyless sometimes... I can't say a grounded outlet would have helped, but it MAY have. A "cheater plug" is technically intended to be used in an outlet with a metal frame and conduit (generally commercial installations), using the box frame and conduit as a ground conductor and you connect that little metal tab on the cheater plug to the screw in the center of the outlet. They don't really tell you it isn't intended for residential use. – acejavelin Jan 27 '17 at 14:22
  • Grounded outlets are standard here in the UK (since 1934). We are also taught in junior school about earthing, what it does and why its important. Amazing to think that there are two pin sockets elsewhere in the world! – leinad13 Jan 27 '17 at 18:02
  • The National Electric Code in the USA started recommending them in 1959, but it wasn't until 1971 the U.S. NEC required grounded receptacles in all locations of the home (effective January 1, 1974), although it was pretty common to see them installed in the 1960's. I don't know about what they teach kids today, but this "earthing" or grounding was a basic science principle taught in either late grade school or middle school for me (Grades 5-7 if I remember correctly), that would have been in the early 1980's though. – acejavelin Jan 27 '17 at 18:29
  • Ok, just so you guys know, no outlet in my entire house is grounded. Apparently our house was actually built in the thirties. I can't imagine that an electrician would have a simple solution flr this. A ground means a literal wire going back to the circuit breaker, right? I read you can run a wire to a piece of metal outside or something driven into the ground. Anyway, I guess I will just need to be careful and unplug it when not in use. – Bigguy4u Jan 27 '17 at 20:39

Safety ground in a receptacle protects humans. It does nothing to protect hardware.

Power strip must have a three prong receptacle to maintain human safety. That third prong (safety ground) does nothing to make a protector circuit effective.

An adjacent protector, to be effective, either 'blocks' or 'absorbs' energy - with or without that safety ground.

Do not confuse safety ground with something completely different - earth ground.

Battery in a UPS does not absorb excess energy or a surge. Why does it take so long to recharge? Because that same circuit is only 'assumed' to absorb a surge. It is tiny - maybe the size of a one inch cube, 'wall wart', power supply. Or read spec numbers to learn how little that power strip and UPS do to protect hardware.

Third prong is a safety ground - to protect human life. Power strip protector will not work - will not protect human life - if that safety ground does not exist.

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