Electrical grounding essential for safety
Electrical grounding may sound like a remote technical topic, but having a basic understanding of it can literally mean a matter of life and death. Safe electrical practices, including grounding, are some of the most important keys to fire prevention in the United States.
Grounding is when the metal surfaces of an electrical system are connected to the earth either through an embedded electrode or through a building system. That way, if these metal parts become energized, the current is directed into the ground, creating a short circuit that trips the circuit breaker.
As long as the circuit breaker is tripped, electricity can’t reach a user. However, the problem that caused the circuit breaker to trip must be resolved before it can be reset.
According to the National Fire Protection Association, there were some 482,000 structural fires in the United States in 2010, the latest year for which figures are available.
Those fires led to 2,755 deaths, more than 15,000 injuries and nearly $10 million in property damage. In addition, there is an estimated one home structure fire every 85 seconds, and one non-firefighter injury every 30 seconds.
Although the number of structural fires is down from more than 1 million in 1981 when the association first began tracking the statistics, improved electrical safety can further reduce this risk.
One way to reduce the risk of a structural fire is to update electrical wiring so that it meets contemporary code standards. Proper grounding of electrical systems can enhance your family’s safety and improve the efficiency of your equipment.
According to the Mayo Clinic, the effects of an electrical shock depend on the type, voltage and path of the current as well as the individual’s health status and how quickly treatment is available. Because of the danger involved, any attempts to ground a residential system following the standards of the National Electrical Code should be performed only by a licensed electrician.
Here are some ways to keep your electrical currents grounded and yourself and your family safe:
- If you live in an older home, have the electricity rewired to include grounded sockets.
- Install ground fault circuit interrupters that will temporarily block a current when it detects a safety hazard. Make sure to test it a couple of times a year.
- When buying new appliances and equipment that requires electricity, make sure it has three prongs, which likely means it includes a grounding pin. Modern appliances, which have live neutral and ground ports, are grounded through the outlet.
- To avoid injury, never remove the grounding pin from a three-pronged plug.
Always consult a highly rated Boston electrician when work requires a professional.