Switches are an important aspect of our home lighting system and are used to turn the electrical devices on and off, but do light switches need to be grounded? Yes, the National Electrical Code (NEC) requires that any installation of new switches should have a ground conductor.
By installing ground wires, you are protecting yourself and your home from fires, shocks, or electrocution. Why do we need ground wires? Electricity loves metal and wet surfaces where you can find in any part of your home.
Therefore, the purpose of a ground wire is to give that excess charge an alternative route right back into the earth, where it will safely dissipate without risk of harming you or starting fires. Without grounding, faults in wiring can create dangerously high currents, and those faults would go unchecked.
What Are The Grounding Requirements?
The National Electrical Code only mandates that all switches be effectively grounded. But there are other factors to consider.
If the box is metal (and the box is properly grounded) the mounting screws can work as the grounding means. However, if the box is plastic, there must be a correct ground conductor connected to the grounding screw.
If you have a plastic box, the grounds in the box should be tied together with a short pigtail from that to the grounding screws. For people with metallic boxes, all the grounds must be tied together with a short pigtail connecting the connection to the ground screws.
One reason these cables are all tied together is for fire protection. Lightning strikes can easily induce a high voltage on one of the cables. This will start a fire if there is not continuous ground amongst them and their devices in the box.
Do Smart Switches Need To Be Grounded?
Smart switches allow us to control our lighting from the tap of a phone screen. This technology is even compatible with voice commands and remote controls for those who prefer to handle it on the go.
For installation purposes, smart switch assembly functions are similar to that regular light switches. However, there may be some slight difference depending on whether you have an existing neutral wire running through your home’s electrical system.
Smart tech being such a recent integration into homes across America means that some switches may ask for ground wire installations. This is something scarce when houses were built long before any form of this technology was available.
Grounding is a key safety measure that will be noticed in an inspection or if you are looking to meet building regulations.
How to Ground a Light Switch?
Grounding ensures safety and protection from electric shocks as long as the wire has been connected correctly.
If you have an ungrounded box, then your lights will still work but with no protective measures for yourself or anyone who comes in contact with them.
Take a look at the video below.
How to install dimmer switch no ground wire?
What if there is no ground wire?
In many older homes, some may not find a ground wire in their electrical box. New homes have three wires, black (hot), white (neutral) bare copper, or green (ground). Because the NEC only requires that new home constructions install a ground wire, older homeowners don’t have to make any changes.
So if your electrical box does not have a ground wire and your light switch has one. You can leave that screw empty and attach the other wires to the hot screws. Even if you don’t have the green wire, your metal box can still be grounded. However, if this is not the case, you will need to upgrade your panel.
What happens if you don’t have a ground wire?
Your fixture will operate normally because it will not hinder the path where electricity flows. But with the absence of this wire, you are at risk of shock or electrocution.
Do plastic light fixtures need to be grounded?
No, because the material plastic doesn’t conduct electricity.
Can any wire be used as a ground wire?
Use bare copper and gauged copper wires; the color doesn’t matter. Copper wires are a popular choice to use as grounding wires because of their durability and conductive properties.
We use bare wires in residential homes because they do not have any protective coating. As a result, they have the best conductive properties and can be used as the base for any type of wire or cable. They are also a favorite amongst contractors because they offer protection from the elements.
If you have an older home that was built before the 20th century and doesn’t have a ground wire, then you don’t have to change anything. However, if you insist on having them install, then you’ll need to upgrade your panel.
For newer homes, the NEC requires that your wires need to be grounded. Grounding gives electricity a safe place to flow into the earth where it can discharge without causing electric shock.
I am a wife and mom with two kids. I am also a writer, avid DIYer, and tech enthusiast. My favorite things are writing, shopping online for gadgets, and gizmos I can’t afford (yet). Being at home with my kids is the best part of my day!