Grounding your Electrical System, a Seattle Home Inspector’s, 3 Part Series: Part I

By
Home Inspector with Charles Buell Inspections Inc.

     Just mention the words “Grounding & Bonding” and most people’s eyes will glaze over and a chorus of yawns will fill the air.  The “new” Washington State, Standards of Practice require Seattle Home Inspectors (all Washington State Home Inspectors) to report: “The existence of a connected service-grounding conductor and service-grounding electrode when same can be determined.”

Electrical system grounding to the water pipe     I would hope that most home inspectors would have already been doing this, but having it spelled out specifically in the Standards of Practice is an improvement over most Home Inspection Standards of Practice around the country.

     It is totally understandable why the whole business of grounding the electrical system would put a teething infant instantly to sleep, because achieving an actual ground can actually be quite complicated, difficult and so many things can be wrong about it.  In this series I will attempt to simplify and demystify “Grounding” so that if you are not now comfortable about what an inspector is looking for----you will be.  I want to stick to just the very basics here.

     If I wanted to easily complicate the issue I would throw “Bonding” into the mix.  I only mention it now because the two terms are sometimes confused with each other and sometimes even used interchangeably.  While they are related, they do two entirely different things.  I will save the discussion of “Bonding” for another series perhaps.  For now just accept the concept that “Grounding” is something that is done to the whole electrical service to the house, while “Bonding” is what is done to the metallic components within the home---whether “electrical” in nature or not.

     All Electrical Services to homes have to be properly Grounded.  There are three common ways of achieving this grounding requirement.  Some homes will have one or two of these methods and it is possible for a home to have all three.

     In this post, Part I of this series, we will discuss the first method, the “Water Main,” Grounding Electrode Conductor.

     Each method of grounding is called the GEC---Grounding Electrode Conductor.  The very earliest means of achieving grounding for the electrical system was by attaching the electrical service grounding wire to the metal water pipe entering the home.  This was a fairly effective way of achieving grounding because the long length of pipe buried deep in the ground could reliably be counted on to stay put and provide the required pathway for the system to clear any ground faults (like when little Joey decides to cut the extension cord with Mommy’s new scissors) that might occur in the electrical system.  The problem with any Grounding Electrode Conductor is that different kinds of soils can have more or less “positive” contact with the dirt particles---thus the “effectiveness” of the ability of the GEC to clear ground faults can be “more or less” effective.

     Because of the importance of achieving really good grounding, other methods of grounding came about.

     Part II of this series will discuss the “Ground Rod,” Grounding Electrode Conductor.

Charles Buell

Seattle Home Inspectors, ASHI Home Inspector, Structural Pest Inspector, Charles Buell Inspections Inc, Seattle, WA

 

 

 

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Paul S. Henderson, REALTOR®, CRS
RE/MAX Northwest. - Tacoma, WA
Tacoma Washington Agent/Broker & Market Authority!

Now we all know that you can't learn your profession from a course in the back in a magazine. It takes experience and you sir, have it!

 

Aug 14, 2009 03:15 AM #1
Rainer
67,462
David Helm
Helm Home Inspections - Bellingham, WA
Bellingham, Wa. Licensed Home Insp

Gee Charlie, It looks like no one is interested in the important subject of grounding.  I bet they would be interested if they got shocked from there ungrounded system.

Aug 14, 2009 03:40 AM #2
Anonymous
Klee B. Patel

Awww... you cut us off just when it was about to get interesting could you tell us a gain about Joey and the electric cord.  Unfortunately, my dad can be either as boring or as exciting as he chooses.  He should feel lucky that he has a choice not a lot of people do. But seriously, I eagerly await with baited breath the next two installments to this epic trilogy.  

Aug 14, 2009 04:51 AM #3
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Charles Buell
Charles Buell Inspections Inc. - Seattle, WA
Seattle Home Inspector

Paul, thanks---especially electrical stuff:)

David, I just think that everyone here is really just all ready well grounded.

