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What to Know About Grounding Your Home

A house
You may have heard of grounding the electricity in your home, but do you know what grounding means? Every time you flip on a light switch or plug something into an electrical outlet, you access potentially dangerous electricity. Fortunately, a properly grounded home ensures you will not be harmed by that electricity. Read on to find out more about grounding your home.

What Is Grounding?

When the electrical wiring is properly grounded in a home, electrical current has a safe place to go in the event of a short circuit. This means you do not get shocked, burned, or electrocuted. A metal rod, known as a grounding rod, is planted into the earth and guides the electricity away.

Additionally, electrical outlets should contain a third prong, which houses a dedicated wire known as the grounding wire. This wire acts as an extra pathway for electricity to return to the ground.

Why Is Grounding Important?

Grounding performs several important tasks:
  • Stabilizes voltage levels and delivers the right power levels to circuits
  • Directs excess electricity from lightening safely into the ground
  • Prevents accidental electrical shocks and burns if a short circuit occurs
  • Protects delicate and expensive appliances and electronics from fire and other damage during a power surge
Grounding to the earth provides a path of least resistance for electricity, which prevents harm to you, your family, and everything you plug into the outlet.

Is Your Home Grounded?

Homes built before 1962 were not required to have 3-prong outlets in every room. These outlets contain a grounding wire in the third prong. If your home is older, it might still have some 2-prong electrical outlets in the walls. With a circuit tester, you can conduct a simple test to see if an outlet is properly grounded. A tester has two probes to check both slots of an outlet.

To use a circuit tester, place the red probe into the hot-wired slot of the outlet — the smaller, shorter of the two. Then place the black probe into the neutral slot to complete the circuit — the larger, taller slot.

If the indicator light comes on, the outlet is properly grounded. If the indicator does not light up, the outlet may be reverse wired. Try reversing the probes instead. If the indicator still does not light up, that outlet is not grounded.

If your home is old enough to have some electrical work performed in the past, possibly not all outlets were converted to a ground outlet. You should test each outlet individually to find out if all are grounded.

Homes that are old enough to still have knob and tube wiring are probably not grounded.

What Are Signs of Poor Grounding?

A home can be grounded but show signs of a poor or weak ground. This can happen when wires loosen over time or are chewed by rodents. Or, an exposed wire comes into contact with metal. Here are a few signs of poor or weak grounding:
  • Lights become dim
  • Refrigerator motor slows down
  • Oven does not heat up
  • Multiple appliance use makes lights turn off completely
  • Electric shocks at light switches
In some cases, you might have higher than normal power bills from wasted electricity.

How Can You Remedy Poor or No Grounding?

You cannot properly ground your home simply by replacing two-prong outlets with three-prong outlets. A ground wire must be attached to the newer, third prong to provide that additional outlet for electricity. Instead, a qualified electrician should install new electrical components in your home.

A professional can update your breaker panel, install new three-prong outlets with a grounding wire, and implement other crucial grounding elements necessary for your safety. Visit us at In Phaze Electric Inc. if you are concerned about your home's grounding.