What Does an Electrical Ground Wire Do?
Why Electrical Grounding Is Important
Not all electrical connections have a ground wire.
In this article, our electricians at Premium Electric will discuss what an electrical ground wire does, what it means to be grounded and why proper grounding is required.
We promise to keep it simple and not get too technical.
Electricity In Your Home
To start things off, it’s worth explaining how electricity operates within the home.
Electrical current is delivered from your provider and enters your home through the BC Hydro Electricity Meter. The electricity then passes through your electrical panel which distributes the electricity through your home’s electrical wiring.
Most electrical circuits in your home will contain these 3 wires.
- Hot/Live Wire (black/blue) – carries the negative charge
- Grounded/Neutral Wire (white or grey) – carries the positive charge back to the ground
- Ground Wire (copper wire) – safety backup to carry the positive charge back to the ground in case of malfunction
See this article on Colour Code Wiring in Canada.
Electricity is made up of electrons that come in a negative and a positive charge.
If you will remember from science class, nature always strives for equilibrium. Electricity seeks to return its electrons to the ground to discharge the excess energy and attain balance.
Under normal operations, the electrical current returns to the ground through the grounded or neutral wire. Still, in the case of a short-circuit or electrical surge, the extra ground wire is there to provide a backup.
How Does Grounding Work?
In a perfect world, electrical circuits will move electricity throughout the wiring of your house without a hitch – but things happen.
An electrical surge or short-circuit can create a temporary breakdown in that pathway, causing the positive charge to seek an alternative pathway.
You don’t want that because the alternative pathway could be an appliance, something flammable, or yourself. Electrical grounding provides a backup pathway, deflecting the electrical current out of harm’s way.
In a typical electrical system, there may be an alternating current (AC) and/or a direct current (DC). AC current is used in most household and commercial electrical systems, and it alternates direction at a specific frequency.
In an AC electrical system, the ground wire is connected to a grounding rod (or electrode), which is typically a metal rod that is driven into the ground. The grounding electrode is used to establish a low resistance connection to the earth, which helps to dissipate any excess electrical current that may be present in the system.
The ground wire is also connected to the metal chassis or enclosure of electrical equipment, such as appliances, lighting fixtures, outlets, and your electrical panel.
What Does a Ground Wire Do?
An electrical ground wire is a conductor that is connected to the ground, or earth, and is used to divert excess electricity away from an electrical system and into the earth. This helps to protect people and equipment from electrical shocks and short circuits.
If there is a short circuit or another fault in the electrical system, the excess current will flow through the ground wire and into the earth, rather than through the equipment or people who may be touching it. This helps to prevent electrical shocks and other dangerous situations.
In essence, a ground wire provides an alternative pathway for electrical current to reach the ground.
Why Is Electrical Grounding Important?
Grounding your house is extremely important. It helps in preventing damage, fire, and electrical shock during an electrical malfunction. Minor electrical malfunctions can happen at any time due to a lightning strike, electrical surge, a sudden power outage, or a short circuit.
Electrical grounding provides a backup pathway in case the normal route is compromised. A ground wire provides a path of least resistance for the current to travel back into the ground so that it doesn’t go anywhere else where it may cause harm to people or property.
In addition to providing protection from electrical shocks, the ground wire also helps to protect against electrical fires. If an electrical fault occurs, the excess current will be directed to the ground wire and into the earth, rather than building up in the electrical system and potentially starting a fire.
Overall, the electrical ground wire is an important component of any electrical system, and it plays a vital role in protecting people and equipment from electrical shocks and fires. It is important to ensure that the ground wire is properly installed and maintained to ensure the safety of an electrical system.
What Needs to Be Grounded?
Your home’s wiring is built with this grounding system as part of modern electrical safety codes. As well, many electronics and appliance devices also have this form of protection.
Tools or appliances with a third prong on the cord plug mean that the appliance has a grounding system and can be plugged into grounded outlets. Anything that does not have this third prong is usually double insulated in its construction to minimize the risk of short circuits.
If you own a newer home, you probably don’t have to worry about your grounding system. Proper electrical grounding has been standard practice in our BC building codes for many years.
However, if your home was built in the 1960s or earlier, there could still be some ungrounded outlets present. The same goes for any DIY or substandard electrical work. This is why it is always important to hire a professional electrician for all home electrical wiring upgrades.
Electrical grounding is essential for keeping you and your family safe. It’s the universal backup pathway for electrical current in case of a short circuit or other electrical malfunction.
By creating a safe and consistent path for electrical current to follow, ground wires help to prevent electrical fires, property damage, and electrical shock.
Concerned about your home’s grounding system?
Contact our team of professional electricians at Premium Electric. We are here to help! Give us a call at 604-308-6195.
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For your own safety and the safety of your home and family, do not attempt DIY electrical work. Always hire a professional electrician.
Our electricians are bonded and certified and all our electrical work is completed up to the Technical Safety BC code.
If you are a homeowner or business owner anywhere in the GVRD or the Fraser Valley and you need an electrician, we can help.
Call us at 604-308-6195 or send us an email if you need help or would like more information about how a ground wire works.