Depending on when your home was built, its electrical system may or may not be properly grounded. Electrical grounding is a safety feature used with electricity to prevent shocks, electrocution, and electrical fires. It requires that the wiring within the home is “grounded” into the earth.
There are various grounding devices and methods used to ground a home. Some homes have a metal electrical conduit pipe that runs into the ground, which also “grounds” the home. To illustrate how electricity behaves, let’s do a quick review.
Electricity always looks for the path with the least resistance. If your home is not grounded, this means the electricity could travel through any metal within devices it passes through if there is an electrical surge or another problem.
When it is grounded, instead, electricity travels through the ground wire—since this is now the path with the least resistance—and safely into the earth. However, it is not always easy for homeowners to tell whether their homes are properly grounded.
There are some general things you can look for on your own that could indicate the home is grounded, but not always, such as:
- Three-Prong Electrical Outlets: If your electrical outlets are all three-prong, then the home may be grounded. If the home is older and used to have two-prong outlets, a previous owner could have installed new three-prong outlets, which may not be grounded.
- GFCI Electrical Outlets: These are special types of three-prong outlets with their own built-in surge protection. You find these mainly in bathrooms and kitchens.
- Electricity Runs Underground: If you have a metal pipe that runs from the power line down a pole and into the ground, your home is probably grounded.
- The Home Has a Breaker Box: If your home has a breaker box, it may be an indication it is grounded.
Even if your home has all of the above, there could still be areas that are not properly ground. If your home was built before 1960, there is a good chance it is not grounded. Building codes requiring three-prong outlets and grounding did not become more common until the early 1960s, although not all homes were grounded but merely had three-prong outlets installed.
Additionally, lightning is another serious concern in ungrounded homes. If the home is struck by lightning, the electricity will travel the path of least resistance, which is typically through the electrical wiring and directly through anything plugged into your outlets. As such, the electrical wiring and devices can be severely damaged.
The only way to tell for sure is to contact an electrical repair technician in your area. Electricians have special testers they can use to evaluate each outlet within the home and see if it is grounded. They will also perform a detailed inspection to verify your breaker box or fuse box is grounded.
To find out if your home is properly grounded, please feel free to contact A+ Services at 360-491-2900 to schedule a residential electrical system inspection today!