How to Ground Electrical Wires

Most of your home's receptacles should be grounded. If they're not, learn four different ways to add this safety feature.

If you have an older home, you'll need to make sure that your electrical outlets are grounded. Grounding refers to the wire that runs from an outlet into the earth, inherently protecting homeowners from coming in contact with electric energy.

No matter the method, it's important that the ground circuit provides an unbroken path to the earth. Ground wires must be firmly connected at all points. And if conduit or sheathing is used as a ground path, connections must be tight. If you're not sure if your outlets are grounded, a receptacle analyzer will tell you.

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We'll show you how to install grounding in outlets, fixtures, and switches. These tips will help you properly ground electrical wires to help keep your home safe.

Editor's Tip: Building codes have changed over the years and differ from region to region. As a result, grounding methods can vary widely. You may find any of several configurations in your home.

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How to Ground Wires in Metal Boxes

In a system with metal boxes, the pigtail method is considered the most secure. In this arrangement, both the receptacle and metal box are grounded. Ground wires are spliced together and attached with a pigtail to the box and receptacle. The grounding wire nut shown has a hole in its top that makes installing a pigtail easier.

Other methods also work well if installed correctly. One such method is a grounding clip that clamps the ground wire to the box. If a house is wired with armored cable or conduit, there often is no ground wire. The cable connector joins the metal sheathing or conduit to the box to provide the path for grounding.

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How to Ground Wires in Plastic Boxes

Where plastic boxes are used, a ground wire typically connects to the receptacle only. Here, where wiring runs through this box to another box, a grounding pigtail connects to the device.

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How to Ground Wires in Fixtures

Many older ceiling fixtures are not grounded. Recent codes, however, call for grounding electrical wires in fixtures. To do so, connect the fixture's ground lead (usually a stranded wire) to the strap on a metal box or to a ground wire.

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How to Ground Wires in Switches

Most older switches are not grounded; many switches do not even have a ground screw. However, recent codes call for switches to be grounded. Replace an older switch with a newer one that has a ground screw and connect it to a ground wire.

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