The home electrical system is a complex web of wires, receptacles, circuits and circuit breakers. Their job is to tame the nature of electricity and change it from a highly dangerous wildcat to a peaceful, useful pussycat that does what you want, when you want it to. When things don't go right, though, a faulty ground may develop that leads to possible hazardous problems.
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Reasons for a Ground
Electricity is part of nature and many things in nature affect the electricity inside your home wires. The amount of humidity in the air or a nearby thunderstorm are two common influences that can cause the electric to behave in strange ways. To help avoid this, the wiring is designed to bleed -- or transfer electricity -- deep into the safety of the ground below the home through a "ground" or special wire that is hooked up to the electrical system.
With electricity almost everything you do to work with it creates a good news/bad news situation. The ground underneath a home is now part of the electrical system and if anything goes wrong with the grounding system, it could deliver electrical shocks to the people in the area. The affect may be local or more widespread throughout the home.
Signs and Symptoms
A faulty ground system is indicated by small shocks when you touch metal-containing objects, such as wires, water pipes, and ductwork, that are connected to the home itself. These shocks are much greater than the small sparks created by static electricity and should not be confused with them. Unless the line is 220 volts, the shock is normally not enough to do damage but If the person shocked is standing on a wet surface or between two pieces of metal, it could induce a heart attack or cause severe burns.
Locating the Ground
Locating the source of the faulty ground in a home is dangerous work as it can turn almost any piece of metal into a lethal trap. An appliance that has a faulty ground can be identified by the homeowner as it is the only item that gives a shock, but finding and fixing a electrical system poor ground is a task that should be left to a professional electrician.
Jack Burton started writing professionally in 1980 with articles in "Word from Jerusalem," "ICEJ Daily News" and Tagalong Garden News. He has managed radio stations, TV studios and newspapers, and was the chief fundraiser for Taltree Arboretum. Burton holds a B.S. in broadcasting from John Brown University. He is a 26-year veteran of the U.S. Navy/Navy Reserves and the Navy Seabees.