When you plug an electrical appliance into an outlet, the current flows through one wire and returns via another wire; these are the hot (live) and neutral wires. However, there is a third wire that is an integral part of the connection, even though it doesn't carry current, and this is the ground (earth) wire.
What Is the Ground Wire
The ground wire is connected to the outer casing of the electrical appliance. The other end of the ground wire is connected to a ground electrode that is connected to the actual ground/earth surface. In this country, the ground wire is colored green to identify it from the other wires that all have different colors. The ground wire doesn't conduct electricity as long as the appliance is operating as it should; the ground wire only conducts electricity if there is a malfunction.
As such, the ground wire acts as a protective connection by diverting current in case there is a malfunction that is making an appliance dangerous to use. That way, the ground wire can protect you from an electrical shock, electrical fire, or appliance damage by diverting electricity to the ground. Here are some of the malfunctions that may trigger electricity flow through the ground wire:
- Damaged insulation on the neutral or hot wire
- Loose electrical connections
- Water or moisture (for example, if the house is leaking) touches the live or neutral electrical wire
What to Do If Your House Lacks Grounding
As you can see, electrical grounding is pretty important, and it is dangerous to live in a house without grounding wires. Therefore, if you are living in an old house without proper electrical grounding, consult an electrician to help you figure out an appropriate remedy. Depending on your situation, here are some of the remedies available to you:
- Installing GFCI receptacles throughout the house because these are the only outlets that are safe to use without grounding
- Replacing the existing breakers with GFCI breakers; these work for low-power devices but not high-power devices such as washers or equipment with electrical motors
- Rewiring the whole building so that it is properly grounded
The need for grounding is also one of the reasons you need to consult a professional electrician before starting a rewiring or renovation project in your home. The electrician will see to it that the wiring is properly grounded to prevent the risks associated with lack of ground wire.
For more information, talk to companies like Etheridge Electric Company Inc.