What is the difference between "grounded" and "grounding" electrical conductors?

Sunday, July 22, 2018

These are terms used in the NEC (National Electrical Code) and technical manuals. The “grounding” conductor is a wire that provides a safe route for electricity that has left its intended route through an appliance and has energized a component that could potentially cause an electrical shock. It is commonly called a ground wire, and is either a bare wire or has green insulation. The “grounded” conductor is the white wire that provides a return route to complete a 120-volt circuit, and it is commonly called the neutral wire.

    They are both secured to the same bus bars in a main service panel, but are not interchangeable. A grounded/neutral wire is intended to carry electricity whenever a 120-volt circuit is in use, but a grounding/ground wire should only conduct electricity when a component has become energized and is unsafe. The ground wire will then complete a circuit and trip a breaker to warn you of a problem.

    In any subpanels past the main service panel, the grounded/neutral wires must be on a separate bus bar from the grounding/ground wires, and the grounded/neutral bus bar must be isolated from ground.

    Also, see our blog posts Why is the National Electrical Code (NEC) so hard to understand and complicated? and Why is it unsafe to bond neutral and ground wiring at subpanels?

• • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • •

Here’s links to a collection of our other blog posts about ELECTRICAL WIRING:

Which house appliances need a dedicated electrical circuit?

Can a short circuit cause a high electric bill?

What is the maximum spacing requirement for securing NM-cable (nonmetallic-sheathed cable)?

Is it alright to just put wire nuts on the end of unused or abandoned NM-cable or wiring?

What causes copper wires to turn green or black in an electric panel?  

What are typical aluminum service entrance wire/cable sizes for the electrical service to a house?

Why is it unsafe to bond neutral and ground wiring at subpanels?

Should I get a lightning rod system to protect my house?

Why is a strain relief clamp necessary for the cord connection to some electric appliances?  

Does a wire nut connection need to be wrapped with electrical tape?

What is the minimum clearance of overhead electric service drop wires above a house roof?

What are the requirements for NM-cables entering an electric panel box?

What is the color code for NM cable (Romex®) sheathing?

Why is undersize electric wiring in a house dangerous? 

What causes flickering or blinking lights in a house?

Why are old electrical components not always "grandfathered" as acceptable by home inspectors?

How can I find out the size of the electric service to a house?

What could cause an extremely high electric bill?

Can old electrical wiring go bad inside a wall? 

What is an open electrical splice?

What are the most common electrical defects found in a home inspection? 

What is the life expectancy of electrical wiring in a house? 

What is an "open junction box"? 

How dangerous is old electrical wiring? 

What is a ground wire? 

I heard that aluminum wiring is bad. How do you check for aluminum wiring? 

What is "knob and tube" wiring?

    Visit our ELECTRICAL page for other related blog posts on this subject, or go to the INDEX for a complete listing of all our articles.

How To Look At A House

McGarry and Madsen's home inspection blog for buyers of  

site-built, mobile/manfuactued and modular homes

(placeholder)

Search

This

Site

Search

This

Site

Attics

Air Conditioner & Furnace Age

AFCI, CAFCI, DFCI, & GFCI

Bathrooms

Aging in Place

Appliances

Click Below  

for Links to Collections

of Blog Posts

by Subject

Cracks

Doors and Windows

Electrical

Energy Efficiency

Fireplaces and Chimneys

Heating and Air Conditioning

Home Inspection

Hurricane Resistance

Electric Receptacle Outlets

Electric Panels

Garages and Carports

Common Problems

Exterior Walls & Structures

Insulation

Insurance

Life Expectancy

Mobile/Manufactured Homes

Older and Historic Houses

Mold, Lead & Other Contaminants

Modular Homes

Metal Roofs

Plumbing

Radon

Pool and Spa

Roof and Attic

Remodeling

Safety

Site

"Should I Buy A..."

Stairs

Termites, Wood Rot & Pests

Structure and Rooms

Wells

Water Heaters

Water Heater Age

Septic Tank Systems

Plumbing Pipes

Sinkholes

When It First Became Code

Park Model Homes

Shingle Roofs

Stucco

Wind Mitigation Form

"Does A Home

Inspector...?"

"What Is The Difference Between..."

Brick

Concrete and Concrete Block

Foundations

4-Point Inspections

Rain Gutters

Condominiums

Crawl Spaces

Building Permits

Clay Soil

Floors

Toilets

Generators