When working on electrical wiring it is important to know exactly what you are doing. Even a small mistake can result in a serious shock, fatal electrocution, damage to machinery, or a variety of other problems. One of the most misunderstood aspects of wires for most people is the ground wire. Anyone who does any type of work with or around electrical equipment should absolutely understand what a ground wire is, what it does, and why it is important.
What Is a Ground Wire?
A ground wire is an electrical wire that is used to neutralize the wire in order to protect the devices, facilities, or other items from problems associated with the electrical current. The wire runs along with the positive and negative wires, but rather than plugging into a power source and the equipment needing the power, it will go from the equipment needing the power to the ‘ground.’ In many situations, this means the cable is actually run into the earth.
Why is the Ground Wire Important?
Not all electrical lines have ground wires, which leads many people to believe that they are an optional wire and not important when running new wires. This is actually not the case, especially when dealing with higher voltage systems. When everything is running properly, electricity will run toward the equipment on the ‘hot’ or ‘positive’ wire, and then run back into the electrical system on the ‘neutral’ wire. Ideally, the ground wire won’t have any current on it at all.
In the event that there is a short circuit, power surge, or other problem on the other wires, on the electrical system, or on the equipment being powered, the ground wire will give the excess electricity a safe path to travel. Without the ground wire, that electricity could either overload the equipment, ‘break out’ of the wires, or otherwise cause damage to the environment. It is even possible that it will overheat the wire and cause a fire. The ground wire can be considered a great ‘insurance policy’ against potential problems that can occur in electrical wiring.
- What color(s) are used for ground wires?
- What does it mean to ground a wire?
- What does the neutral wire do?
- What’s the difference between a positive and neutral wire?
- How do wire color codes improve safety?
- What are DC power standards?
- How are live wires identified?
- How can wires be tested to tell if it’s hot?