Why Do Electrical Circuits Need to Be Grounded? Answered

Why do electrical circuits need to be grounded? | howtoimprovehome.com

When electrical circuits break, electricity strays out of the system into other materials. This material could be your electrical appliances or people. A grounding wire traps and directs this voltage into the earth.

Having seen such wires buried in your homes, you might be concerned and ask the question

Why do electrical circuits need to be grounded?

Grounding of electrical circuits is an important process that is done in homes to neutralize and absorb excess voltage. it is necessary to ensure that your home and electrical appliances are safe from any electric fault that may arise. Grounding serves as a way of protecting your home and appliances from electric surges and discharges.

Why is Electrical Grounding Important?

Proper electrical grounding is a necessary safety measure in homes. It protects your home and electrical system from the dangers of broken circuits or power overload. When a circuit breaks or during a surge, the excess electricity strays out of the electrical system.

If your circuits are grounded, the excess voltage finds its way to the earth through the grounding wire, a safe path of least resistance. That way, you and your home appliances are saved from damage. Grounding is an important safety procedure. Electrical codes make it mandatory for all new constructions.

How Can I Tell if My Circuits Are Grounded?

The best way to check if your circuits are grounded is to conduct an electrical safety inspection around your home.  Grounded outlets have three-pronged slots, but it’s important to note that older homes built in the 50s and 60s could have three prongs that have become ineffective, so you need to do a circuit test.

To check if your circuits are grounded:

  • Confirm that your outlet is three-pronged with a U-shaped slot.
  • Using a circuit tester, insert the red probe into the smaller outlet in the U-shaped slot. This is the hot wire that carries power.
  • Insert the black probe into the bigger slot. This is the neutral wire.
  • The indicator light should come up now that you have a complete circuit. If it doesn’t, switch the probes. If the light doesn’t come up, your outlet is not grounded.
  • Repeat these steps in all the outlets in your home.

How Do You Tell if a Wire is Grounded or Ungrounded?

As specified by the NEC, a grounded wire is gray or white on the customer side of the meter. On the utility side of the electrical system, grounded wires are not insulated. An ungrounded wire is insulated with black or red.

NEC recommends it could be any other color but gray, white or green.The grounding wire is commonly bare, but it’ll be yellow or green if it is insulated.

What Should I Do if My Circuits Are Not Grounded?

If you’ve done a circuit test or electrical safety inspection and it turns out your circuits aren’t grounded, contact an electrician as soon as possible. They’ll have your home rewired for grounding. Ensure that the grounding is done appropriately.

If you don’t want your residence rewired, the alternative is to replace the two-pronged outlets (ungrounded) with ground-fault circuit Interrupters GFCIs. They are designed to interrupt the electric flow when they sense a shock, fire, or damage. Although they’re not as effective as grounding, they’ll protect you from harm.

Importance of Electrical Grounding

The most important reason for grounding is the safety of human life. The importance of grounding also includes:

Grounding Prevents Voltage Overload

There are times your home electrical system receives too much electricity may be due to a surge or, in extreme weather conditions, lightning. In these instances, there will be an electricity overload that can stray out of the system and damage your electrical appliances. The excess electricity will flow to the earth if your outlets are grounded. The grounding wire will direct the excess electricity to the ground safely. 

It Stabilizes Voltage Levels

Grounding your electrical system makes power distribution around your home easier. This way, your electric circuits are not overloaded at any time. The ground is a reference point for your electrical system. Since it is negatively charged, zero voltage can always flow, thereby stabilizing voltage levels across your home’s electrical system.

Effects of Improper Grounding

The effects of improper grounding are:

Dimming Lights 

Poor electrical grounding causes the light in your home to dim. This could get worse if you turn on a heavy electrical appliance such as a heater. Your heater may not get enough power to operate properly and generate enough heat to keep your home warm.

Electrical Shock

 Poor grounding puts you at risk of an electrical shock. When electricity flows through a circuit, it must find a path to the earth. This path could be the grounding wire on the circuit or the backup grounding wire below your home. Electricity always uses a path of least resistance to flow to the earth.

