You probably have noticed that I can’t resist a corny reference related to my industry, hence the title of this article. But hey, I’m just here to share something I know, and sometimes I like to think I’m funny. So, I do have a question for you: do you know the difference between a grounded and ungrounded outlet? If not, perhaps I can explain. Homes that were built before the 1960’s didn’t have grounded outlet, and everything built thereafter should (but it may not always be the case.) If you look at the outlets around your home, they should have the telltale three slots that allow you to plug in the three-pronged appliances around our homes. Another important feature of modern outlets are split receptacles where each half of an outlet is linked to a different circuit or a switch. These are often used in bedrooms that are linked to a switch, these are used for turning a lamp on, while the other outlet is still available for other needs.
Another term you are probably familiar with is GFI or GFCI (ground fault circuit interrupter), and you’ve likely seen them around your home in places like your kitchen or bathrooms (it’s particularly important to have them in places that have water.) It may have even tripped on you a few times, but I can tell you that this is a good thing. GFCI’s are meant to protect you in wet locations. What happens is the device senses a sudden unusual spike in energy draw. Such is the situation of standing on a wet floor in bare feet and you can become part of the circuit. Once the GFCI measures this imbalance, it almost instantly shuts off the electricity to prevent you from getting shocked. There are several code requirements for these devices and if you have an older home, it’s important to know if you are up to code.
An ungrounded electrical outlet lacks a ground wire. In some cases, when people were updating their old homes to new three-pronged outlets, they just changed the outlet, but didn’t add this wire. This is something that can be and should be tested. If you’re unsure you can always call your electrical contractor and they can do this very simple check for you.
As always, thanks for reading,
Bryan Hayes, along with his brother Todd, is a co-owner of a Sanibel Air Conditioning company on Sanibel, FL. They also own and operate an island-based electrical service company Sanctuary Island Electric, Inc. Bryan can be reached at Bryan@Sanibelair.com