Myths about Electricity Grounding

Since a lot of homes in the Philippines are not grounded and there is a lot of discussion about this, we thought it would be advantageous to a lot of people to understand some of the myths surrounding grounding and electricity.

Basic rules about Current

Before we get into the myths, it is helpful to first know these rules.

  1. Current leaves the source and returns to the source. That is called a circuit. If you take a battery, the circuit is complete ONLY if you have one part of the circuit connected to the positive and the other side to the negative. There is NO circuit if you connect one side to the positive and the other side to ground. Try it. Take a battery and connect positive to the one terminal of the light bulb and connect the other terminal to ground. It will not go on. (Do this with a battery, not a 220v power cord!) Current is always trying to make it back to the source.
  2. Current does not go to Ground. You cannot expect that a circuit connected to the earth will protect you from an electrical shock. it cannot. A ground rod will not protect you from electric shocks.
  3. The ONLY way to prevent or stop an electric shock is to turn off the current.

Here are the Myths.

  1. “Grounding provides the path necessary to clear a ground fault”. This is false. IT WILL NOT TRIP THE BREAKER.
  2. “Current takes the path of least resistance”. This is probably the biggest myth about electricity. It does not.
  3. “Grounding brings everything to zero potential. This reduces touch and step voltage to a safe value”. This is absolutely not true.
  4. “The more grounding the better”. Absolutely false. In fact, too much grounding can cause more problems than it solves.
  5. “Grounding a light pole is necessary and is required by code”. We are not sure about Philippine code, but it is absolutely not true. In fact, grounding light poles have resulted in poor little male dogs getting electrocuted when the relieved themselves against the pole.
  6. “A generator should be grounded”. It absolutely should not be. Unfortunately, even generator manufacturers sometimes erroneously state that their device must be grounded. It is dangerous.
  7. “Attaching a ground device reduces the possibility of voltage on equipment in the first place”. Absolutely not true.
  8. “Minimizing ground resistance will i) Help trigger circuit breakers faster minimizing duration of hazard. ii) Keep voltage rise to a minimum also reducing hazard”. This is patently not true.
  9. “Bonding devices together so that there are multiple grounding points will lower overall resistance to ground limiting voltage rise and duration of hazard”. Not true.
  10. “Grounding protects against electric shock”. It does not.

Summary

The most important thing to consider when reading through this list of fallacies is to know that current MUST RETURN TO ITS SOURCE.

If you put that returning current to ground, it will still, by hook or crook, make its way back to its source.

Understanding Electricity in the Philippines

This article is to give people a basic understanding of the difference between electricity in the Philippines vs. other parts of the world.

AC vs. DC

AC stands for “Alternating Current” and DC stands for “Direct Current”.

So, what is the difference. In Alternating Current, the electricity flows back and forth. Whereas in Direct current, the electricity flows one way only.

High Power Lines

Hertz

How many times the direction of AC changes each second is called the frequency. The unit of frequency is Hertz (Hz). The frequency of commercial AC in the USA is 60 Hz. In the Philippines it is also at 60 Hz, whereas most of Europe is at 50Hz.

Voltage

In the Philippines the voltage coming into houses is 220-240 volts (v). In the USA, it is 110-120v.

What is Voltage?

Electricity is basically the flow of electrons from one location to another. Voltage can be understood as the speed that these electrons flow from one point to the other.

That is not the real definition, but it is one that can explain the idea most easily. In fact, voltage can also be viewed as the force that pushes electrons from one point to another.

In reality, Voltage is an electrical potential difference, the difference in electric potential between two places.

Look at voltage in a more simple way and view it as the push or speed of electrons moving from point A to Point B. That way, the difference between 120v and 240v is more easily understood.

If you had a pipe moving water from point A to point B and it had a pressure (just using a made up number) of 20 units and it was 1″ thick and you had another 1″ pipe moving water that had a pressure of 40 units, it would take you twice the time to fill a bucket with the 20 unit pipe as it would to fill the bucket for a 40 unit pipe.

Due to that, electricity travelling far distances is sent using very high voltage. Otherwise the wire needed to transmit enough electricity to power a city would have to be extremely thick if electricity was transmitted at 120v or 240v.

Why use AC instead of DC

In fact, DC power has less loss while travelling long distances than AC does. However, the cost of changing voltages is much higher. It is much cheaper to step up and step down AC power than it is to change the voltage in DC power.

Where electricity is sent in very long distances (especially in Europe or if it is sent overseas under the ocean) it is sent using DC. But to minimize costs to bring electricity to your house, it is sent in AC.

Hertz and your electrical devices

A motor designed to run at 50hz will run faster at 60hz and that could affect the operation of the device you are using. E.g. a vacuum cleaner would speed up and that might result in the motor burning out.

The same might occur with your refrigerator or other device that uses motors. Therefore, even if you use a transformer to convert the power from 220v down to 110v, and the Hertz stays at 60 vs. 50, it could destroy your device.

Summary

Some devices are designed to run at both 50hz and 60hz. Some devices are designed to run at both 110v and 220v. The label on the device will tell you. It is not advisable to plug a device that specifically says “50hz” into an electrical outlet that sends current at 60hz.

It is definitely not advisable to plug a divice that says 110v into a circuit that is 220v. The 220v circuit will send twice the number of electrons into your device than it is designed to handle,

So, look at the labels on your devices before you plug them in.

Look not only at the voltage, but also at the hertz.

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