Basic Electricity: What Does Grounding or Grounded Mean?

If you have ever worked with or around electricity, you have encountered the term “grounded”. You likely even know that it has something to do with the third, rounded prong on the top of many (but not all) of your electrical cords.

But what does it mean for something to be “grounded”?

What electricity wants

Electricity is an imbalance of electrons seeking balance. Excess electrons rush away from where they are, seeking a place where they are needed.

The ground welcomes those electrons safely.

Lightning is the most visible example of this. When tumbling storm clouds rub against each other, a great deal of excess electrons accumulates. When they suddenly discharge to the ground, the result is a brilliant but potentially deadly bolt of discharged electrons we call lightning.

A grounding wire or system of wires in your house helps this happen in the case that one of your appliances or devices might malfunction and develop an excess of electrons.

Photo by Tomas Wells from Pexels

Grounding wires connect your house to … the ground

So most of the time, your lights, toasters, computers, and fans work just fine. You flip the switch and the current flows in one side and out the other, powering the item. The fan spins, the light illuminates, your toast pops up a little burnt on that one corner, but it’s nothing a little butter won’t fix.

But sometimes things go wrong. Perhaps you stick a fork in the toaster to pry bread loose and suddenly you have connected two wires that are not supposed to touch. Or perhaps insulation rubs off a frequently used item, and suddenly there is a spark when wires can no longer contain the electricity.

The ground wire is designed to safely direct that excess energy away from your appliance, away from you, and away from things that might catch fire.

Where does it go? That wire floors your other wires down to a space near your fuse box, but then it is connected in one of several different ways to the ground.

This way your short circuit or spark that is seeking to be relieved can take the fastest route to the ground and safely balance itself out.

Safely grounding your house and all of your electronics is important work, and your home inspection should include checking that the house is properly grounded. A trained professional electrician like those at Price Electric can help keep your house and your electronics safe through professional grounding services.

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