Electrical safety is no joke. When it comes to installing, repairing, and updating your electrical system, “malarky” is something you don’t want. One of the most common ways to ensure electrical safety is by installing grounding rods.
We’ve all heard of them. We could probably point one out if presented to us.
What is a grounding rod?
A grounding rod is a ground electrode installed into the earth and connected to the grounded neutral of the electrical system which in turns grounds the entire home or business. It’s meant to keep the resistance low between the ground system and the earth surrounding the home or business.
So, How Does Electrical Grounding Work?
“Ground” means the earth. In an electrical system, house wiring has three wires, one of which is the ground wire. The ground wire runs from the electrical service panel and is connected to the earth with ground rods, creating a grounding system. This system allows for excess electricity, caused by surges, lightning strikes, or faulty wires, to “go to ground,” which will usually cause the circuit breaker or fuses to trip, preventing the flow of electricity. Since the excess or stray electricity has a path, human beings/live creatures are less likely to get a shock, and the electrical system is less likely to be affected.
Grounding rods are typically copper-coated steel rods that are installed completely in the earth and connected tightly with copper wire.
Why is it important to use a grounding rod?
According to Rusty Wise, owner of Mister Sparky of Cherryville, NC, “Having a ground rod (usually two in most areas) helps divert high voltage surges into the ground and away from appliances, TV’s, computers, receptacles, etc.”
If your home has electrical outlets that aren’t grounded, a surge could not only be dangerous, but deadly, especially if the electricity finds a path to the ground through a human body. This can happen if you touch an ungrounded plug or outlet at the wrong moment -- the electricity can travel between the part of your body touching the outlet and your feet on the floor, causing burns, nerve damage, and even death, if the surge is powerful enough.
If the surge of electricity finds a path through the structural elements in your home, it can spark a fire. And there’s always the chance that the electricity will flow directly into appliances and electronics that are plugged into ungrounded outlets, which can damage them.
“At Mister Sparky, we only use copper ground rods instead of the cheaper galvanized steel,” said Rusty. “Steel ground rods only have about a 10-year life in the ground. While copper can see 30 years or so longer. Everyone should have their ground rods checked at least every 10 years.”
Choosing Your Grounding Rods
When you’re selecting grounding rods, don’t cut costs. Invest in more durable materials. Cheaper materials mean the rods may be more susceptible to corrosion. They might not last as very long, which will end up costing you more in the future. The quicker a rod corrodes the shorter its lifespan will be. If a building or construction code doesn’t specify what kind of rod needs to be used, the contractor may go with the cheaper option.
Ground Rod Alternatives
There are some alternatives to using grounding rods. You can bond the grounding system to the rebar in the concrete foundation as well as grounding rings. However, ground rods are the preferred method unless you encounter rock or very loose soil.
Also, Surge Protection Devices (SPD’s) need a good ground to operate effectively.
“Without a good grounding system including proper ground rods, surge protectors cannot disperse the overvoltage into the ground,” said Rusty.
Whole-home surge protection protects against voltage spikes, which limit the excess electrical current by blocking the flow of it, protecting the home from fried appliances and blackouts. For SPDs to do their job, the proper ground rods need to be installed correctly.
If you notice you are changing light bulbs, appliances, or computers often, this can be a sign of a faulty grounding system. Grounding is very important to the electrical health of your home or business but is often neglected and overlooked.
At Mister Sparky, we won’t cut corners, especially when it comes to your safety. Our experts will offer the best service and use materials that will last longer so you know that your home and all its electrical components are protected. Contact your local Mister Sparky today and find out what you can do to make your home the safest it can be!