If these two wires are missing or faulty, the electricity will find another path to get to the ground, which is dangerous. Your appliances or sockets could get electrified and shocked if you get in contact with them.

High Electric Bills

When a hot wire connects to the ground before it enters the home, it’s said to make a short to the grounding system. This happens when the hot wire is faulty or decaying. It is exposed to the ground (grounding wire, wet earth, metal water piping). This short causes an uncontrolled release of electricity into the ground resulting in high electricity bills.

Earth Conducts Electricity With Little Resistance

The ground is a good conductor, and it offers little resistance to electricity. This simply means the earth can conduct the excess electricity from your electrical system. Grounding your electrical system ensures that the straying voltage goes to where it can’t cause any damage.

What Happens if you Don’t Have Adequate Grounding?

If you don’t have a proper grounding, stray voltage (zero voltage) will not have a ground reference, and that could cause voltage irregularities. For instance, if an electrical appliance short circuits, it becomes electrified, and anyone or any material that comes in contact with it could get hurt.

Since electricity travels through a path of least resistance, it’ll use your body as a path to reach the negatively-charged earth. That will cause severe shock and even death.

How Does Electrical Grounding Work?

Electrical circuits contain three wires: a hot, neutral, and grounding wire. The hot wire contains active voltage, which supplies power. The neutral wire carries the current back. The grounding wire provides a path for electric current to return safely to the ground.

Since active voltage is negatively charged, it has to neutralize by coming in contact with positive charges. It passes through the neutral wire to the positive charges on the service panel. In a complete circuit, negative charges flow through the hot wire to the earth. 

Electrical grounding is the backup for the electrical system in case the circuit breaks. Since the earth is negatively charged, simple physics explains why positive charges are attracted to it. Grounding wires provide a path of least resistance for straying voltage or electric surge to the negatively charged earth. 

Difference Between System Grounding and Equipment Grounding

Electrical grounding is done at two levels, system grounding, and equipment grounding. In system grounding, a special circuit is designed to protect your home’s electrical system. The two popular methods for system grounding are water pipe grounding and electrode grounding.

In equipment grounding, a circuit is designed to protect the individual components in an electrical system. Grounding wires are used to provide a path to the ground or earth in both system and equipment grounding.

Difference Between Grounded and Grounding

A “Grounded” electric circuit is connected to a grounding wire. An electrical device is said to be “grounded” when it’s connected to a grounding device for safety reasons. “Grounding” is the safety procedure whereby circuits are safely connected to the earth through a grounding wire.

Grounding is done to prevent damage in electrical discharges or electric surges. Grounding is a vital procedure. It protects your electrical system from damage caused by surges or faulty circuits.

What is a Grounding Electrical Conductor?

As described by NEC, a grounding electrical conductor is a current-carrying conductor. After the electric current has passed through all the loads, the grounding electrical conductor serves as a path for the current to return to its source.

How do I Know if I Have Grounding Wires?

Contact an electrician for an electrical safety inspection to confirm that you have grounding wires or if your outlets are grounded. To DIY, try identifying the wires by their color. Grounding wires are usually bare, but the insulated ones could be green or yellow. 

Why Does My Home Need a Grounding Connection?

Grounding ensures your appliances don’t store electricity or get electrified if it short circuits or electrical overload. If there’s an electrical surge or lightning, the excess electricity could overload your electrical system. The excess electricity will stray out of the system into other materials.

Consequently, it’ll be looking for a path of low resistance to flow to the earth, which could be your appliances or you. Without grounding, the materials in your home or even you could get electrified. Grounding traps the straying voltage and carries it safely to the ground where it can’t cause damage. It’s necessary that your residence has proper grounding.

What is Electrical Grounding?

Electrical grounding is a safety procedure that involves providing a path of least resistance to straying voltage caused by a circuit malfunction or electricity surge. Without grounding, power surges or faulty circuits could make your appliances electrified and put you at the risk of an electric shock.


Grounding an electrical circuit prevents indirect or unwanted electric current buildups. These fluctuations can be caused by storms, lightning strikes, bad electrical connections, etc. Grounding a circuit serves as a filter for these currents and reduces the risk of damage to sensitive electrical components and appliances in your home.


Scroll to Top