Electrical circuits are complex electrical systems equipped with layers of sensitive components that allow them to work optimally. Within a circuit, there is a “hot” wire and a “neutral” wire, both of which work together to carry electric current under normal operating conditions. During a short circuit or electrical current malfunction, a ground wire is put in place to carry the excessive electrical charge and safely discharge it where it needs to go. In fact, grounding wires guard against unwanted power surges that can lead to electrical fires or shock.
In the 1960s, having a ground wire readily available became a requirement under the National Electrical Code (NEC). The NEC, or NFPA 70, is a regionally adopted standard for the safe installation of electrical wiring and equipment in the US. Generally, one can spot a grounding wire near the bottom of a three-prong outlet with a narrow slot, a larger slot, and a “U” shaped slot. In terms of appearance, a grounding wire is either a bare wire or, if insulated, a green or yellow-green wire.
As previously mentioned, grounding wires are shock absorbers and are responsible for directing electrical charges where they need to go. They take built-up electricity from an electrical malfunction and direct it away from the home and into the ground. It is either connected to the internal part of an appliance or to the external portion of a home. When an electrical circuit malfunctions, the built-up electrical energy flows out of the appliance into the ground, triggering the circuit to turn off.
Since grounding wires allow electrical mishaps to occur without putting you, your operations, or your home at risk of danger, they help avoid incidents of electrical shock or fire. The wire will typically carry electricity from a positive charge to a negative charge through the soil outside of your home in one of two ways. It is important to note that each method is determined by your country or city zoning codes.
The first method requires the use of a grounding rod, which is an eight-foot-long copper rod that sits deep in the soil of your home. They are usually placed far from your home and any building materials utilized for the foundation, drainage, or the piping system of your home. The second method necessitates the use of a copper water pipe. This pipe is placed in the ground to feed your water heater with cold water, providing a grounding connection to your home.
When installing a ground wire in an older home, there are a few steps to consider. To begin, you must acquire all the mandatory approvals. This means that you will need to seek permission from local authorities and check out national and local electrical codes. This may require the arrangement of inspections at different stages of work.
Once you obtain all the necessary documentation and verifications, you should purchase a circuit tester. This is a non-negotiable tool, allowing you to detect possible electrical issues with your home’s receptacles. Next, turn off the main power of the house by accessing your home’s circuit breaker. Use the circuit tester to confirm that everything is off. At this point, you can carefully remove the cover plate on your receptacle with a screwdriver, remove the receptacle from the box, and test it.
In a 3-prong receptacle, there is a black, white, and copper wire. Find the grounding wire and tighten it. If there is only black and white wiring, the box is not grounded; thus, you will need to add a ground wire. Begin by attaching the black wire to the brass terminal and the white one to the silver terminal. This is only the case if you need to install new receptacles. Make sure to tighten the ground wire with the help of green grounding screws.
Attach the other end of the grounding wire to the green grounding terminal located on the receptacle and insert the new receptacle in the box. Wrap the ground wire and terminals with electrical tape and place them back into the box. Do not bend or fold the wires during this stage and make sure you are familiar with electrical wire color codes. Please note that the black wire must be kept away from the hot terminals. To finish installation, tighten the cover plate with a screw and turn your power back on to ensure everything is working properly.
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