Klee, I will have to see if I can't work little Joey into a future post---unfortunately a well grounded system is not enough to protect little Joey----and why we have GFCI devices:)

Aug 14, 2009 06:30 AM #4
Rainmaker
1,243,096
Steven L. Smith
King of the House Home Inspection, Inc. - Bellingham, WA
Bellingham WA Home Inspector

Mr Charles,

Generally your articles are so dry that this one, which read like a soap opera, really had me captivated. I had some friends in and we read it over wobbly-pops.

Nutsy

Aug 14, 2009 07:36 AM #5
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Charles Buell
Charles Buell Inspections Inc. - Seattle, WA
Seattle Home Inspector

Well after downing the contents of that blue bottle it does not surprize me that you can read between the lines stuff that isn't even there.

Aug 14, 2009 08:00 AM #6
Rainmaker
226,377
Suesan Jenifer Therriault
JTHIS-Professional Home Inspection Team - Blakeslee, PA
"Inspecting every purchase as if it were my own".

Well, I seem to still be awake after the first post and just like Klee I will await the second post in your series.

Aug 14, 2009 11:32 AM #7
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Charles Buell
Charles Buell Inspections Inc. - Seattle, WA
Seattle Home Inspector

That one will be a REAL sleeper---will be posted on Sunday:)

Aug 14, 2009 11:43 AM #8
Rainmaker
1,243,096
Steven L. Smith
King of the House Home Inspection, Inc. - Bellingham, WA
Bellingham WA Home Inspector

On Sunday I believe my friends and I will be assigned to watching a blade of grass grow.

Nutsy

Aug 14, 2009 03:07 PM #9
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Charles Buell
Charles Buell Inspections Inc. - Seattle, WA
Seattle Home Inspector

Nutsy if you can pull that off you may make the front page of the Bellingham Herald

Aug 14, 2009 03:23 PM #10
Rainer
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Shoshana Shay
St. Pete Realty - Treasure Island, FL

Once again you illuminate an obscure part of building construction (that is a quote for the back of your book, by the way, when you collect all these great posts and publish them)... it explains a lot about older buildings and iffy grounds (unless I'm being simplistic, not having read the rest of the trilogy yet!).

Aug 14, 2009 04:59 PM #11
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Charles Buell
Charles Buell Inspections Inc. - Seattle, WA
Seattle Home Inspector

Shoshana, you will see just how correct you are by the third post in the series.

Aug 14, 2009 05:03 PM #12
Rainer
111,182
Charles Perkins
Charles G. Perkins, CPA - Burien, WA

Look forward to the rest of the series.  A few years ago I put in my first 200 amp panel.  I had help from an experienced electrician.  We grounded the panel to both the hot and cold water lines.  We also grounded the panel to two separate 8' long ground rods spaced 8' apart. 

Aug 14, 2009 06:33 PM #13
Rainmaker
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Jay Markanich
Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC - Bristow, VA
Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia

Spare the rod, spoil the house.

Aug 14, 2009 09:33 PM #14
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Charles Buell
Charles Buell Inspections Inc. - Seattle, WA
Seattle Home Inspector

Charles, you have touched on the other whole side of "grounding" which is "bonding."  The grounding of the hot and cold water pipes inside the house is actually "bonding"----whereas the grounding we are discussing is for the system itself---not the metal components inside the house.  The two ground rods you speak of are post II of this series---coming to a theater near you real soon---tomorrow morning:)

Jay, yes----something like that:)

Aug 15, 2009 04:20 AM #15
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Charles Buell
Charles Buell Inspections Inc. - Seattle, WA
Seattle Home Inspector

(The following comments refers to a comment left by an unknown commenter that had some issue with things said in the post but would not come back and explain what those issues were so the comment has been deleted.)

OK---I will play along. Please show me the error of my ways.  If you can do that I will gladly go back and make what ever corrections in the post are necessary.  Otherwise I will delete your comment if I don't hear back within 12 hours.

Nov 18, 2009 01:28 PM #17
Rainmaker
1,243,096
Steven L. Smith
King of the House Home Inspection, Inc. - Bellingham, WA
Bellingham WA Home Inspector

Gee Charlie,

I think we have now had three licensed electricians in the BTC class and everyone of them was blown away with your knowledge of electricity. One of them told me that he learned more in your class than in all the classes he took to become a licensed electrician.

Nov 18, 2009 03:08 PM #18
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