Expert Electrical

How Do Grounded Outlets Work?

Dec 19, 2013 | Electrical Safety

Surely you have seen electrical outlets your entire life… but do you know how they work? Their purpose is so important, it can actually save your life. If you read our article last week, you will understand how the electricity has already arrived at the outlet. Grounded electrical outlets then take the energy from your home electrical system and make it available. Here is more about what they are and how they work.

The Outlet
In Canada we have the three-prong outlet that you are familiar with. The outlet’s left hole is smaller and it is the “neutral” slot. The right hole is slightly larger and this is called “hot”. The bottom hole is the “ground”. The electricity flows in a loop, traveling from hot to neutral. This means when you plug your television in the electricity will flow from the hot slot of the outlet, into your television to power it, and then out to the neutral slot.

The Ground
You have probably noticed that some appliances have only two prong plugs and some have three. This is because some appliances need to be grounded. Electricity always flows towards the ground, and when the electricity flows into your body and into the ground, you experience electrocution. Instead of a body potentially absorbing this current, the grounder redirects the electrical current traveling into the outlet so you will not be hurt. Items that have metal casings, such as televisions and computers, will have their metal cases attached to the grounder so that a current will not accidentally run throughout the case and shock you when you touch it.

When electricity becomes unbalanced in the electrical outlet, the outlet will “trip” and shut off the flow of electricity. For example, if an electronic device comes into contact with water, electricity will escape into the water. Once the outlet detects that less electricity is coming into the neutral slot than what should be, it will shut down. This safeguard protects users from potential harm.

By playing or tampering with an electrical outlet, you can get hurt or severely injured. It is important to use the appropriate equipment and follow manuals before plugging in electrical devices. If you need to make changes to your electrical system you should consult a professional first. At Expert Electric we put safety first and understand the complexities of residential electrical services. If you have any questions or need assistance with your electrical system contact your local Expert Electric.