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.

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. If conduit or sheathing is used as a ground path, connections must be tight. A receptacle analyzer tells you whether your receptacles are grounded.

Grounding: In Metal Boxes

Metal boxes: 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.

Metal Boxes: Other Grounding Methods

In a system with metal boxes, the pigtail method is considered the most secure. 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 ground.

Grounding: In Plastic Boxes

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.

Grounding: In Fixtures

Old fixtures: Many older ceiling fixtures are not grounded. Recent codes, however, call for grounding. Connect the fixture's ground lead (usually a stranded wire) to the strap on a metal box or to a ground wire.

Grounding: In Switches

Old switches: Most older switches are not grounded; many switches do not even have a ground screw. 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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