Sometimes they’re bare copper, sometimes they’re insulated in green. And sometimes they’re aluminum. Ground wires serve a specific purpose. But it might not be what you think.
Most people, at least those who aren’t electricians, believe a ground wire’s job is shock prevention. But that’s not the job, it’s one of the effects of the job.
Confused yet? You’re not alone. And that’s why ICA School teaches what you need to know, both for your protection and so you can provide a thorough home inspection report for your customers.
What Do Ground Wires Do?
In the broad sense, ground wires do help prevent shocks. But Charles Buell of Buell Inspections says their real job is either providing a current path to blow a fuse or trip a breaker or creating a path to the earth to get rid of static buildup and surges.
He also says you should forget the old myth that electricity always tries to go “back to the earth.”
If a ground wire does its job and trips a breaker, the result is that you’re less likely to get shocked. That’s because a tripped breaker shuts off the power.
But what about the electricity that’s normally present but isn’t enough to trip a breaker? Touch that energized metal with a bare hand and you’ll definitely feel a zap.
What Kinds of Grounding Devices Might You Find?
Grounds might be rods or wires. Outside, grounding rods give current a straight path into the soil. But grounding wires might be sheathed and insulated in green, or they might be bare copper or even aluminum.
The breaker or fuse box ground wire might be clamped to a metal water line. Old House Web says it should never be clamped to a PVC water line or any gas line. Clamping the ground wire to a water line is especially common in older houses. But the more common method now is clamping the wire to a rod that’s driven into the soil.
Modern residential wiring includes a ground wire throughout. But you’ll probably still encounter homes without it. Two-prong outlets don’t have a ground wire. But it might still be grounded if the home has metal boxes and armored cable.
Three-prong outlets usually have a ground wire. But Harry Sawyers for This Old House explains that you should always test to be sure.
“Insert one prong of a circuit tester into the receptacle’s hot slot (the shorter one), and touch the other to a screw that secures the cover plate. The tester should light up. If it does not, the box is not grounded.”
Ground wires are one of the safety features of modern electrical wiring. They can help prevent shocks, but only if they’re installed the right way. And that’s one of the things you’ll learn with ICA School home inspection training.
Don’t worry if you aren’t an electrician. If you’re ready to embark on a brand new career as a home inspector, our program is designed to teach you everything you need.
You’ll learn how to stay safe while investigating electrical wiring systems. And that helps you build professional, informative home inspection reports for all of your customers.
Enroll now with ICA School and start learning today.