Grounding and bonding for your electrical system serve the same purpose as the breakaway truck ramp you may see on winding mountain roads. This steep uphill path is designed for when a semi-truck suddenly loses its brakes. Instead of careening into cars at high speed, the driver of a semi whose brakes have failed can direct his vehicle up this steep path and be slowed to a stop by gravity and the loose stone or sand under the wheels.
In much the same way, grounding and bonding gives “loose” electricity a place to go to dissipate and not harm others. To begin this process, the homeowner needs to have two ground rods driven into the dirt beneath the home’s foundation. The rods should be installed by a certified electrician and will be at least six feet apart and driven about eight feet into the dirt.
Connecting from the electrical panel
After the rods are placed the certified electricians can connect wiring from the electrical panel’s neutral bar to these two grounding rods. Just like a truck with no brakes needs to go somewhere so it cannot hurt anyone, the grounding wires have given electricity from an overload somewhere to go - into the grounding rods and thus into the ground where it cannot hurt anyone or burn out any current systems. The dirt beneath a home (or a grounding plate beneath a building) has the capacity to handle a catastrophic amount of electricity – a lightning strike for instance.
The technician should also set up bonding connection, often bonding the cold water pipes to the hot water pipes that are coming off the hot water heater. Frequently the bonding wires are also connected to the gas line that is providing the fuel that heats the water in the hot water tank.
The Dangers of Charged pipes
If one of the pipes were to become energized, it could become like a “hot” wire. Electricity would then begin flowing through the hot water pipes when it shouldn’t. This could result in a person feeling electricity coming through the water. Or a person in the bathroom feeling a charge coming through the handles in the tub when he is turning them on to run water for a bath or shower. YOU DO NOT WANT THIS TO HAPPEN! It is extremely dangerous.
A careful system of grounding and bonding will prevent this frightening scenario from happening. Grounding and bonding are required by the National Electrical Code. Without proper bonding and grounding the homeowner might even be feeling a slight tingle when she touches a stove or refrigerator. That means there’s some electricity loose in the appliance and the appliance has become energized with electricity.
Bonding is often carried out using handy metal clamps that are tightened with screws and easily secure the bonding wire to the pipes. Now if any of the pipes become “charged”, the bonding arrangement will cause the circuit breaker to be tripped and halt a potentially dangerous situation.
Without a properly grounded and bonded circuit, the homeowner could receive a nasty shock. In some cases the shock would be serious enough to electrocute a person.
But Isn’t My House Already Grounded?
In a perfect world yes. But consider the number of home projects you have done or the number of projects the previous owners of your house had completed before you bought the house. Sometimes a plumber will replace a bit of pipe with PVC piping. When this the grounding only covers up to that break in the piping. Now your pipes need to be re-bonded.
Bonding and grounding are a must procedure. If the homeowner has done any home additions, added electrical outlets, replaced his water heater, etc., he should consult with an electrician to ensure that proper bonding and grounding procedures have been followed.
If you are not sure whether you home is properly grounded or you suspect that it isn’t, please call Haas and Sons Electric today - 443-396-3797 or visit our website and schedule a electrical safety inspection.