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Electricians Tips

  • Writer's pictureElizabeth Moreau

What Is a Ground Wire? Why Is a Ground Wire Important?

Updated: Feb 21

Most people are aware that "ground wire" is essential in household electrical systems, but do you understand its function and importance for electrical safety?

What Does a Ground Wire Do?

Ground wires are electrical conduits that extend into the ground beneath your home. Since electrical code requirements for ground wiring became standard in the 1960s, most modern homes have grounded outlets and electrical panels.

Ground wires provide a safe path for excess electrical charges to discharge into the ground. The earth has a negative electrical charge, attracting positive charges. A ground wire safely directs these positive charges into the ground, preventing electric shock or fire hazards.

Ground Wire as a Shock Absorber

Excess electrical charges, which can result from lightning strikes, transformer malfunctions, or the startup of large appliances, are a common occurrence. For instance, lights flickering when an air conditioner starts is a sign of a minor electrical surge.

In a properly grounded electrical system, this excess electricity safely dissipates into the ground. However, in ungrounded systems, the surge might take dangerous paths, including through a human body, which can cause burns, nerve damage, or even death.

Additionally, electrical surges can flow into appliances and electronics connected to ungrounded outlets, potentially damaging them or causing fires.

Checking Your Home's Outlets

You can easily check if your outlets are grounded. Grounded outlets have three slots, including a rounded, D-shaped slot for the ground wire, while ungrounded outlets only have two.

Newer homes usually have a properly grounded system. However, homes built before the early 1960s might have a mix of grounded and ungrounded outlets, depending on electrical upgrades over the years. DIY or substandard electrical work might also affect the integrity of your ground wire network.

To ensure your home's electrical safety, it's wise to schedule an electrical safety inspection with a local electrician, like ENE LLC. If you discover ungrounded outlets, our electricians can assist in upgrading them to meet current safety standards.

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