Are you Grounded?

March 19, 2021

Are you Grounded?

A pilot might be grounded because of mechanical issues and therefore prohibited from flying a plane. You might feel grounded after a year of Covid-19 home isolation, but cheated out of the experience of bad behaviour to justify it. Webster’s Dictionary defines grounded as ‘mentally and emotionally stable, sensible, realistic and well-balanced. All things we may not be able to claim after this Covid-19 year.

But what would you say if someone asks if your house is grounded? Yes, this is a thing.

Your home’s grounding system, which is usually installed when the home was built, is there to protect people from electrical shock and electrocution. Effective grounding will safely get rid of electricity that escapes from the system. This escaping electricity is called an electrical fault.

A fault can occur when wiring is damaged due to rodents or during home renovations. It can also happen when an energized appliance, like a hair dryer, is accidently dropped into water. When a fault occurs, the electricity will immediately take the most direct route to ground. Even if that happens to be through the person touching the hair dryer. By the way, if the hair dryer was plugged into a functioning ground fault protected outlet (GFCI), the electrical current would be instantly terminated, protecting the person holding the hair dryer.

Failed grounding can potentially cause anything metal such as gas or water lines, bathroom taps, metal siding, or appliances that come in contact with electrical wiring to become energized. Touching an energized object in your home will certainly get your attention and, if you can still think straight, have you calling your electrician to come clear the smoke out of your ears.

There are 3 important components to a properly grounded electrical system.

  • Branch Circuits must have every outlet, switch, junction box and light fixture connected to a ground wire taking any potential fault back to the main ground at the electrical panel
  • Bonding of metal piping such as plumbing and gas lines must have a ground wire bonding them to the main ground at the electrical panel.
  • The Main Ground at the electrical panel must be connecting it to a ground rod or ground plate which is usually buried beside the foundation on the exterior of the building.

The main ground can be compromised if the connection to the ground rod or plate is broken.  This can happen over time if the connection point becomes loose or corroded. Sometimes it happens by accident when digging in the area. A lightning strike has been known to disintegrate the connection. On rare occasions the grounding is completely missing due to oversight at the time of construction or if the home was built prior to 1962 before grounding became a Canadian Electrical Code requirement.

If your home is older, it is recommended that the grounding system be checked by a knowledgeable electrician. This will ensure it is adequate and working correctly. The Canadian Electrical Code has seen numerous revisions to grounding requirements. Each to improve on the personal safetly to homeowners and the general public.

Essentially the electrical grounding in your home does nothing until a fault occurs. That’s when it can save your life.

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