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What To Do With The Ground Wire

Grounding Wall Outlets and Light Switches: What to do When there is Nothing to Attach the Ground Wire, Grounding Wall Outlets and Light Switches, Ground Wires and Ungrounded Fixtures and Boxes, Bonding the Ground Wire.


Where and How to Attach a Ground Wire

Electrical Question: I understand that on a porcelain ceiling lamp holder cooper wiring devices you do not need a ground wire and there is no place for it.

  • I am not wiring to anything that is metal, and the devices are porcelain and plastic blue boxes.
  • What do I do with the ground wire that is in the Romex electrical cable?
  • Do I just trash it or should I attach it to the screws that are attaching the porcelain fixture to the blue round box?

Thanks for the help just not sure what to do with ground could use nut just to put on it..heck don’t know.

This electrical wiring question came from: Bob, a Homeowner from Gibson, Tennessee.
See more about Home Wiring for Tennessee

Additional Comments: I love this site because it is a big help to us who are unsure and it helps us with safety issues. Thank you for your help.

Dave the Electrician’s Reply:
Thanks for your electrical wiring question Bob, This is a very good question.

Preparations

  • Skill Level: Intermediate to Advanced.
  • Tools Required: Basic Electricians Pouch Hand Tools and Voltage Tester.
  • Estimated Time: Depends on personal level experience and ability to work with tools.
  • Precaution: Identify the circuit, turn it OFF and  Tag it with a Note before working with the wiring.

Instructions

Grounding Wall Outlets and Light Switches

  • Bonding the Ground Wire Whenever Possible
    • The ground wire is the most important wire of any electrical circuit because it protects the circuit components by providing a path to earth ground if an electrical fault should occur.
    • All ground wires are part of the EGS or Equipment Grounding System which is bonded at the main electrical panel.
    • At the main panel, the equipment grounding system has one or more main connections which bond the electrical system to earth ground to provide a low resistance path to ground.
    • Ground wires are typically attached to a ground screw or screw terminal connection on either the light fixture, receptacle outlet, or electrical devices or components including the electrical junction box, or ground lead wire from light fixtures and other the electrical devices which provide a connection for the ground wire.

What to do When there is Nothing to Attach the Ground Wire

  • Ground Wires and Ungrounded Fixtures and Boxes
    • When you have a ground wire and there is no place to attach it then place a wire connector over the end, coil up the ground wire and push it back into the electrical junction box.
    • IMPORTANT: Never cut the ground wire off.
    • Devices such as a porcelain lamp holder may not have a place to attach a ground wire because the fixture is not made of a metallic material which can conduct electricity.

Additional Resources about Grounding

Electrical Grounding
Electrical Grounding Methods and Requirements
Electrical Grounding Methods and Requirements

  • Listing of electrical codes for grounding with examples of electrical grounding codes for home electrical wiring.

The Following will assist you with Grounding:

Electrical wire
electrical-wire
Electrical Wire for the Home
Complete listing of electrical wire types and parts used for home projects with electrical code information serves as selection guidelines.

Junction boxes
electrical-wiring

  • Electrical Junction Boxes for Home Wiring
    • Understanding electrical junction boxes and what they are used for. Home electrical wiring is the process of installing electrical wire to a location that will serve electrical devices or an appliance. One very important component is the box where the wire will be installed. The type and size of the home wiring electrical boxes will depend upon the circuit size, application and its location.

This link is helpful as a Homeowner
Do-It-Yourself Electrical


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FAQs Frequently Asked Questions and Comments

6 Responses to “What To Do With The Ground Wire”
  1. William says:

    Do both the light switch and the ceiling light fixture have to be grounded, or is it OK for just one to be grounded? Thanks.

  2. derek says:

    I am an electrical apprentice and recently ran temp power for an outlet and light I have installed in basement just to test the circuit. I rang every thing out and had no shorts. I spliced an extension cord onto the homerun end of the 12/2 Romex w/ ground and noticed the ground pin on plug part was broken off. I plugged the spliced cord into a grounding GFCI and when I went to outlet I had put in (no miss wiring) I had voltage on my ground and it was hot. I swapped out the two prong cord cap with a three prong cord cap and retested the circuit and everything was fine 120v hot to neutral and 120v hot to ground – 0v ground to neutral. Did this only happen because of the two prong plug, and if so please explain. I’m just curious is it because there was no ground path back to panel?

    • Dave Rongey says:

      Hi Derek,
      After wiring the temp power was the light ON?
      Keep in mind that depending on the light fixture, you can read 120 v on the neutral depending on the tester configuration, and depending on the type of light fixture. In this case, if the fixture was grounded and the ground and neutral were bonded but the ground path back to the panel was not complete then this could have caused the 120 volt reading at the ground.

      A similar reading can be seen when testing an OPEN light switch for an incandescent light. You will get a 120 volt reading even if the light switch is OFF because one of the leads is reading the neutral through the filament of the light bulb.

      Keep in mind that electricity takes the least path resistance to ground, no matter what that may be.

      Enjoy the electrical trade – it’s a Great One.
      Dave

      PS – Watch out for those Hot Neutrals – Those Hurt!

  3. Lori says:

    Will the rest of the run be grounded still?
    Say I ran wire from the breaker to 3 strings outlets and then to a switch ending at the porcelain lamp holder.
    Are all my outlets still grounded if I don’t connect the ground wire at the end of the run?.
    Thanks.

    • Dave Rongey says:

      Great question Lori
      Yes, as long as the ground is bonded at the panel, and spliced through at every junction along the way, but the ground did not have a termination screw at the fixture box for the lamp holder, and the ground wire at that point was just tucked into the junction box then the continuity of the ground will still be bonded all the way through.
      Dave

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