Having a grounded electrical system is something that many of us take for granted on a day-to-day basis. With a short glance at the three-pronged electrical outlets that line our walls, we make an unconscious note that our electrical systems are grounded, safe and ready to go. If you live in an older home, however, you may be surprised to learn that your seemingly grounded three-pronged outlets are not actually grounded. In fact, even some newer homes can have improper grounding as a result of a seemingly small electrical mistake during the wiring process. This can be very hazardous, and deserves your attention regardless of whether you own your own home or rent the dwelling that you are currently in.
An outlet that electricians describe as "open ground" contains a three-pronged outlet that has only been wired with two wires. These outlets have a hot and neutral wire, but no ground wire. These are particularly dangerous because they give the illusion of grounding, but no extra protection. What dangers does this present, and how can you check?
A little known fact about electrical grounding is the way that it affects your product warranties. Most appliances, such as dishwashers, dryers and refrigerators must be connected to a grounded outlet in order to be eligible for warranty replacement. By plugging them into an outlet that is not grounded, you essentially void the warranty and run the risk of losing your entire appliance in the event of a shock or power surge.
Electrical Shock Dangers
Your main concern when it comes to proper grounding should be electrical shock. Any outlet in your home that is not properly grounded is a hazard to you and your family. If your standard 120v outlet shocks anyone in your home, the result can be severe injury or even death. Because of this, avoid any devices that attempt to circumvent ungrounded outlets.
Is Your Outlet Grounded?
You can check for this yourself by purchasing a low-cost plug-in tester ad nearly any home improvement store. These devices are relatively cheap and reliable. Another method would be to turn off the electricity at your breaker panel and actually take a look at the back of your outlet. This method, however, is not foolproof and should only be attempted by a trained professional. The best way to tell if your outlet is truly grounded is to hire a professional. If you have any doubts about your electrical system, never hesitate to call a local electrician. They can not only tell you whether or not your system is grounded (often for free), but can also quickly and efficiently fix the problem if one exists.
If you are testing your outlets on your own, you should call in a professional if even one outlets presents a negative reading. This could indicate further electrical problems, more ungrounded outlets and other dangers. To be safe, call an electrician to test the integrity and safety of your entire system.
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