One of our neighbors called us the other day and asked to talk with an electrician. She said that she thought any electrician could probably answer her question.
When we got an electrician on the line, she asked, “Do I need grounded outlets?”
It turns out her neighbor had visited and had seen her floor outlets all had two parallel holes but lacked the third, grounding wire. She had never been bothered by it, since many of her lamps didn’t require grounding and didn’t have the additional prong on their wires.
But her friend had insisted she call us to get this repaired.
So here is the longer answer to her question.
What does it mean to be “grounded” in electrical terms?
Electricity wants to flow as quickly as possible through the simplest path. Your appliances and lamps are all created to handle a certain amount of electricity at a time, and normally the two-prong approach is all that is needed for everything to work according to plan.
Sometimes, however, something causes a surge of electricity. It could be an external source, such as lightning. It could be something internal, like water creating an unexpected short or connection, or an exposed wire touching another wire.
When this happens, a “ground” allows the excess electricity to flow quickly away from your appliance and to a safe location, usually one that is actually attached to the ground, where the electricity generally wants to go.
This helps save you light bulbs, toasters, and computers a couple times a year.
More risk? More grounding!
In general, you can think of this in terms of risk. If you are talking about a bathroom or kitchen, where there is a relatively higher risk of shorting something out because of the number of appliances and the presence of water, it is essential to make sure all of those plugs are grounded.
This includes adding GFCI grounding at every outlet.
In a living room, in an older home, this risk is not as high. In most cases, the worst that might happen in the case of a surge like a lightning strike is that you will lose a light bulb or burn out the wiring in a lamp.
It is less likely that this will lead to a fire. But that is not impossible.
This is why, in general, we recommend having EVERY outlet in your home grounded.
If you live in an older home, this is the sort of repair we have been doing at Price Electric for a generation. Call us for a free inspection and estimate.