What is a Grounding Wire and How Do They Keep You Safe?

What is a Grounding Wire?

The process is simple: pick up a cord, plug it in, and voila—the light is turned on, the computer is charging, or the toaster makes toast. From a user’s perspective, the process of using an electrical outlet to power our devices seems pretty straightforward. What we don’t see is all that is involved below the surface. The journey of an electrical charge is intricate, and it wouldn’t be the safe and seamless process that it is today without the grounding wire.

Grounding wires are wires installed in outlets that extend into the ground below a home in order to give excess electrical charges a place to go. In the 1960s, electrical code requirements made ground wiring an important safety standard, so most modern homes today have grounded outlets and electrical panels. Grounding wires are important because they give excess electrical charges a safe place to go, and they guard against unwanted danger such as electrical fires or electrical shock.

How Does a Grounding Wire Work?

Grounding wires are essentially shock absorbers and safely direct electrical charges where they need to go. The ground beneath us is filled with a negative electrical charge, and positive electrical charges are attracted to it. Ground wires extend into the ground below us. In addition, a grounding wire directs these positive charges so that they are controlled and can be discharged safely.

Ever heard of an excess electrical charge? They are actually more common than you may think. Have you noticed the lights flicker off and on during a lightning storm? Also when you boot up a large piece of equipment? You guessed it – this is an excess electrical charge. In a grounded electrical system, this excess electricity will go right into the ground safely, thanks to grounding wires.

If you are looking to check whether or not your home’s electrical system is grounded, consider the following:

  • A grounded electrical system will have a three-pronged outlet with a narrow slot, a larger slot and a “U” shaped slot.
  • Reach out to a local electrician and have them take a look. It’s always better to be safe than sorry, especially if you have an older home.

Wrapping It Up

For more information on grounding wires and to find other interesting information about the electrical industry, visit our blog.