The Importance of ‘Grounding’ Electrical Currents
Humans have made some truly remarkable discoveries in the electrical field, and one extremely important lesson has been the importance of grounding electrical currents. Electricity has provided countless benefits to people, but it still remains one of the most deadly elements readily available in our daily lives. Unless you have already grounded your electrical systems, you are taking a rather large risk by not doing so.
In an electrical circuit, there is what’s known as an active wire, which supplies the power, and a neutral wire, which carries that current back. An additional ‘grounding wire’ can be attached to outlets and other electrical devices and also securely connected to the ground at the breaker box. This ground wire is an additional path for electrical current to return safely to the ground without danger to anyone in the event of a short circuit. If a short circuit did occur, the current would flow through the ground wire, causing a blown fuse or tripped circuit breaker – an outcome much more preferable than the fatal shock that could result if the current was not grounded.
The importance of grounding electricity
Here are 5 main reasons why grounding electrical currents is so important.
1. Protection against electrical overload
One of the most important reasons for grounding electrical currents is that it protects your appliances, your home and everyone in it from surges in electricity. If lightning was to strike or the power was to surge at your place for whatever reason, this produces dangerously high voltages of electricity in your system. If your electrical system is grounded, all of that excess electricity will go into the earth — rather than frying everything connected to your system.
2. Helps direct electricity
Having your electrical system grounded means you will be making it easy for power to be directed straight to wherever you need it, allowing electrical currents to safely and efficiently travel throughout your electrical system.
3. Stabilises voltage levels
A grounded electrical system also makes it easier for the right amount of power to be distributed to all the right places, which can play a huge role in helping to ensure circuits aren’t overloaded and blown. The earth provides a common reference point for the many voltage sources in an electrical system.
4. Earth is the best conductor
One of the reasons why grounding helps to keep you safe is because the earth is such a great conductor, and because excess electricity will always take the path of least resistance. By grounding your electrical system, you are giving it somewhere to go other than into you – possibly saving your life.
5. Prevents damage, injury and death
Without a properly grounded electrical system, you are risking any appliances you have connected to your system being fried beyond repair. In the worst-case scenario, an overload of power can even cause a fire to start, risking not just extensive property and data loss but physical injury as well.
How does grounding work?
It’s clear that grounding electrical work is a smart move, but how does it work?
In most homes, the wiring system is permanently grounded to a metal rod driven into the ground or a metal pipe extending into the house from an underground water-supply system. A copper conductor connects the pipe or rod to a set of terminals for ground connections in the service panel. For wiring systems that use electrical cable covered in metal, the metal usually serves as the ground conductor between wall outlets and the service panel.
In wiring systems that use plastic-sheathed cable, an extra wire is used for grounding. Since electricity is always looking for the shortest path back to the earth, if there is a problem where the neutral wire is broken or interrupted, the grounding wire provides a direct path to the ground. Through this direct physical connection, the earth acts as a path of least resistance, preventing a person from becoming the shortest path, and suffering a serious electric shock.
How can you tell if your current is grounded?
You can usually tell whether your electrical system is grounded by checking your power outlets. If they accept plugs with three prongs, your system should have three wires, one of which is a grounding wire.
Similarly, an appliance designed to be grounded is equipped with a three-wire cord and a three-pronged plug. The third wire and prong provide the ground link between the metal frame of the appliance and the grounding of the wiring system.
When dealing with appliances, make sure you:
- Do not touch an appliance if its cord’s insulation has begun to wear away where it enters the metal frame. In this situation, contact between the metal current conductor and the metal frame could make the whole appliance live with electricity, and touching the appliance could cause the current to surge through you.
- Inspect, maintain, and organise repairs of wires where they enter a metal pipe, an appliance, or where in-wall cables enter an electrical box.
The best thing you can do to create a safe electrical system is to ensure the whole system is grounded and the ground circuit is electrically continuous.
Grounding your electrical system is a smart and easy way to make it a whole lot safer, as well as to protect against the very real possibility of having to deal with fluctuations in power supply. If you want to safeguard all of your important assets, whether at home or at the office, as well as look out for the health and safety of everyone around you, find out if your electrical system is grounded – and if it is not, contact Platinum Electricians today on 1800 Platinum (1800 752 846).
If you are still unsure about the importance of grounding electricity, or are just not 100% certain whether or not the electrical system at your place is grounded properly, have your local electrician come and do a check of your home or office wiring. Remember, if you need alterations done don’t attempt these yourself, it is always safest to have professionals conduct the upgrades for you.