If you’ve heard people talking about electrical systems, you’ve more than likely heard the term ‘grounded’. Laymen often don’t know what this term means or why it’s important. Electrical devices need to be grounded. A ground is simply a pathway for stray voltage to follow and be discarded. Having electrical voltage accumulate inside of a building can lead to a dangerous situation. A ground ensures that this does not happen. For new construction, having proper grounding is required by law. Even if it wasn’t, it would certainly be best practice for all electricians to ensure electrical systems are properly grounded.

How Electricity Works

All electrical circuits are made up of three types of wires. These are generally labeled as a hot wire, a neutral wire, and a grounding wire. The hot wire is the active wire that holds the electrical volts necessary to power the electrical system. Although it sounds backward, active voltage is negatively charged. A negative charge will always seek a way to discharge its negative energy. To accomplish this, it passes through the neutral wire. This wire neutralizes the charge and returns it to the positive charge, which is the main service panel. When a circuit is complete and functioning normally, the negative charges flow through the hot wire to the neutral wire. The neutral wire returns the negative energy to the panel. If working correctly, the grounding wire is not even used.

The Dangers of a Faulty Electrical System

When an electrical circuit is functioning normally, you have nothing to worry about. Unfortunately, circuits can malfunction just like any other system. If wires in a circuit are broken or otherwise damaged, electricity can flow out of the system. This could shock you, cause damage somewhere, or even start a fire. This is where the importance of grounding your electrical system comes into play. Voltage will always follow the path of least resistance. Even if the voltage leaves the enclosed system, it will still seek neutrality in the easiest and quickest fashion it can. In this case, a grounding wire is the path of least resistance. A grounding wire is connected to a grounding bar that lies beneath your circuit so that it can catch any and all stray voltage. It will then safely release the voltage to the ground.

Grounding Is an Essential Safety Measure

Most of the time, your electrical circuits work just fine. However, if there are any frayed or damaged wires in the system, it is ripe for malfunctioning. In addition, power surges can cause the system to malfunction. In the case of a power surge, excess electricity can leap out of the wiring. If your system is not properly grounded, this can cause a fire, damage your electric appliances, and shock any bystanders. When your system is properly grounded, you and your home are protected even in the case of a lightning strike or other massive electrical surge. Grounding doesn’t only protect you. It also protects your appliances. A massive surge of power to your appliances can cause them to short out and sometimes damage them to the point of no repair. Grounding your system properly is truly the most important safety measure you can do to protect your home and electrical system.

Signs your electrical system could be faulty:
  • Dimming or flickering lights
  • Buzzing noises
  • Frequently tripping breakers
  • Burning smells
  • Warm outlets
  • Frayed wires
  • Warm electrical panel

If you are noticing these signs, it’s important to get a licensed electrician to come check it out. A fault in your electrical system can be dangerous, so it is not advised to try to fix the problem on your own.

Clues That Your System Isn’t Grounded

To know for sure that your circuits are properly and safely grounded, you need them inspected by a licensed electrician. However, there are a couple of clues to look for if you’re wondering. First, the age of your home can indicate that you might have a problem. Homes built in the 1950s and 60s have been found to have ineffective or no grounding. A visible sign that your outlets aren’t grounded is a two-pronged outlet. A grounded outlet will have three prongs, with the bottom rounded prong being the ground. If you have two-pronged outlets in your home, they need to be switched over to GFCIs immediately. Sometimes homeowners have cut off the grounding prong in order to make their plug-in fit the outlet. This is an extremely dangerous situation and should never be done. The risk of electrical shock and fire is very high if you cut off the grounding prong.

What Is GFCI?

GFCI is an acronym meaning ground fault circuit interrupter. These are outlets designed to turn off the flow of electricity if they sense a change. They are most often installed in areas where there is a chance of water reaching the outlet. Garages may have them as well, where high-powered tools will be plugged in. If your home is older and does not have properly grounded outlets, a GFCI can help. While it cannot completely prevent all electrical shocks, it will prevent the majority. Whenever it senses a change in the electrical current, it simply turns off the entire outlet so no electricity can pass through. You can tell if your outlet has a GFCI if it has a small button on it that says ‘reset’. This is used to restore power when the situation is safe again. Although a fully grounded system is a better and safer option, not all homeowners can afford to rewire their entire home. In that case, using GFCIs is an acceptable fix.

Experienced Electricians in Milwaukie

Electrical systems are complex and contain many feet of wires, spreading throughout your home to every area that requires electricity. You must have a licensed electrician install, maintain, and repair your system. Do not attempt to fix problems by yourself. Not only can you cause more damage, but you could become seriously injured if the wiring is not done correctly. 3 Mountains Plumbing in Milwaukie employs certified and experienced electricians. When you hire them to install or repair any of your electrical systems or appliances, you will not be disappointed.

Grounding is an essential component in the wiring of your home. The importance of grounding electrical systems cannot be overstated. The risk of fires and electrical shocks is greatly reduced by the presence of grounding wires and boxes. New construction is required to have all electrical wires grounded. However, older homes may not be up to code on this. To ensure that your electrical system is up to date and fully grounded, you should have a licensed electrician inspect your home. If they find weak spots in your grounding system, they can fix these to prevent problems down the road.

3 Mountains Plumbing in Milwaukie is staffed with experienced and certified electricians who can help you. Give us a call today!

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