When you hear the term “grounding,” most everyone knows it’s important, but most don’t know why. As part of our residential electrical service offerings we can check to make sure your ground wire is operating properly, which is essential to keeping you and your family safe.
A ground wire is connected to all the outlets and switches of your home through its electrical panel. Dug into the earth outside of your foundation, a ground wire works to disperse excess electricity into the ground and away from the building. Small electrical surges are very common — happening dozens, or even hundreds, of times a day — which will slowly wear away at electronics, shortening their life span. Large electrical surges such as from a lightning strike, which we experience a lot during a summer in Calgary, can generate thousands of additional volts of electricity. Extra power from surges needs somewhere to go, which is where the ground wire comes in.
In addition, every time you use an appliance you are telling your electrical panel to send energy to that particular outlet or switch in your home. But that electricity is never consumed in its entirety. Again, that excess power requires somewhere to go, and again, that’s where the ground wire comes in.
How Ground Wires Work
Home electrical systems are positively charged, while ground wires are negatively charged. Opposites attract when it comes to electricity. In the event of excess energy being sent through your system, the additional positive energy will be attracted to the negative energy in the ground wire. It will then disperse itself securely into the ground before it can damage your electrical system.
Ground fault circuit interrupters (GFCIs) are mandatory for all places an electrical current comes into contact with the ground or if outlets are placed near running water. Alberta electrical codes dictate that outlets within one metre of a sink, basin, shower or tub must have GFCI capabilities.
Outlets with GFCIs are recognizable by on and off buttons (often black and red) in the middle of the faceplate. If there is any leakage of power, a GFCI will identify that and turn off the outlet. They are extremely sensitive, with the ability to detect even the smallest surge of power, and have saved many lives since their implementation in the 1970s. GFCIs should be tested regularly by a qualified electrician.
Without a ground wire, excess energy can pass through appliances and into you, the user, through electrocution. The electricity will essentially try to ground itself through your body. Electrocution is very dangerous. There are four ways it can cause injuries:
- Due to interruption of the heart’s rhythms, cardiac arrest may occur.
- Serious damage to muscles, tissues, and nerves from the current passing through your body may result.
- Thermal burns, usually second- and third-degree, may occur from direct contact with the source.
- Falling or being knocked over from the electrical blast may also cause injury.
Signs Your Ground Wire Might Not Be Working
Signs of a ground wire not working properly in your residential electrical system include:
- Receiving a shock when you touch metal objects connected to your home such as wires, pipes, and ductwork.
- Sensitive electronics such as computers and entertainment systems acting strangely.
- You are noticing extra-high electrical bills.
A ground wire that is consistently “hot” is an indication of a short in the wiring somewhere. The ground wire is actually doing its job perfectly in these cases, as it is diverting extra energy away from outlets and switches, but a residential electrician should be brought in to locate the short immediately.
Assessing Your Ground Wire
Finding and fixing a poor ground is a task that should only be carried out by a certified electrician. The source can be extremely difficult to find, and we have the knowledge and expertise needed to repair a faulty ground without having to tear apart your home. A home electrical safety inspection by us at A-Star will fully assess your electrical system to ensure it is functioning properly and meets all codes.
Residential Electrical Service Offerings From A-Star
We at A-Star Electric are certified journeyman or apprentice electricians who believe what we do can improve other people’s lives. Your home or business’s electrical system is integral to day-to-day life and work, and we believe in making sure your panel and wiring run as efficiently and conveniently as possible. We always carry out our professional duties in a positive, efficient and courteous manner. Contact us for all of your residential electrical service needs.